Students Intern at World Bank

Global Reach:

SPPD Students Intern for World Bank in Beijing

By Cristy Lytal

SPPD Students Intern for World Bank in Beijing Jingjie Li, center, and Muge Wang with Paul Kriss, head of urban sector activities for the World Bank in China
Photo by Xiaomei Zhao

When the World Bank needed two summer interns to serve in its Beijing office, it turned to USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Master of public administration students Muge Wang and Jingjie Li proved to be the ideal candidates thanks to their fluency in Mandarin and English, previous experience working on urban development issues in China during SPPD’s international lab in Foshan and high academic standing.

The students spent the summer working on an urban-rural integration project and creating a PowerPoint about the project for use by World Bank staff at global conferences.

“Part of this project is designed to help figure out how linkages between the urban core and the rural territories might help to deliver services in a more effective way to people who live outside urban areas,” explained Eric Heikkila, SPPD professor and director of international initiatives. “So it’s a quite significant undertaking, and the World Bank has been playing a very prominent role in assisting the Chinese government in setting this up.”

The unique opportunity arose as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by SPPD and the East Asian Pacific division of the World Bank in February 2009. When Jack H. Knott, the C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Dean and professor at SPPD, expressed his desire to further the partnership through internships, he quickly drew the interest of Paul Kriss, head of urban sector activities for the World Bank in China.

The Athenian Society, SPPD’s philanthropic support group, provided $5,000 stipends to cover most of the students’ living expenses.

“The Athenian Society is comprised of donors and supporters of the school who really believe in advancing the mission of SPPD,” said Scott Jacobson, SPPD’s director of alumni and constituent relations. “This is an opportunity to support students who might not have the funds to go abroad and have a wonderful experience like this and to help advance the mission of the school by having a partnership with the World Bank.”

Li and Wang enjoyed having the chance to put classroom theory into practice.

“We could apply what we learned here in SPPD — we could apply all that knowledge to our internships,” Li said. “So we think we are pretty lucky, and we appreciate the opportunity offered by SPPD, professor Heikkila and [director of career services] Tom Kribben.”

Their internships also pointed them toward a potential career path that would capitalize on their language skills and bicultural experience.

“Both of us are interested in working for international organizations, if we have the chance in the future,” Wang said. “This was also a very good way to help us learn how to be professional, increase our analytical skills and multitask.”

In the future, Heikkila hopes that SPPD and the World Bank can expand their collaboration to offer more internships in various parts of the world.

“We’d like to set up a process by which the bank can view SPPD as a one-stop shop,” he said. “When they need interns, they could just send one message and say, ‘This is what we’re looking for.’ Then we, in turn, could do a good job of reviewing and making sure that we send highly and suitably qualified students to them for those internships. It would work well for both sides and especially for the students.”