Launched in 2014, the SIS Alumni Book Club's goal is to connect alumni to their school in a meaningful way. Each semester we will read several books or journal articles and get together to discuss them in person with the author while enjoying a meal. The conversation continues online at our Good Reads Group.
For example, in February 2015, the USFP Program hosted an alumni book club on Mission Creep: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy? with
professors Shoon Murray and Gordon Adams. The book club was attended
by a group of alumni in varied fields of work which contributed to a
relevant discussion on the book topic especially in consideration of the new AUMF request by President Obama. Future book club events are open
to all alumni, you may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
USFP Student-Alumni Reception
The USFP Program hosted a student-alumni reception in April, inviting alumni to come back to campus and meet our current students and visit with faculty. USFP Students had an opportunity to network with alumni and hear more about what our alumni have done since graduating. Alumni represented a diverse group of employers, including the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office, The Brookings Institution, and Booz Allen Hamilton among others.
The U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Program has alumni working in a diverse array of organizations in D.C. and throughout the world. Our alumni have gone on to work in various government agencies, including State, Defense, Homeland Security, and the intelligence community, as well as non-government organizations such as the Stimson Center and Human Rights First. Below are profiles of just a few of our many successful graduates.
Profile: Alice Friend
Alice Friend never imagined serving as Principal Director for African Affairs at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In fact, as a freshman at Smith College double majoring in Theater and English, she was as far from an international relations career as you can get.
Then one day during her second semester she wandered into an international relations course discussing the Kosovo air campaign. The conversation fascinated her, leading to Alice enrolling in the class and eventually switching her major to Government. A post-graduate stint with AmeriCorps strengthened a life-long interest in service, and by the time she completed her thesis on humanitarian intervention with USFP Professor Sharon Weiner, her desire to serve her country and work on international affairs was sealed.
After completing her Master's in U.S. Foreign Policy, Alice went on to work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, before moving to the newly founded Center for a New American Security (CNAS) as CNAS President Michèle Flournoy's research assistant. Following the election of President Obama, she finally got a chance to influence policy from inside the government, as Flournoy was appointed Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and brought Alice into the Defense Department as a Special Assistant.
Now serving as Principal Director for African Affairs, Alice sees her job as making sure everyone else's job is easier. Her duties are split evenly between substantive work on issues in Africa and the important administrative work involved in keeping the office running smoothly. In fact, Alice says that her proudest accomplishment is actually on the administrative side, working on promotion paperwork for her colleagues. She feels "privileged to be surrounded by these patriots every day" and feels that working on promotions helps show the dedicated public servants she works with that they are valued.
Substantively, Alice primarily deals with issues related to the Sudans, the Great Lakes region, the Sahel and the Maghreb. She also worked with Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Policy Kathleen Hicks on the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, where she was involved throughout the entire process, from developing strategic and material questions, drafting the Guidance, and participating in its rollout to the public.
Alice considers her position as Principal Director the best job she's ever had, even if she never expected to be serving in such a role. Whenever an exciting opportunity came up, she took it. She asked herself—will I learn a lot? Will the mentors be good mentors? And will I care about what I work on? Keeping these questions in mind allowed Alice to never miss out on a chance for professional development, and led her to a position where she can work on what she loves and serve her country.
Profile: Alyssa Demus
Alyssa Demusgraduated from the USFP Program in May 2012. During her time at SIS, shecompleted a full-time internship in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs, where she applied time management and prioritization skills she has learned in the U.S. Foreign Policy Program. While at the White House, Alyssa assisted staff with editing and formatting of a weekly report for President Obama, worked with agency liaisons to fill correspondence and photo requests for Cabinet Secretaries and agency staff, and assisted the Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Directors with research. She hopes to one day work on theNational Security Council staff, where she can pursue her passion for foreign policy and national security. Alyssa loved her experience at SIS, saying “I can't speak more highly of the faculty and my fellow students in USFP. I have found fantastic mentors in the faculty, and have fostered great friendships with my colleagues.”
Profile: David Hardison
David P. Hardisongraduated on May 12, 2012 from the U.S. Foreign Policy MA program at the School of International Service. This June, he will begin an assistant managerial position in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. David will oversee conventional weapons destruction programs in East Asia and Southeast Europe. These programs include landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance in post-conflict areas, as well as weapons remediation efforts and victim assistance. Previously, David served on the office’s policy team from December 2010 to May 2012.
Profile: Matthew Irvine
Matthew Irvine employs the research and writing skills he honed in the U.S. Foreign Policy Program in his current positions as Research Assistant at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and as a consultant at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). At CNAS Matthew primarily works on Afghanistan and Pakistan (including co-authoring with General David W. Barno and Andrew Exum “Beyond Afghanistan: A Regional Security Strategy for South and Central Asia”) as well as defense policy issues; at CSIS he works on counter-threat finance and financial sanctions projects. While in the USFP Program, Matthew appreciated the flexibility to “construct a specialization based on your own interests and professional goals in addition to the core courses required.” In the future, he hopes to work in the federal government on transnational threats and terrorism.
Profile: Becky Williams
Becky Williams applies the practical skills she has gained in the U.S. Foreign Policy Program daily at her job as a Research Associate for The Stimson Center, a global security think tank located in Washington, D.C. Becky works for the Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program, and her duties primarily involve researching and analyzing the budgets, legislative authorities, and governmental institutions that drive U.S. foreign affairs policy.
Becky is also a regular contributor to the Stimson blog, The Will and the Wallet, and has benefitted from courses that stressed the importance of writing briefs and memos. She encourages students to look for opportunities in graduate school to write for non-expert audiences, an important skill she says reaps huge dividends once you are in the working world.
