Currently viewing the tag: "State Department"

It has been a while since the blog featured a Five-Year Update, and I’m excited to kick off the profiles from the Class of 2012 — a group that seems especially full of wonderful people.  I’m extra pleased that the first of these posts comes from Vanessa Vidal Castellanos, whom I interviewed for her MALD application in 2011 and I’ve been in contact with ever since.  Vanessa is currently serving as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.  When she was a student, she appeared in the Admissions Blog before running in the Boston Marathon.

This Five-Year Update is written from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I have been since September 11, 2017 — such an important date for many around the globe.  As I booked my travel to permanently change stations, the travel agent hesitantly asked:  “Are you sure you want to travel from the United States to Saudi Arabia on September 11?”  Honestly, the significance of that date hadn’t crossed my mind.  I thought back to exactly five years earlier when I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States of America on September 11, 2012.  That day, as I prepared to introduce our speaker before the swearing-in ceremony for the new Foreign Service officers like me, I choked and contained tears while watching on television as then President Obama and the Secretary of State received the bodies of those who had been killed in service in Benghazi, Libya.  It was at that moment that I realized how honored and proud I was to be joining the diplomatic corps of the United States.

My diplomatic career began after my admissions interview to The Fletcher School, which is when I first considered the U.S. Foreign Service.  I knew I wanted to work in public service, but also knew something was missing from most of the jobs I had heard of, and that was the international component.  Thanks to Jessica, who encouraged me to apply for the Pickering Fellowship after my admissions interview, I became a Pickering Fellow.  After graduating from Fletcher, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service — exactly the career I had dreamt of, I just didn’t know the name for it.  I went on to complete an internship at the operations center in Washington, DC, covering East Asia and the Pacific, but in tune with everything that was happening in the world.  I remember every day was something new, and briefing high-level officials as an intern was nerve-racking to say the least.  I questioned if I would be able to fulfill my five-year contract as part of the Fellowship.

After serving in various capacities at U.S. embassies in Tunisia, Switzerland, Zambia, and now in Saudi Arabia, I understand and appreciate the value of diplomacy to create mutual understanding between the people and governments of different countries.  I absolutely love engaging the people of the host country, hearing about their needs and dreams, and finding ways the U.S. government can provide support.  I have always said the United States is not a perfect country, but we have tons to share and I am glad to have resources at hand that I can offer and that mutually benefit others and the United States.  It’s not always as easy as it sounds.  Sometimes perspectives are controversial.  However, having people-to-people conversations about those standpoints and then influencing U.S. foreign policy, even if only in the slightest, is reassuring.

There is no question that without my education at Fletcher — thorny and touchy discussions, mock chief of staff meetings, public diplomacy, negotiation simulations, and sample policy briefs — and the network of friends I built, I would not have this diplomatic career.  The Fletcher community at the Department is real and truly vibrant.  (I always had my doubts if it could live up to the hype, during the annual Fletcher D.C. networking events.)  I am grateful for my Fletcher experience and the international worldview it gave me; I could not imagine my life without it!


Check out Vanessa’s video, which the U.S. Embassy shared on its Facebook page.  It’s from a series in which Embassy staff share details about their home towns. 

If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service.  Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate).  The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.

It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere.  This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages.  I’d like to share the story of two of them.

During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand.  As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum.  My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally.  One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee.  She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher.  I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand.  It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher!  I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.”  Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”

I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed.  One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound.  In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).

Q:  Tell me a little about your backgrounds.

Dusadee Haymond:  I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy.  My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north.  I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.

Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing.  We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine.  I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University.  My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.

What was your path to Fletcher?

PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service.  They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai.  Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations.  I was interested in something international.  I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer.  The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston.  He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west.  I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.

DH: I always wanted to study in America.  But my family comes from middle class.  Both my parents worked for the government.  So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams.  I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship.  In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.

What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?

PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development.  I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people.  For me, it’s been a great bargain.

DH: Destiny.  Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university.  I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?”  I took it and passed it.  Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny.  I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes.  I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.

Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years.  I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long.  We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision.  So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>

PH: We had a big decision to make.  We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry.  Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side.  That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.

Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?

DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO).  It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you.  But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc.  And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do.  But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive.  The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses.  My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse.  I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own.  I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea.  One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education.  I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia.  Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.”  No questions asked.

