Student Spotlight: Olivier Kamanda

Olivier Kamanda, Penn Law studentPhoto credit: Mark Stehle

FOREIGN SERVICE: Kamanda, a third-year Penn Law student, is the founder and editor-in-chief of ForeignPolicyDigest.org, a website that aims to provide more substantial coverage of international issues for a generation of Americans who have grown up in the Internet age. “Essentially we’re targeting the 18-to-35 audience, people who spend the majority of their time online,” he says. He is also the executive editor of Penn Law’s Journal of International Law and a columnist for The Huffington Post.

PLOT HOLES: Kamanda says the site, which launched two years ago, provides additional background and context to world affairs—information other news outlets may omit because of space constraints. “The Digest tries to focus on more of the narrative in the story and the history and the context, the things that draw an individual’s attention, as opposed to focusing on dates,” he says.

THE WORLD OVER: Writers for the site come from across the globe. “We have five regional editors and they recruit the writers for each of their regions,” says Kamanda. “We have lawyers and activists, journalists, people who work in international development.”

TRUMAN SHOW: A Truman National Security Fellow, Kamanda says America’s primary foreign policy concern is “reengaging with the world community and opening channels of communication that were closed for quite awhile, and providing the opportunity for collaboration and dialogue on some of the major issues that the U.S., nor any country, can really handle alone.”

FULL DISCLOSURE: Kamanda and a Penn Law colleague started “Penn Law for Obama” in March 2007. He says they were the first group to organize for Obama in Philadelphia. During the 2008 election season, Kamanda served on the Obama-Biden Campaign’s Defense Policy Committee, which required him to help compile twice-weekly research projects summarizing defense talking points—while also taking classes in Penn Law. “It was pretty intense,” he says. “It was a rough few months.”

HE’S GRRREAT!: At the age of 21, Kamanda, a Princeton grad, was elected to the Princeton Board of Trustees, where he served from 2003-2007. “It was extremely enlightening, in part because we have leaders from all different sectors, from politics to business to public health, who devoted a lot of their time and energy to coming back and serving the university,” he says. Despite his young age, the board took his ideas seriously.

LAWYER OLIVIER: Kamanda says he plans to continue working on the website after graduation and he will be starting at White & Case LLP, a law firm in Washington, D.C., in November.

Originally published on May 7, 2009