International Energy and Environment Practicum

What is the Practicum?
The Practicum is an innovative program that allows students to combine a for-credit course at SAIS with extensive, in-depth, real world experience consulting for client organizations on projects aimed at addressing international environmental and energy policy challenges. The Practicum is designed to provide quality research and analysis on intractable challenges to clients, while providing students with the opportunity to apply concepts learned in the classroom to critical problems. Where possible, the work is integrated into the on-going research of an ERE faculty member.

What are the Deliverables to the Client Organization?
Each Practicum team of four students begins by developing a specific, practical research work-plan for the project, designed collaboratively with the client and their academic supervisor. Over the course of the academic year, the team then conducts its research, often accompanied by site visits, and prepares a detailed report on its findings for presentation to the client and in a public forum. Oversight of the student teams is provided by SAIS faculty as well as the client, and students are held to the highest standards in the work they conduct.

How Long does the Project Last?
The Practicum is a “for credit” course at SAIS and runs an entire academic year - from September through May. Students typically conduct literature reviews and other research during the fall months, undertake any necessary field research in January, and complete their report and client presentation by May.

Types of Projects:
All client projects have an international environmental and/or energy policy dimension and are often involved with issues of economic development, resource management, climate change, and technology policy. Practicum projects have been conducted in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

What are the Responsibilities of the Client Organization?
Organizations interested in participating in the Practicum are asked to submit a brief document describing a project they would be interested in having a SAIS student team address. The description includes any particular concerns or challenges with the project, any travel required, and any particular skills on the part of the team members that would be useful in completing the project. ERE faculty then choose the teams for each project and try to match team skills to any requirements specified by the client. The client organization provides guidance and assistance to the team throughout the academic year, as needed, including initial contacts for any necessary student field work. Working together, the team, faculty and client organization craft practical, integrated solutions to the challenge they have accepted.

What Value do SAIS Students Bring to the Client and Practicum?
SAIS is one of the world’s premiere institutions for graduate study in international relations and policy. Its students are drawn from over 70 countries and are trained in economics, international relations, regional studies and languages. Many also have a strong business and finance background for project analysis. ERE students are solution oriented integrators who draw on breadth of knowledge and experience in rigorous and creative ways to successfully implement cutting edge research. The student teams provide the client with an opportunity to explore and answer a critical question that they would not otherwise have. In addition, the interaction provides a chance for insight and mutual knowledge sharing, beyond the scope of the more standard internship programs. The Practicum is a real chance for collaborative effort with benefits to all participants.