Clements Center
Clements Center

Clements Funding Recipient Sam Karnes talks about his internship at the U.S. State Department

Jul 14, 2016

The Clements Center's Student Professional Development Fund enables UT undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern at some of the top governmental and non-governmental organizations across the world by providing monetary support for unpaid positions. 

This summer, the Center funded thirteen students and here is Sam Karnes' story.

"This summer I'm working at the State Department in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Within that bureau I'm in the Office of the Near East on the Iraq and Syria desks. Basically, all of that is just fancy government jargon for working on human rights issues in Iraq and Syria. I've specifically been working on research projects pertaining to civilian casualty counting in Syria and detainee abuses committed by various groups (specifically Shi'a militias) throughout and after the liberation of Fallujah, Iraq. My day-to-day consists of a lot of researching and writing, going to meetings with State and inter-agency workers along with various NGOs, and attending events/lectures pertaining to my specific countries.

I've learned a great deal about just how complex Iraq and Syria are politically, economically, socially, etc. and how these complexities make it difficult for the US Government to develop policy for action in the region. I've also gained insight into the bureaucracies of government work and inter-agency cooperation, as well as the field of humanitarian work in general.

Due to the intense nature of the conflicts I study daily, the most challenging aspect of this work has been bearing witness to atrocities committed daily and feeling the frustrating lack of power that one would expect to feel as a 21-year-old DC intern. On the flipside, some highlights of the summer were hearing Samantha Power give an inspiring speech about the refugee crisis, an issue I care deeply about both personally and professionally, at the US Institute of Peace, as well as having the opportunity to work with the most inspiring and hospitable professionals I've ever met. "


During his time at UT-Austin, Sam has been involved with the Clements Center as an Undergraduate Fellow 2015-2016 and 2016-2017.