Profile: Aldo Prosperi
Aldo Prosperigraduated from the USFP Program in May 2010 and has entered the Department of Homeland Security through his Presidential Management Fellowship. Aldo is working as a Budget Analyst in Customs and Border Protection, where he assists in monitoring the organization’s budget and is responsible for daily interaction with Customs and Border Protection officers to ensure that budget goals are met. In addition, he will work on the preparation of future budgets for presentation to the Office of Management and Budget.
As part of his Fellowship, Aldo will get the chance to rotate to other federal agencies, and hopes to spend time at USAID or the State Department working on development, which was his related field in USFP. Aldo notes that the focus on bureaucratic processes that is central to the USFP curriculum was particularly useful in obtaining his current position, stating “people know that AU grads have been educated in actual processes. We know how the system works.”
Profile: Blair Mersinger
Blair Mersinger's interest in the bigger picture didn’t stop when she graduated with her master’s in U.S. Foreign Policy. Her position with the Department of Energy keeps her looking to the world at large, from attending the International Energy Agency conference in Paris to observing possible piracy in the Middle East, and analyzing the Department’s policies in other regions of the world. She’s even continuing her studies in French and Bosnian (and speaks Arabic and Kiswahili to boot). The variety of American University's course offerings initially stoked the young woman’s excitement and interest in world affairs. “One thing I like about college is that in addition to taking classes in your major, you can take classes that can get you excited about that you weren’t excited about before,” she enthuses.
Profile: Steven Rocker
Steven Rockergraduated from the U.S. Foreign Policy Program in May 2010 and now works as a Senior Advocacy and Research Assistant at InterAction, an alliance of NGOs that focuses on international development efforts. At InterAction, Steven’s duties include tracking budgets and appropriations related to issues of development and humanitarian work, researching members of Congress and the Administration, and assisting in the production of policy papers and other support surrounding the international advocacy efforts of the NGOs in the alliance.
Steven feels well-equipped for his current position due to the U.S. Foreign Policy Program’s academic rigor and emphasis on developing professional writing and oral presentation skills. He also noted that the professors were one of the best parts of the Program, and that courses such as U.S. Foreign Policy: Institutions and Processes were useful in learning the “nuts and bolts” of how Congress and the executive branch interact to craft policy. He also stressed the importance of taking advantage of some of the more practical courses, such as quantitative methods, which he felt made him more marketable as he began his professional career.
Profile: David Glaudemans
David Glaudemansutilizes the skills that he acquired in the U.S. Foreign Policy Program to assess government spending in his job as a Program Examiner for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which serves as the central hub for the federal government’s budget planning. David’s primary duties involve providing analysis and recommendations on the Marine Corps operating budget.
David credited Dr. Sharon Weiner and Dr. Gordon Adams as two key figures in his graduate education, saying that “you can’t do this job without understanding institutions and processes” and that Dr. Weiner and Dr. Adams helped expand his understanding of how the federal government works to create policy. He also stressed the need to have a broad perspective, noting the importance of taking courses in econometrics, statistical analysis, and history while at SIS. He stated that it is easy to get “lost in the numbers” in his position and it is important to have a broad base of knowledge to avoid this. Finally, he said that writing briefs and memos in his graduate USFP courses was great practice for the writing he does in his current position.
Profile: Dan Riley
Dan Riley spends his days working on issues of environment and energy, but not where one would normally think. Dan works at the Department of the Treasury, in the newly created Office of Environment and Energy. While there he has helped launch a multilateral, multibillion dollar clean technology fund at the World Bank. His work doesn’t stop there; he does analysis and outreach on both domestic and international aspects of energy policy. One such aspect is helping to manage the United States’ climate agenda for multinational meetings such as the G-20. Dan feels that AU taught him the skills necessary to tackle this complicated problem. He was attracted to AU’s focus on learning how things actually get done. He says, “I liked American’s focus on policy development. That set me up for this job, as we’re working on something that touches fundamentally everything.”
Profile: Sarah Shaffer
Sarah Shaffer has her dream job at the State Department, thanks to the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. She says, "I always knew I wanted to work at State." The PMF program, which she applied for while at American University, has allowed her to discover what she wanted to do with her career. Sarah works in the Bureau of Consular Affairs on international adoptions and outreach related to the Hague Convention on lntercountry Adoption and its implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act. In addition, she has done two rotations within the State Department to advance her skills. Her first was in Crisis Management; she says, "I loved every crazy moment of it." She just began her second rotation in the Office of Economic Policy, where she handles issues related to food defense within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Sarah loved her time at AU. Now on the job, she says, "I've been able to bring a lot of the training and ideas in." AU gave her the tools she needed to succeed.
Profile: David Tannenbaum
David Tannenbaum graduated from the U.S. Foreign Policy Program in 2012 and currently is Director of Blackstone Compliance Services, a company he founded in 2013.Blackstone specializes in sanctions compliance for private clients, primarily banks, by setting up protocols to prevent transactions from going through to sanctioned organizations or countries.Blackstone is “where government meets the private sector” David says, and he loves using both his foreign policy background and his business skills to ensure clients do not run afoul of the law.
Prior to founding Blackstone, David worked in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the U.S. Department of the Treasury.At both OFAC and Blackstone he has drawn on his USFP degree, both in substantive knowledge of sanctions policy and methodological skills developed during the writing of his SRP.He recommends that all Master’s students develop a complementary skill such as programming or a foreign language to set themselves apart when entering the job market.