Palau -- A Small but Mighty Player in our Globalizing World by Ellie Murphy (A’22)

by PriyankaK
Sep 30

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I never would have expected that I would have the chance to learn about the Pacific island nation of Palau. Thankfully, through the Institute of Global Leadership (IGL), I was able to learn about Palau with several other Tufts students remotely. The course was taught by Ambassador Hennesey-Niland, the United States Ambassador to Palau, and Daniel Mandell, the legal counsel to the president of Palau (both IGL alums, the Amb a double Jumbo). The experience taught me about the intricacies of American foreign policy and the important role that Palau will play on important issues like climate change, foreign relations with China, and foreign investment. 

The summer course on Palau was structured in such a way where students met remotely once a week to discuss a different topic relating to Palau. Guest speakers were invited to each course to provide their expertise on a given issue. Topics included Palau’s stance on climate change, Palau’s relationship with China, and Palau’s Compact of Free Association agreement with the United States. These lessons were beneficial as they provided us with an understanding about Palau’s culture, history, government structure, and foreign relations. Consequently, these lessons taught me that Palau’s present position as a leader in the battle against climate change and attractive tourist destinations are a direct reflection of its traditional values and rich culture. 

As a part of the summer course, the students were able to pick a topic of interest and present a policy recommendation to the Ambassador. This was accompanied by a research paper that delved into the intricacies of the topic. As an International Relations major, this was particularly exciting for me. It is not every day that a college student gets to present a topic of interest to a U.S. Ambassador! This experience provided me with the unique opportunity to practice my writing, public speaking, and critical analysis skills. 

For my project, I particularly wanted to focus on the role of foreign investment in developing Palau’s economy. Palau’s tourism and fishery industries have been very lucrative for Palau. However, restrictions placed by the Foreign Investment Act (FIA) limit the ability for these industries to continue to grow. My project focused on different actions the Ambassador could take to encourage further economic growth in Palau. Some of my recommendations included adding additional incentives for foreign investors, such as tax breaks, and reducing the FIA restrictions. In addition, I suggested that Palau’s Foreign Investment Board (FIB) created a set of guidelines for foreign investors to follow and protect Palauan culture. This exercise of researching a specific issue to recommend policy changes allowed me to gain skills in in-depth research, public speaking, critical thinking, and writing. 

The opportunity to participate in this seminar on the island-nation of Palau offered through the IGL allowed me to develop critical skills for an International Relations student. Because it was focused on U.S. relations with Palau, I was able to gain insight into the field of diplomacy and foreign service. I valued how the seminar allowed for the students to apply the knowledge we learned from the lectures to a long-term policy proposal that was modeled after the Ambassador’s work. As someone interested in collaboration between foreign partners, I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to hone important skills necessary for the field. 

The Palau seminar offered through the IGL made me grateful to be a Tufts student. Even during COVID-19, IGL continued to offer excellent opportunities for students. I will take the skills I developed from this course into my future studies and in the workforce.


Alumni Hennesey-Niland and Daniel Mandell provided this remote internship.