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Burkle Center program provides experience, personal development and global education
Burkle Center interns with Alexandra Lieben, center, and Emily Moon, fourth from left

Burkle Center program provides experience, personal development and global education

Burkle Center offers unique chance for interns to learn about international relations and gain global insight.

"In the most positive way, the Burkle Center has implored me to seek a career that is moving society forward, one that is committed to negotiating consensus in dialectics between consumers and producers and citizens with democracy.” ~Bret Johnson

CNN reporter Anderson Cooper, UN Secretary General H. E. Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, NPR's Renee Motange, former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo and former Prime Minister of Pakistan H. E. Mr. Shaukat Aziz.

This might sound like a wish list for attendance at a state dinner, but these five people are among the many that recent UCLA graduate Millie Tran had the honor and privilege to rub shoulders with during her three years as an intern at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.

For Tran, who joined the Burkle Center as its multimedia editor in 2008, gaining exposure to international issues, diplomacy and global events doesn’t necessarily require you to leave the country — or even Westwood for that matter. She and countless other students have found that international education can be fostered at home by attending campus events and absorbing the words and experiences of others in an intimate setting.

Tran is just one of the many students who have interned at the center since the program’s creation in 2007. The program is designed to give undergraduate and graduate students exposure to international relations and related topics. From major events and conferences to research projects and student outreach programs, the Burkle Center offers a variety of options for interested and engaged students to get involved and develop professional contacts.

Burkle Center deputy director Alexandra Lieben says that she is proud of the progress and growth that she has seen in the program and in its interns over the past five years. “The students go through a very competitive selection process, and are among the most engaged students on campus. I’m very proud of what we’ve built and of the incredible students who have been with us along the way.”

Since graduating last spring, Tran has completed a fellowship with the Atlantic Media Company, which publishes The Atlantic, National Journal and Government Executive, and is now working for National Journal in Washington, D.C., in marketing and design. 

In addition to gaining valuable work experience and attending a plethora of free public talks with some of the world’s most prominent politicians and thought-leaders, Tran also learned to think proactively and jump into action when opportunity strikes, including the manner in which the Center jumped into action in time with breaking news to organize a three-part panel discussion on Wikileaks and a public talk regarding the intervention in Libya.

“I think the Burkle Center has really evolved from a research and events position to becoming an integral part of the UCLA and Los Angeles community by providing a place for international relations.” 

As an international student studying business economics, Mahmood Bakkash, who graduated from UCLA in the spring and is now studying law at George Washington University, discovered the Burkle Center in his efforts to have a greater understanding of the field of internationalism and international law.

“I quickly realized that there are a variety of fields that can be easily tied to the international sphere, and that I don't have to go into international relations to have an international career, says Bakkash, who attended school in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates before enrolling at UCLA. “That helped solidify my desire to attend law school and pursue a legal career with international implications — potentially, and most likely, international business law.”

Burkle intern Bret Johnson, a Global Studies major in his final year of studies, returned from completing required course work in Paris a changed man. Not satisfied with simply studying the discourse and processes that were changing the world, he was “engulfed with passion” to become an active participant.

“Teeming with ideas and questions about the evolving structure of our modern world, I needed an opportunity to surround myself with like-minded peer and faculty,” says Johnson, now in his second year of the internship program. 

“The usefulness of this internship cannot be stressed enough. I don’t believe any other opportunity is able to offer such a mix and continually attract top minds in the field of international relations. The Burkle Center, for me, catalyzed the importance of discourse and its ability to define and structure the integration of ideas, systems and people. In the most positive way, the Burkle Center has implored me to seek a career that is moving society forward, one that is committed to negotiating consensus in dialectics between consumers and producers and citizens with democracy.”

Besides providing an environment for academic growth and development, the Burkle Center provides its interns with a place for personal growth and development, says Lieben, adding that the program has some of the most loyal alumni that she has ever encountered.  Not only have former interns returned to work at the Center during the summer, others have contacted the Center with tips regarding opportunities with their current organizations that might be of interest to students who are involved with the Burkle Center.  In addition, Lieben says that she and the Center’s program manager, Emily Moon, consciously work to create a home away from home for their interns, many of whom come from out of state or from other parts of the world.

Says Johnson: “The highlight of my experience at the Burkle Center has been the evolution of my personal and professional relationship with its faculty. In a large public institution such as UCLA it is easy to fall through the cracks and tough to find experts that care about you in a multitude of senses, both personal and professional. I consider Alexandra and Emily as my family. When I am stressed, they listen. If I am careless, they bring it to my attention. And when I achieve, they cheer and affirm.”

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