Johannes Wesselhoeft is a second-year TAM student who completed an internship at the Think Tank and Civil Societies Program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this summer. His account of how the professional climate enriched his TAM experience follows.


Cropped London pic WesselhoeftAt the Think Tank and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP), run by Dr. James G. McGann at the Lauder Institute of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I’ve been serving as a ‘Data Project Lead’ for the Western Europe team. I’ve also been a presenting team member on the North America and Europe Literature Review teams, and a point man for Dr. McGann, drafting talking points and writing blog posts for his official visits abroad: for example, at the recent “A New Direction in the Economic Policy of Kazakhstan” summit – held in Astana, which focused on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in economic development. My teams’ objectives were to produce and edit three publishable 100-page reports on contemporary think tanks trends, as well as present a PowerPoint (which I did as a presenting member) to international policy-makers and think tank executives (executives from Spain, Canada and the US were there) on contemporary think tank trends in Western Europe.

The internship has been full of academic and real-world think-tank experience. As a researcher at “the think tanks’ think tank,” I’ve become familiar with the current trends around think tanks (independent policy institutions). Think tanks intend to serve as a bridge between knowledge and power; where independent thought meets policy making, in the hopes of improving society. As the world globalizes, the potential for think tanks to network is increasing.

I’ve enjoyed my time at TTCSP. The University of Pennsylvania is a beautiful school in a beautiful area – “University City,” has a lot to offer for restaurants and bars, and is comfortably close to downtown Philadelphia. UPenn’s main library is spectacular, and I’ve grown as a student while working alongside energetic and hardworking Bachelor’s, Master’s and Law students with an interest in global policy. Although the internship is unpaid, we’ve had visits to embassies, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), and the famous Brookings Institution in DC. We’ve had several speakers from universities in the area and from organizations including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). We’ve also had a Princeton lecturer give a three-part lecture on data harvesting and hypothesis building.

I highly recommend this internship to those interested in spending eleven weeks of their summer in the climate I’ve described. The internship is competitive, accepting 20% of applicants, and there are fifty interns per 11-week internship period. Dr. McGann is a brilliant career resource, and his passion for public policy is apparent. He is a leading expert and has published foundational work on the topic, including the annual ‘Global Go to Think Tank Index’ (, which catalogues and ranks 7000+ world think tanks. He consults for organizations including the United Nations, NATO, several foreign governments and the State Department. As someone who is new to the think-tank community, I have been delighted to be exposed to its multi-faceted composition.