Mark Buntaine

BUNTAINE headshotI am currently Assistant Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I research and teach about environmental policymaking in developing countries. I completed a Ph.D. in environmental politics at Duke University and previously taught in the Government Department at the College of William & Mary. My interest in the environmental challenges facing developing countries began when I was a student at Wake Forest. After taking courses on Chinese politics, I applied for a scholarship that would support independent research on economic and environmental change in China. I was fortunate to receive it. Combined with a more traditional study abroad program, this research exposed me to previously unimaginable pollution, and the challenge of balancing the costs and benefits of development.

Armed with new language skills, I took a position with the China program of the Nature Conservancy. I led the community outreach portion of the project and was responsible for designing and conducting household surveys. My time in China convinced me that social science research can add real value to the hard decisions faced by policymakers, firms, and communities. Since that time, I have pursued a variety of projects on environmental policymaking in developing countries , with a particular emphasis on the targeting and impact of foreign aid. I have completed or am currently implementing projects across Asia, Africa, and South America. These projects address the allocation practices of aid donors, the participation of citizens in environmental policymaking, the relationship between public and private financing of new environmental technologies, the processes that lead to lasting government reform, and the evaluation of environmental programs, among other interests. I am very fortunate to have received the mentorship and research opportunities at Wake Forest that launched me down this path. [posted November 2013]

Joel Cohen

Joel_low_res (3)Doing a brief bio for the WFU Dept. of Politics and International Affairs is a special pleasure as it is an opportunity to reflect on the amazing courses and professors that introduced me to political thought and encouraged me to always strive to broaden my perspective.  A particular thank you to my profs and classmates, many of whom I still count as close friends.

After Wake, I worked at the DHS in Washington, DC helping to shape domestic policy seeking to prevent terrorism in aviation.   There, my colleagues and I wrestled with the difficulties of developing effective policy and then conforming such a policy to the political and legal reality of the day.   Wresting with the legal issues, in particular, was good prep for me, as I would soon be transitioning into the legal field.

After completing a JD and Masters in International and Comparitive Law at Duke (you probably know it as “that other NC private school”) I went to work in private practice at a leading international firm called Skadden, Arps.   At Skadden, my practice focused on cross-border transactions and mergers & acquisitions.

After working in private practice, I have taken a career shift back in the direction of education and contemporary thought.   Currently, I’m in the process of launching a new media and online education company with some outstanding lawyers – Talks On Law (“TOL”).   TOL is a platform where top thinkers and practitioners speak on contemporary and controversial legal issues of the day to inform the debate and inspire change.  And for the rest of us, it’s another great place to learn.  Feel free to follow us on twitter: @talksonlaw or facebook: www.facebook.com/talksonlaw.  I very much hope to continue to hear from other Wake Politics grads in the future. [posted August 2013]

Kezia McKeague

KeziaI pursued my interests in Latin America and U.S. foreign policy through a double major in Political Science and Spanish.  I also took advantage of Wake Forest’s study-abroad opportunities, from a program in Havana (my mother’s hometown and the inspiration for my passion for all things Cuban) to a semester in Venice and an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.  Most importantly, I undertook an independent research project in Buenos Aires with the support of a Richter grant.  In 2005, I returned to Argentina for my last semester as an exchange student at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, which is known for its excellence in the social sciences.  Buenos Aires is a difficult city to leave; those initial three months turned into three wonderful and very formative years.  I became a research associate at a local think tank, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL), and enrolled in the master’s program in International Studies at Di Tella.  Following a brief stint in New York for an internship at the United Nations Secretariat, I completed the degree at Sciences Po in Paris.

These peregrinations ultimately led me to Washington, DC.  From 2008 to 2011, I was a Legislative Assistant on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I contributed to multiple staff studies that helped shape debate on U.S. policy towards Latin America.  I also enjoyed a unique vantage point for learning the mechanics of Congress and observing the role of the legislative branch in foreign policymaking.  In March of 2011, the Council of the Americas recruited me to be Director of Government Relations in the Washington office.  Based in New York since its founding by David Rockefeller in 1965, the Council is a cross between a think tank and a business association.  Its membership consists of leading international companies across a range of sectors, with a common commitment to economic and social development, open markets, the rule of law, and democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere.  As the organization’s chief liaison to the U.S. government and the diplomatic community, I led our advocacy efforts in support of congressional passage of the free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.  I continue to manage the annual Washington Conference on the Americas, co-sponsored with the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, as well as the activities of the Council’s Trade Advisory Group.  Since 2012, I have worked with Ambassador John Negroponte, Chairman of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, on an initiative focused on fostering a public-private dialogue around improving management of the U.S.-Mexico border and highlighting the economic opportunities in the bilateral relationship.  I also write on occasion for the blog of the Americas Quarterly.

Over the last three years, I have been honored to serve on the Reynolds Scholarship Committee.  The trips back to campus have reinforced the depth of my gratitude to Wake Forest’s faculty and administration, particularly the Politics and Romance Languages departments. [posted July 2013]