Wondra completes State Department fellowship in Armenia

As a Cornell Fellow for the U.S. Department of State in Yerevan, Armenia, Nic Wondra experienced many aspects of diplomacy during a period of intense political turmoil and violence. Wondra calls his three-block fellowship “the most rewarding and edifying work experience I have ever had.”
“Even the most grassroots developments were tied to the political situation,” he says. “I observed the protests before the violence on March 1, when people were filled with hope. And then afterwards I reported on the violence, the death toll, the police reports, and political arrests.”During his three-block Cornell Fellowship in Armenia, one of Wondra’s primary duties was to draft official communication briefs to Washington on topics such as human rights, economics, judicial proceedings, and local projects. He also participated in fact-finding missions during the protests and military crackdowns that gained worldwide attention in the days following the incarceration of an Armenian parliamentary official. Wondra visited with protesters, a hunger-striker, and a police chief in a region north of Yerevan.

Wondra also performed diplomatic roles during¬† Armenia’s National Genocide Memorial Day, as well as at local development projects. Meanwhile, he was exposed to a wide range of diplomatic, development, and assistance work in the area by his office, the Peace Corps, and other groups. An international relations and Russian major, Wondra had previously studied in Russia for a block during Russia Today, then returned to study in St. Petersburg for a semester in the fall of his junior year.

These international experiences have broadened Wondra’s worldview and his possibilities for the future, and he credits the culture at Cornell for making them possible.

“One of the best aspects of Cornell is the view of the faculty with respect to foreign study, as well as the global perspective encouraged by many advisers,” he says.

For his efforts, Wondra has earned a Fulbright Award for 2009-2010 to study the educational system of the Republic of Georgia. He will perform a side-by-side study analyzing two Republic of Georgia high schools in order to determine effective reforms for urban and rural schools. He will also examine the role foreign aid plays in these schools.

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