Shirin Khan, NPTS ’17

IPSS with Atlantic Council, DC


Summary of Experience

Working as an intern with the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative (MEPSI) of the Atlantic Council, I had the opportunity not only to learn how one of the premieres think tanks in Washington D.C. functions but also to engage with experts and world leaders on a range of pertinent topics. MEPSI falls under the larger umbrella of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and is a small team comprised of only three employees–director, assistant director, and program assistant–and two interns, me and my MIIS colleague Maxwell Petersen. On one hand, working with such a small team ensured that I forged meaningful working relationships with my superiors; on the other hand, there was not always enough work to go around. I benefitted greatly from working with the director of the Initiative, Bilal Y. Saab, as he entrusted me with research that I enjoyed conducting–specifically relating to Iran’s regional influence in the Middle East and U.S. policy options for dealing with it–and consistently let me know that my results were extremely helpful to him. I left the Atlantic Council knowing I can reach out to Bilal for a recommendation, for advice, for anything, and that he will be more than willing to help. These kinds of working relationships are perhaps the most important result of internships such as this.

Another wonderful aspect of this internship was the number of panels and lectures I was able to attend, both at the Atlantic Council as well as other organizations in the area such as the Brookings Institution, the Middle East Institute, and the Center for American Progress. On any given afternoon, I could be in a Brookings conference hall packed to capacity listening to Madeleine Albright explain how she, once a refugee in this very country, came to be the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. I could be in the 12th floor conference room at the Atlantic Council, sitting mere feet away from Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Commerce and Investment Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi–in Washington D.C. as a part of a delegation visiting President Donald Trump–as he discusses Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s blueprint for the future wellbeing of the nation.

Or, I could be sitting at my desktop, tediously compiling a list of RSVPs for an upcoming event at the Council. Such is the life of an unpaid intern!


Whenever the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative hosted events at the Atlantic Council office, Max and I were responsible for checking in the participants. Pictured here we are awaiting guests as they arrive for a roundtable with experts visiting from the Abu Dhabi-based Hedayah Center for countering violent extremism.

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