Graduate student Erick Agbleke spent the summer interning with the U.S. Embassy in his native Togo, located in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. Agbleke is working toward an M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations, with specializations in International Security, Global Negotiation and Conflict Management.
Agbleke's family moved from Togo to the United States when he was 13. He became a naturalized citizen, served with the Ohio Army National Guard and is now in the Army Reserve. Agbleke received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from The University of Cincinnati in 2011.
With aspirations of one day working in policy development at the State Department, Agbleke says that landing an internship focusing on political and economic policy at the embassy in Togo was a great next step toward his ultimate goal and gave him a chance to witness diplomacy firsthand.
"What I like about studying international relations at Seton Hall is how challenging the program is. The professors are always pushing us to read more, write more and refine our own analysis," he explains. "However, nothing beats having field experience where you are comparing, contrasting and applying your readings and the discussions you had in class. This is where, as a master's student, you can better understand a particular thesis and have an opportunity to help solve a problem. I would challenge any student to get out of the classroom and test what you are reading and learning to see if it holds up when dealing with present day issues."
During his internship, Agbleke worked on a variety of projects. He analyzed the problem of wildlife trafficking in Togo and highlighted the country's conservation efforts. He also put together a waste management and sanitation project proposal, in which a locally-based NGO will teach high school students about the value of recycling and reusing certain materials so that they can promote environmental programs in their communities. Agbleke also assisted a team of representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development who are launching a Peace Building Network project in Northern Togo.
Agbleke says he was grateful for the chance to go back to Togo, explaining, "I believe that in order to know where you are going, it is imperative to remember where you come from and sometimes going back to the starting point will help you get your bearings straight." Agbleke said he was humbled by the experience of serving in the country's diplomatic corps. "There were many times I had to take a step back and take a moment to appreciate just how far God has brought me. I get a sense of accomplishment by serving others, which is why I chose to pursue a career in international relations – to leave the world I touch better than I found it."