January 4: State Department Day.
For a seminar dominated by international relations and government scholars, many of whom are interested in pursuing careers in this agency or similar ones in DC, this was the day that many of my peers were most excited for. Walking into the lobby of the building, you are met with a striking scene of numerous state flags lined up along the length of the back wall. It’s exciting to sit there in the lobby and watch the diverse myriad of well-dressed personnel walk through the doors and head off to their respective offices.
Sitting in an upstairs conference room with surprisingly comfortable chairs, we had the opportunity to hear from and engage with six different officials from two different bureaus, one regional and one functional. From the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, we heard opinions on the migrant/refugee crisis, the future of NATO, and counter-terrorism efforts in Europe. The Bureau of International Security and Non-Proliferation discussed the prospect of threats facing the United States from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. I personally appreciated the opportunity to hear the perspectives of both foreign service officers and civil servants within the bureaus. We were once again afforded the extraordinary opportunity to ask a plenitude of questions of the officials. I am overwhelmingly impressed by the maturity and insight of my peers – never once was there a lull in the conversation or an awkward silence. A number of us stayed behind to eat lunch with one of our speakers, who was an alumnae of W&M, and our hosts, during which we were able to learn more about public service careers in Washington and hear recommendations about paths to take after graduation.
Moreover, to see how the academic theories and ideas we discuss daily in class are transposed into concrete policy and implemented on the ground is truly compelling.