Can you tell me more about your writing?

DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write.  So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.”  I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing.  I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment.  When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time.  The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”

I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.

Was interracial marriage difficult?

DH: It was tough at the beginning.  During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand.  A lot of them married Thai wives.  Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated.  When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself.  Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians.  Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man.  Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him.  And Pete has proved himself.  They’re all very proud of him.

PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.

How many languages do you speak?

PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]

DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin.  My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities.  I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group.  I  took it as a compliment!  But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.

Where have you served?

PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand.  My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos.  It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos.  I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside.  We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems.  It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?

PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open.  You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it.  But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.

The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world.  Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world.  In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill.  For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.

Depends on what your stomach is for risk.  I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own.  The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure.  I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.

DH:  If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit.  Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment.  Foreign Service is a family decision.  It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.

It’s great to have the Student Stories bloggers back on campus.  I’m in the process of selecting new writers even as continuing writers are sending me their first posts of the academic year.  Kicking off the summer reports is Mariya.  As it happens, she first wrote about her summer for the Fletcher News & Media page.  Check that out for the details on her work.  Today, she’ll tell us about some of her out-of-office activities.

While my internship at U.S. Embassy Bangkok was phenomenal, I want to share with you adventures that occurred outside the office.  Here is an assorted list of 14 unexpected things I did this summer — mostly in Bangkok, but also a few in South Korea and Singapore — that are not mentioned in the interview linked above.

1. Kissed, fed, and bathed with elephants at an elephant sanctuary in the northern city of Chiang Mai.  I learned that elephants are not camera-shy — one of them even flapped his ears in a video with me!  Too bad the elephants were a bit heavy to zip line with me afterward.

2. Became addicted to “boba” (bubble tea), especially green tea flavor.  I also loved coconut water, which I ordered at my every meal; and yes, I carved out the coconut with a spoon afterward.

3. Ate a range of exotic fruits I had never heard of or seen before, including mangosteen, pomelo, rambutan, water chestnuts, dragon fruit, papaya, and durian (known as the “King of Fruits”).  Fresh fruit from the street vendors was only $1.20 — I felt like the queen of fruits.

With Fletcher friends.

4. Toured various temples in Bangkok with Fletcher classmates Jittipat and Takuya.  In Thai, “wat” means temple, and it was interesting to learn about and compare the architecture and intricate designs of Wat Pho, Wat Saket (Golden Mount), Loha Prasad, Wat Benja, and the Grand Palace.  “Wat” fun!

5. Interviewed a Fletcher alumni couple, Deputy Chief of Mission Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond, over lunch at their home.  Keep an eye out for the exclusive interview coming soon in my next blog post!

6. Visited pork, cattle, poultry, and dairy farms to learn about the efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  My internship supervisor was keen on my learning about the interagency process at an embassy and I definitely learned a lot about the “farm to table” supply chain process.

7. Shopped until I dropped — literally — at the Chattuchuk Weekend Market.  After a few hours in the heat and maddening crowds at the market, which sold everything you could ever imagine at bargain prices, I would come home and collapse on my bed.

8. Snorkeled for the first time during a speedboat daytrip to Phi Phi Islands with my college friend Dashawn, who was traveling for the first time outside of the United States.  Our weekend in Krabi also included riding ATV’s through a muddy obstacle course, riding an elephant through the jungle, shopping for gifts at the night market, and attempting to hike the monkey-ridden Tiger Cave Trail before sunset.  I am honored that Dashawn spent his first international trip with me.

9. Rode motorbikes that weaved through traffic.  While not the safest choice, they were definitely faster than the local “tuk tuk,” Thailand’s version of a rickshaw.

10. Invested in a custom-made suit in Phuket after feeling major FOMO (fear of missing out) when another visiting friend purchased multiple suits for his business school endeavors.  Tuk tuk drivers have a habit of dropping you off at suit stores to lure you in, and it’s quite tempting (case in point), so be careful if you visit Bangkok!

11. Relaxed at the spa at least once a week.  Thai massage is famous for combining acupressure techniques and yoga postures; in other words, compressing, pulling, stretching and rocking your body in every which direction.

12. Was captivated by the beauty of Super Trees and multimedia shows on the waterfront in Singapore.  Shortly after Ramadan, on Eid al-Fitr holiday, I was lucky to tour the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore, because it is open to the public only a few times during the year.  Singapore is known for its “racial harmony” and it was beautiful to see a mosque, Hindu temple, and a Buddhist temple lined up on the same street downtown.

