Of course! I’m from Louisiana, but I’m a military brat. My parents were both in the U.S. Army and I was born in Germany. We moved to Leesville, LA, and that’s where I mostly grew up. We briefly moved to Ft. Drum in New York, but then back to Leesville. I went to Louisiana College in Pineville, LA for undergrad, and I was planning on spending the rest of my life in Louisiana, but then my mother encouraged me to study abroad in London for a semester. That semester reawakened my sense of travel and adventure, and after that I couldn’t stay still. I went to teach English out in Xinjiang, China (where the Uyghurs live), and then finished my last semester of undergrad at Hong Kong Baptist University. While in Hong Kong, I found out about the Foreign Service; there was an advertisement that said “Be the Face of America to the World.” Seeing how I already did that in Xinjiang, I felt like I would love to do that as a career.
I went to grad school at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations and studied for an M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations and an M.A. in Asian Studies. While there, I did an internship at the U.S. Department of State, which I think was the most crucial part of my journey to the Foreign Service. When I graduated, I was selected to be a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) at the State Department. I also finally passed my Foreign Service Officer Test during that year – my third time taking it – and eventually converted to the Foreign Service a little over a year into the PMF program.
Since then, I’ve had an adventurous and meaningful career as a U.S. diplomat. I’ve worked on a wide range of issues at the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang, China, the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See (Vatican) in Rome, the U.S. Embassy in Belize, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, and our headquarters in Washington D.C. My favorite position so far (though this current one may be just about on par), was when I worked in the Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs in our Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs back at headquarters. I was the U.S. Head of Delegation to two international marine protection treaties that the U.S. is a signatory to. I love working on issues that help the common good!
As the Diplomat in Residence for the Central South region, my role is to speak to interested students, alumni, and professionals about diplomatic career and student program opportunities. I am available to speak with any Tulane student or alumni interested in speaking about U.S. Department of state career and student program opportunities. I actually have set office hours specifically for Tulane (currently Thursdays 9:30 a.m. – 12 noon and Fridays 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.). They can schedule an appointment with me online.
We have quite a few student program offerings, and in my opinion, these opportunities are the best way to get your foot in the door at the State Department. A significant number of new diplomats and new Pickering and Rangel Fellows have had some touch point through one of our student programs in their past. I think my internship was a crucial step in my eventual path of becoming a U.S. diplomat. We have a wide variety of internships, fellowships, and study abroad opportunities.
Our careers are truly unlike any other. They are right at the intersection of adventure and stability – we get access to the world and ever-changing career opportunities while maintaining the stability of a single employer. Personally, when I look over my career in the Foreign Service and all of the places that I’ve lived, I like to think of my life in terms of “lives.” For example, I had a Chinese “life” at one point. I was fully immersed in China -- speaking Chinese daily, eating Chinese food, surrounded by Chinese people, exploring various Chinese destinations, and learning Chinese culture, history and traditions. I was fully living my best Chinese life. When I left, I went back to the Foreign Service Institute to study Italian for six months before heading out to live in Rome for two years. During that time, I was speaking Italian every day, eating my fill of delicious pasta and pizza, exploring ALL of Italy, seeing the Colosseum on my way to work every day – just living my best Italian life. When I was assigned to Belize, I similarly had my best Caribbean life, and then went on to Mexico where I lived my best Mexican life. And I met so many wonderful people in each and every life that I still carry with me to this day. Not many careers allow you to have such distinct chapters of your life.
Not at all, we want people from all majors to apply. We need a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. To understand and improve a diverse world, we must also be diverse. We don’t just want to be diverse; we need to be diverse to succeed. When people hear about diplomacy and diplomatic careers, they usually think of the Foreign Service Generalist positions. However, we have 19 different career tracks of Foreign Service Specialist positions in a wide range of fields. These positions include specializations in Information Technology, Human Resources, Logistics, Medical and Health, Law Enforcement, Security Engineering, Construction Engineering, Financial Management, Facility Management, and many others. Like I said, we really are looking for people from a wide variety of majors!
For our student programs, the application process varies. They usually consist of proof of U.S. Citizenship, background info, personal statements, recommendation letters, proof of student status/transcripts, and in some cases things like GRE/GMAT scores, and/or description of financial need.
The application process to join the Foreign Service is through a test process (laid out here). The first step is to research the different career tracks and then register for the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). If you pass that multiple choice test, your application package is passed on to a Qualifications Evaluation Panel. That panel reviews the entire application package and invites the best qualified candidates to take the Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA). If you pass that, then you need to obtain a security and medical clearance. Once you have those, your name is then placed on a rank-ordered list of eligible hires to be considered for an invitation to a future orientation class for new diplomats.
The process is lengthy and competitive. I always tell people to think of the Foreign Service as “Plan B” until it becomes “Plan A.” Meaning that, you can’t just be sitting there unemployed or doing nothing while depending on this to go through. You need to have something else going on while this process plays out in the background. It’s not unusual for people to have to go through the exam process more than once. It took me three times to make it all the way through.
Definitely the Foreign Service Officer Test. It’s offered three times per year – February, June and October. The registration period typically opens one month in advance of the test dates. I encourage all interested people to go ahead and give it a try! We'll periodically send out information through the NTC Notice and NTC social media to keep students informed about upcoming opportunities and deadlines. I do want to mention that two of our programs have applications open right now.
They can email me at DIRCentralSouth@state.gov or firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a message on Facebook @DIRCentralSouth. Students can also sign up for an appointment during my office hours, which are Thursdays 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. and Fridays 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
They can find out about all of our student programs, fellowships, internships and career opportunities at careers.state.gov