What Is a Think Tank?

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Hannah Bases, COL ’24

This summer, I continued my Spring 2021 work-study internship at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). FPRI is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank based in Philadelphia that brings scholarly research and insights on American foreign policy and national security to a broader audience, including policymakers. Before working with FPRI as a research intern, I didn’t understand what a think tank was or how it impacts public policy. Over the past eight months, I have come to learn that think tanks are incredible sources of scholarship, providing media exposure, publication platforms, and funding to researchers so they can highlight important government, security, and social activities at home and abroad. All FPRI events and publications are freely available to the public, creating greater awareness about the world we live in and how America interacts with it.

Over the Spring 2021 semester, I worked with the president of FPRI, Rollie Flynn, on a research project regarding diversity and women in American national security institutions. I was able to look at demographic trends over the past century in the American military and intelligence organizations and dig into how and why diverse talents are so crucial for robust intelligence collection. My research culminated in a live zoom event with a panel of current and previous government officials and experts who spoke to their experiences and considered the importance of diversity and inclusion in national security and intelligence.

While I enjoyed working on this project, I could not go as in-depth as I would have liked due to the time constraints of my coursework. Having the opportunity to work full-time for FPRI this summer allowed me to expand my research horizons, and I was able to work simultaneously in the organization’s Africa and Asia programs. As a student of Mandarin Chinese for over ten years, I am particularly interested in the US-China relationship and the legal distinctions between our societies. I worked with the head of FPRI’s Asia Program and professor at Penn Law, Jacques deLisle, on several projects based around the legal system in China, including how the Chinese bureaucracy structure impacted its response to COVID-19. Through my literature reviews on these projects, I observed ways in which culture and societal norms can impact legal structures.

I also had the opportunity to work with former Ambassador to Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Cambodia and the head of FPRI’s Africa Program, Charles Ray. I interviewed and spoke with several of his colleagues about the Congo rainforest and how important its preservation is in slowing down climate change and the spread of infectious diseases. I supplemented these interviews with extensive literary reviews on climate change in the Congo, climate-smart agriculture, emerging infectious diseases, and infrastructure issues in the Congo Basin. My research and interviews culminated in an article published on the FPRI website: https://www.fpri.org/article/2021/08/the-congo-rainforest-and-prospects-for-the-next-pandemic/. The opportunity to extend awareness about this critical issue and work on my writing, interviewing, and research skills have been invaluable. I look forward to continuing to develop  these skills over the Fall 2021 semester.

 

 

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