13. Walked through the Third Infiltration Tunnel, one of four known tunnels under the border between North Korea and South Korea, as part of a tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ).  During the DMZ tour, we also visited Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge, and the Dora Observatory, where I looked across the border into North Korea.  I felt like I was at the juncture of history and present.

14. Had serendipitous encounters with Fletcher friend Angga and a high school friend in Seoul. The Fletcher family, and apparently the West Potomac High community, is in every corner of the world.

A wise man once said, “we have nothing to lose but a world to see.”  With that mindset, I said yes to every adventure that knocked on my door, and blogged, as much as I could, about all of them.

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As a service to the prospective applicants to Fletcher who are already reading the blog but who don’t yet know about the Rangel Fellowship Program, let me share some information we received Thursday from the Rangel organization.

First, there will be 30 new Rangel Fellows chosen in 2018.  The fellows will receive a scholarship of up to $37,500 annually toward tuition, fees, and living expenses.

Second, the application deadline is SEPTEMBER 21.  You’ll find the application here.

For those who are truly unfamiliar with these awards, Rangel Fellows receive support for their graduate studies in exchange for several years of service in the U.S. Department of State.  Learn more about the program from the Rangel website, Twitter, and Facebook.

If that arrangement (fellowship in exchange for future work for the State Department) sounds familiar, you may already have heard about the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.  In the past, the Pickering organization has used a January deadline.  Keep an eye on the website for more information about applying.

And, not so different, is the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship, which similarly supports a student’s expenses in exchange for several years of employment with the U.S. Agency for International Development.  The Payne Fellowship application deadline has also been in January in the past.

All of these programs are open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.  If your career goals would take you in a completely different direction, then they’re not for you.  But if you fall in one of their targeted groups and if you would be interested in a State Department or USAID career, it’s well worth applying.

I just saw a Fletcher Features story about Barbara Bodine, F71, a career Foreign Service Officer who recently visited the school.  I thought I would point you toward the story, paired with a previous report on a visit by Roberta Jacobson, F86, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.  Click on their photos for each story.


Note that Ambassador Jacobson is standing in front of a plaque in her honor, next to one for Ambassador Bodine.  Nice coincidence, right?  They were both recipients of the Class of 1947 Memorial Award.

And here are the plaques for all the previous recipients, as best I was able to capture them in the Hall of Flags.

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In March, the foreign service world lost a diplomat with an astounding career.  Ambassador Deane R. Hinton, whose many life accomplishments included a degree from Fletcher in 1952, died at the age of 94.

Deane R. Hinton, center, the United States ambassador to El Salvador, in San Salvador in 1983. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The American Academy of Diplomacy summarized Ambassador Hinton’s 48-year diplomatic career as starting in 1946 with his first assignment as a foreign service officer at the Legation in Damascus, Syria.

He was ambassador to Zaire (1974-75), El Salvador (81-83), Pakistan (83-87), Costa Rica (87-89), and Panama (90-94).  He was considered among the foremost Latin American experts in the State Department.  He earlier served in other capacities as a Foreign Service Officer: Damascus, Syria (46-49), Mombassa, Kenya (50-52), France, Belgium, Guatemala (67-69), where he directed USAID programs, and Chile (69-71), where he was also director of USAID.  In between country ambassadorships to Zaire and El Salvador, he was drawn upon for his expertise in economics, his main area of study, as Representative of the U.S. (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary) to the European Economic Community in Brussels (76-79), after which he served as Assistant Secretary for Business and Economic Affairs (79-81).  He was designated a Career Ambassador in 1987, a rare distinction among foreign service officers.

In its obituary, The New York Times focused on one particular episode of Ambassador Hinton’s career, when he was “rebuffed by the Reagan administration over his accusations of human rights abuses by Salvadoran security forces and right-wing ‘death squads.'”  The Times goes on to note:

Leftist Salvadoran guerrillas, emboldened by the Marxist Sandinistas’ success in neighboring Nicaragua, had been trying to overthrow the country’s ruling junta. But Mr. Hinton was determined.  He encapsulated his mission this way: “Save the economy, stop the violence, have the elections and ride into the sunset.”

