August 28, 2014
Alumnus Carl Boswell ’14 discovers how to make an impact in developing countries
Penn State School of International Affairs alumnus Carl Boswell ’14 spent the summer helping to develop trade in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, promoting HIV awareness and prevention, and helping to educate third world nations about family planning, and he did it all from Washington, D.C.
As a legislative affairs intern at the Kyle House Group, Boswell worked with clients, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to see how to best implement specific public programs in third world countries. The Kyle House Group is an international business and government relations firm.
Two of Boswell’s major projects focused on educating developing countries about family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. While he spent much of his time conducting research, Boswell said the experience taught him to look at these issues from lesser expected points of view and to find resolutions on how to quell people’s preconceived notions about these topics.
“The words ‘family planning’ can aggravate people, so we worked to separate the issue from the partisan debate regarding ‘choice,’ and instead looked at this from an economic standpoint,” said Boswell. “We examined what rising populations mean for a country’s economic stability. Our clients aim to work with governments, and focus on long-term benefits of supporting their domestic populations.”
Boswell, who graduated from the School of International Affairs this summer, said he also worked on trade issues, helping leading companies like Chevron, IBM, and Walmart enhance trade policy in developing countries. His work looked at how to facilitate business ventures for these companies. This was another issue with unexpected challenges, Boswell discovered.
“Sometimes there were obstacles we never considered,” he said. “For example, one country has train tracks to transport goods, but can’t cross a border into another country to export those goods, nor can they import goods because of differing track capabilities, which impede free train movement, and, even if the tracks connect, it means that trains can’t cross onto a track with a different gauge.”
Boswell, graduated after four and a half years with a B.A. and an M.I.A., and was one of the first to create this specific program of study with the Integrated Undergraduate Graduate Program through Schreyer Honors College, which allows students to simultaneously pursue a master’s and an undergraduate degree. When applying to college, Boswell wasn’t sure what he wanted to study, but he knew he wanted a school with many opportunities.
“Penn State is a world class institution, and a nationally and internationally recognized brand,” he said. “I wanted people to know where I went to school, and I wanted a school with many different majors and fields of study to choose from.”
After taking a few political science classes, Boswell met School of International Affairs professor and former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Jett. Jett introduced him to public affairs and public policy, and Boswell found his niche.
“I loved the practicality of the courses and the curriculum” he said. “I gained needed experience to use in D.C., and Ambassador Jett’s classes were very helpful, while Professor [Johannes] Fedderke challenged me quantitatively.”
Boswell explained that Jett focused his classes on current national and international issues and applied them to theory and policy. He credited Fedderke’s classes with preparing him for his internship, explaining that clients want data, specifics, and numbers to back up the company’s advice and suggestions. According to Boswell, “these professors are only two individuals from a list of outstanding instructors and mentors who have helped me along the way.”
Since completing his internship, Boswell has begun networking with other Penn Staters and other Penn State SIA alumni, as he explores the field of consulting. He wants to strengthen his business experience to complement his qualifications with public policy. He knows having a network of fellow alumni is a valuable asset.
“While the School [of International Affairs] is small, I feel I have an advantage because not only do I carry the Penn State brand, but some of the bigger schools have preconceived notions about them,” he said. “Penn State’s School of International Affairs gives us a chance to make a name for ourselves, to take ownership of our education and degree.”