Weissman Names 2009 Colin Powell Fellows

The Weissman School of Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the two annual winners of the prestigious Colin Powell Fellowships in International Diplomacy. This year's successful candidates are Olga Ryabaya and Holdyn Brand. They were chosen from a strong field of accomplished and talented Weissman students. The fellowship offers students the opportunity to serve a six to eight-week high-level internship working either for the State Department in Washington or abroad, or at the United Nations in New York.

Olga Ryabaya

Olga Ryabaya, a Finance Major and Psychology Minor at Baruch, can attest to the fact that this past summer  was one of the more challenging yet enlightening bookmarks of her life. Born in the Ukraine, Olga shares a seemingly common interest among immigrants: that of international policy. For this reason, interning with the Department of State was an extraordinary experience - she now had the opportunity to stand under the torrent of international affairs, as opposed to watching it unfold from afar.

A Macaulay Honors student, Olga was prepared for work that required involvement and dedication and an environment that was unfamiliar. With a 3.9 GPA, countless Honors classes in her bag, an internship at a Law Office and a past Study Abroad experience in Israel, Olga believed she was prepared for the assignment. She was therefore taken aback when upon arrival in Washington, her supervisor asked, “What do you want to do?” Olga was unaware of the degree of independence she would be given over her projects, and she soon discovered that it was the surest way to a most rewarding experience.

She worked alongside her superiors on the Diplomacy 3.0 Initiative. This included a brain-storming squad put together to create lasting solutions and systems for the hiring surge of Foreign Service Officers. Some of the projects involved setting up follow-up systems for candidates, modifying the Bureau’s processes so as to minimize processing time and costs, ensuring that candidates did not fall through the cracks by testing and modifying the Bureau’s computer systems, and designing marketing strategies to locate and attract potential officers.

Olga was coined a “trouble-shooter” and is appreciative of the support her supervisors provided in keeping an open mind and allowing for such independence in carrying out ideas and solutions.

Holdyn Brand

My internship in Washington D.C. at the Department of State was simply amazing, in every meaning of the word. I started my internship in the Bureau of Human Resources in the office of recruitment where I worked on the Diplomacy 3.0 initiative. The Diplomacy 3.0 initiative is a recruitment endeavor to increase the number of foreign service officers at the Department of State in order to close the need gap at posts around the world. It was incredible to be able to be on the other side of the hiring table and working closely with applicants and newly hired Foreign Service officers.

Soon after, however, I joined the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs with the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS). At the U.S. Mission to the OAS I served as the Political and Public Affairs intern. The mission afforded me an invaluable learning experience that I will always cherish. Before this internship I had really only studied international politics and multilateralism, but this internship allowed me to put all of my academic knowledge into practice. My experience was unique because although the USOAS Mission is located within the Department of State, it is an embassy. So I worked under an Ambassador and an incredible group of civil and Foreign Service advisors. It was such an exciting time to be with the USOAS Mission because of the coup in Honduras. Because of this rare crisis in the hemisphere I was able to witness multilateralism and public diplomacy at work.

I also worked closely with the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affair's Public Affairs office and was even given the opportunity to attend press conferences given by Secretary Clinton, and helped to coordinate where the trilateral ministerial meeting hosted by Secretary Clinton for the Foreign Ministers of Canada and Mexico. I also met with several Ambassadors and attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings for the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela and Ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon.

Because of my experience I know that I am destined to have a career in international politics, diplomacy, and law. I have always enjoyed studying international relations, media ethics and law, and public diplomacy and seek to employ all of these in my future career. I plan to attend law school in the fall of 2011 and ultimately I want to establish my own consulting firm in which I will bridge the gaps between the for-profit, governmental, and nonprofit sectors.

About Colin Powell Fellowships

The Colin Powell Fellowships have been funded by the Weissman Center for International Business. Former Ambassador Carl Spielvogel, a member of the advisory council for WCIB, served as US Ambassador to the Slovak Republic in 2000 and 2001, received his BBA from Baruch in 1952, along with an Honorary LLD in 1984. He is also an Honorary Trustee of the Baruch College Fund.

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