George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Mason students learn from diplomats at the third annual U.S. Foreign Service Day

April 8, 2019   /   by John Hollis

U.S. Ambassador (Ret.) Peter Romero speaks during Saturday's "Foreign Service Day" at Merten Hall.

Carter Rainey knew a few things about the U.S. Foreign Service, but the conflict analysis and resolution major and sophomore from Wichita Falls, Texas, wanted to hear more about what the organization specifically does when he arrived at George Mason University’s Merten Hall for Saturday’s third annual Foreign Service Day.

Rainey was among the 50 graduate and undergraduate students who spent their day with a slew of current and former foreign service officers. Former U.S. ambassador Peter Romero served as the day’s keynote speaker, and he was joined by other diplomatic luminaries such as former ambassadors Eunice Reddick, George Mason’s own Richard Kauzlarich, Margaret Uyehara and others serving as mentors for the day.

“I was interested in just what the [U.S.] Foreign Service…does exactly and whether it could be a career path for me,” Rainey said. “Being able to hear from all these mentors and their experiences has been rewarding and beneficial.”

Romero, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador from 1993 to 1996 before later serving as assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, provided valuable insights, advice and personal anecdotes about the “real” U.S. Foreign Service, including ongoing myths about the organization’s makeup and its real value versus its perceived one. Diplomacy, Romero noted, is as much about preventing potentially damaging international incidents from ever happening as it is about de-escalating them when they do.

“Crises will change,” he told students, “but the manner of responding to them will remain constant.”

The daylong event also included breakout sessions that discussed potential pathways into foreign service, including internships and fellowships, and life abroad while working on behalf of the U.S. State Department.

“George Mason University is lucky to have such an engaged community of active and retired foreign affairs professionals in our backyard, and they love coming to campus to connect with students,” said Ann Ludwick, the assistant dean for undergraduate academic affairs at Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government, which helped sponsor the event.

The day was everything that Merrill Rabinovsky thought it would be. Like many of the students in attendance, he was particularly curious about the educational and professional background needed for careers in foreign service and what daily life was like for those serving overseas.

“I think it’s been great,” said Rabinovsky, a sophomore and government and international politics major from Southbury, Connecticut. “It’s been a lot of useful information and great networking.”

The event was collaboratively put on by the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, the Global Affairs Program, Global Programs, the Schar School of Policy and Government, University Career Services and University Life, as well as the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Diplomacy Center.

“This is a great opportunity for Mason students interested in joining the Foreign Service to spend time with people who have lived it or are living it,” said Leslie Durham, the undergraduate academic advisor and program coordinator at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. “There is no better way to understand the importance of service, country, diplomacy and what it entails than by listening straight from the people themselves.”