But after an election campaign in which fending off far-right candidates was at least as demanding as subduing leftist insurgents, Mr. Hinton gave a more modest goal: “We were not going to let it become a Marxist totalitarian state.”

In a speech in El Salvador in October 1982, he also delivered an ultimatum, saying El Salvador must make progress “in advancing human rights and in controlling the abuses of some elements of the security forces,” or it would lose American military and economic aid.

He denounced El Salvador’s legal system and far right, which he blamed for thousands of murders.

The speech had been cleared by the State Department but not, apparently, by the White House. Presidential aides were quoted as saying afterward that “the decibel level had risen higher than our policy has allowed in the past.” The administration was particularly uncomfortable with Mr. Hinton’s use of the term “death squads.” He was told to refrain from any further public criticism of rights abuses.

And the Washington Post obituary highlighted yet a different episode.

Mr. Hinton held his first ambassadorship under President Gerald R. Ford, serving as representative to what was then Zaire, where President Mobutu Sese Seko expelled him for an alleged assassination conspiracy.  “Total nonsense,” Mr. Hinton said.  “If I’d been out to get him, he’d have been dead.”

Ambassador Hinton was born in Missoula, Montana on March 12, 1923 and retired in 1994.  He died on March 28, 2017.

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As we’re rapidly approaching the end of their sixth year since graduating, let’s return to the Class of 2010, whose updates I have collected throughout the year following their five-year reunion.  Today we’ll hear from Eric Sullivan, a member of the very first MIB class.

Pre-Fletcher Experience

Eric - TeresopolisPrior to joining Fletcher as a member of the inaugural MIB class in 2008, I was one of many whose paths were shaped by the September 11th terrorist attacks and the ensuing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I was an Air Force ROTC cadet studying business and Russian at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill on that fateful day.  A little over five years later, I was a newly-minted first lieutenant supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom out of the former Baathist headquarters at the old Iraqi Air Force Academy.  That experience, along with an eye-opening study abroad experience in Russia, raised my interest in international affairs and set me on the path to Fletcher.

At Fletcher

I chose Fletcher because of the MIB program and the opportunity it offered to merge two core interests: business and international affairs.  Although the MIB program was new, the Fletcher School itself was both well-established and well-regarded.  I was particularly impressed by the School’s breadth of offerings, its reputation within the international affairs community, the success of its alumni, and the caliber of my future classmates whom I met at the Open House for newly admitted students.  I had a truly enriching experience at Fletcher.  What I appreciated the most was the ability to pursue my specific academic interests both in and outside of the classroom, with the benefit of a wide array of resources at my disposal through Fletcher and the wider Tufts community.

For example, in fulfillment of my thesis requirement, I wanted to find a way to connect my interests in social enterprise and human trafficking.  With invaluable help and guidance from my advisor, Professor Nathalie Lydler-Kylander, I developed a business case study on Made By Survivors, an NGO that uses the power of social enterprise to empower and liberate survivors of human trafficking.  With the aid of an EMPOWER social enterprise grant from Tufts Institute for Global Leadership, I traveled to India and Nepal to conduct research on several social enterprises employing survivors of trafficking and vulnerable populations.  That trip resulted in a successful case study recognized among the winners of the NextBillion 2010 Case Writing Competition and used subsequently at both Fletcher and Harvard Business School.  The wide web of support and unique opportunities available through Fletcher made such an outcome possible.

Post Fletcher

After graduation, I accepted a position as a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, serving as a contract specialist at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center and spending some priceless time with family.  In early 2013, I embarked on my dream job in the U.S. Foreign Service.  My first assignment was to Moscow, Russia as a consular officer, where I adjudicated nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, and managed a portfolio with national security implications and numerous public diplomacy events ranging from a radio interview on a popular Moscow station to a roundtable discussion with future Russian diplomats and foreign affairs professionals.  I also had the opportunity to support the Public Affairs section at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine during the landmark presidential elections of 2014.  Though only a short two years in duration, set against the backdrop of momentous events in Ukraine, Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the imposition of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions, and the granting of temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, it made for a very interesting first tour.

