What is Western Business Attire? Event Hosting at USIP

So last week was my first experience with helping to host an event at the USIP!  The Institute regularly holds public (and private) events on varying issues of international peace and security, on topics ranging from the Iraqi elections to the politics of separation in South Sudan.  I’ve attended events at the USIP before, but this week was my first time attending one from the inside.

I volunteered my Wednesday morning at the request of a colleague who needed help setting up her panelist discussion on Post Conflict Economics.  The distinguished speakers included Ambassador Charles Ries, Executive Vice President of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and Former Minister for Economic Affairs and Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq, Graciana del Castillo, Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University, and author of “Rebuilding War-Torn States,” Gary Milante, a Research Economist for the World Bank (see his blog here), Julia Roig, Executive Director at Partners for a Democratic Change, and Patrick Doherty, Director of the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation.  The panel speakers seemed a well-rounded group in their assortment of opinions and suggestions.  I particularly enjoyed the friendly banter about which aspects of a new or recovering economy are most important at the outset, and the approaches most likely to lead to long-term success.  Intelligent people who are not in perfect agreement is always the mark of a good discussion.

There is nothing like putting on your best suit, making the coffee and putting it out, greeting the attendees with smiles and handshakes, and quietly passing the microphone to those asking the panelists questions to make you feel like a real part of an organization.  If that sounded sarcastic, it wasn’t.

When I’m sitting quietly upstairs in front of my computer searching for information surrounding Indonesia’s security strategy and foreign policy, I intellectually know I’m contributing to the research that will aid my Fellow in crafting a policy response.  That policy proposal could influence the U.S. contribution to world peace and security in the long run, and that is an important endeavor.

But when visitors come to the USIP to learn from speakers and panelists that have been selected by an organization they respect, and they see your smiling face and your official badge and your professional attire, they look to you as a representative.  This, I came to learn, is why the USIP requires “Western Business” attire for employees at events.  It was my first introduction to this term, and one I’ll probably need to know down the road.  It is a good thing that at this point in my young life I’ve interviewed for a number of jobs and internships, and so my wardrobe is complete with not one, but three skirt suits with blouses that are appropriate for such occasions.  In case you’re wondering, one would definitely suffice, but as I always say when purchasing clothes, it is better to be safe (ultra-prepared) than sorry!

At the end of the event I had sore feet (from my professional shoes) and a stiff neck from training my eyes attentively to the speakers for hours, but I was glad to have learned the ropes of hosting in case one day I get to host my own event.  Post-conflict economies and their issues are important to look at in furthering long-term peace and it was an interesting discussion to be privy to, despite having little to add!  Perhaps providing coffee and hot water, printing out speaker bios and passing around a microphone are not exciting or particularly stimulating activities, but someone must do them and this Wednesday morning it was me.  The exciting life of a research assistant continues… stay tuned!

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policy positions.

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