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.