Following my assignment in Moscow, I was ready for a drastic change of scenery and climate.  I completed six months of Portuguese language training and I’m now assigned as a Consular Officer to the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  I’m currently working in the nonimmigrant visas section, conducting interviews for Brazilians who wish to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, academics, and exchanges.  Later this year, I will have the opportunity to work as a special assistant to the Consul General.  The Summer Olympics is just around the corner, while Brazil is passing through a challenging period both politically and economically.  My second tour in the Foreign Service seems destined to be just as interesting as the first.

Ariel 2015Most of today’s blog readers won’t remember Ariel, a 2013 graduate of the MIB program, but that’s really a mistake on my part.  Ariel was a member of the Admissions Office student staff from 2011-2013, and she skillfully doled out advice in the blog’s “Dear Ariel” feature.  (Correcting for my previous oversight, I now encourage you to check it out — Ariel provided good information!)

Fast forward about two and a half years, and exciting news about Ariel recently landed in my inbox.  She has been recognized in the “Law and Policy” sector in Forbes Magazine‘s “30 Under 30” feature for her work with the U.S. State Department combating drug trafficking.

Ariel was the first MIB student with a Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.  Other MIB graduates have pursued careers with the State Department or other government agencies, but the Pickering Fellowship certainly seems to have boosted Ariel’s career onto the fast track.

It’s a treat for the Admissions team to see one of our students honored in this way.  Congratulations, Ariel!

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Fletcher is the home base for the State Department’s local Diplomat in Residence (DIR).  Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard has served in the position since last fall, and is just wrapping up her time here.  We can’t claim that the DIR is at Fletcher solely for the benefit of Fletcher students, but it is great that this source of support and information is so conveniently situated.  I’ll let Ambassador Leonard describe her work. 

It has been a pleasure to be hosted here as the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomat in Residence (DIR) for New England!

The core of the DIR job is, in fact, outreach to prospective Foreign Service Officers, Specialists, and Civil Service professionals about career and internship possibilities.  (“New England” is a bit of a misnomer, in that we have divided this university-rich region by assigning Connecticut to my colleague based in New York.)  In addition, DIRs enjoy sharing their professional experiences and policy expertise, both to provide insight into what diplomats actually do, and to participate in academic discussions on subjects near and dear to their hearts.  As the recent Ambassador to Mali, while at Fletcher, I’ve enjoyed activities with the Africana Club, the ICRC research lab on migration in the Sahel, talking to visiting Harambe scholars, as well as joining the undergraduate International Relations Careers day.  Perhaps the most unusual evening of the year was sitting on a panel as the U.S. Ambassador who actually lived through a coup in Mali, next to Tufts grad Todd Moss who wrote a work of fiction about one!

I hasten to add that the role continues; following a bit of vacation, I’ll be around from June 15 for a good part of the summer to answer any questions about State Department recruitment and student programs.   For example, a new group of applicants would have heard just recently that they have been invited to the oral exam, and if past experience is any guide, Fletcher students and alums will be well represented in that group.  And in mid-summer, those who learn that they passed the June Foreign Service Officer written test will be asked to provide input for the Qualifications Evaluation Panel through five “personal narratives.”  I look forward to meeting with both groups to help explain the next steps in the process.

If you’re in the local area and interested in a Foreign Service career, you can email me to arrange a moment to stop by my office.  And a very pleasant summer to all!

Ambassador Leonard’s successor as Diplomat in Residence is due to start at Fletcher in October.

Continuing to feature alumni who, last May, marked five years since their graduation, today we meet Jessica Farmer F09.  Jessica pays tribute to Prof. Alan Wachman, who was himself a Fletcher grad and whose presence at Fletcher is still missed.

I went to Asia on a backpacking trip with college friends in the early 2000s and was absolutely hooked.  The noise, the bustle, the food — there was something electric about this part of the world.  I decided if I was going to come back long-term, I had to pick a country where learning the language would make sense for my career.  I chose China, and spent a year living in a small village in Hunan.

From this time forward, for me, China’s rise was up close and personal.  My village was eventually bulldozed to make way for a high-speed train station.  I came to Fletcher to help put it all in context, to understand a bit of the history of this place, to read, to think, to reflect.  I had the distinct honor to study under the late Alan Wachman, who I believe was one of the best minds of his generation on Northeast Asia issues.  I try, and usually fail, to emulate his meticulous attention to detail, to listen for what is not said but implied.  As a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, posted first to Beijing and now Tokyo, his guidance continues to edify me daily.  For his tutelage and for Fletcher, I shall always be grateful.

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