Annual Foreign Service Day preps Mason students to become next generation of diplomats

February 25, 2020

A man in a blue suit and tie speaks at a podium with a screen and an American flag in the background.

U.S. Ambassador (Ret.) Peter Romero speaks during the Spring 2019 Foreign Service Day at Merten Hall. (Photo credit: George Mason University)

By Leslie Durham

Building connections and creating opportunities for students interested in a career with the U.S. Department of State, and in particular the Foreign Service, can be influential for Mason students envisioning careers in diplomacy. To provide these opportunities, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) has collaborated with the Schar School of Policy and Government, Global Affairs, and Mason Career Services in establishing a cornerstone spring event, Foreign Service Day

April 4, 2020, will mark the 4th Annual Foreign Service Day held on the Fairfax Campus of George Mason University. Every spring, undergraduate and graduate students at Mason can apply for one of 50 available spots at the comprehensive all-day event, which provides students with the opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with diplomats, participate in break-out sessions, listen to a keynote speaker (such as the Honorable Richard Armitage), and finish the day with a simulation run by the newly named National Museum of American Diplomacy (formerly known as the Diplomacy Center).

Applications for the Spring 2020 Foreign Service Day are being accepted through Handshake until March 15, 2020.

Over 140 students have attended Foreign Service Day to date. It has become an anticipated spring event due to the unique opportunities it provides to its student participants. 

“I participated in Foreign Service Day a couple of years ago, and I feel like it solidified my interest in working in the Foreign Service,” said Justin Miller, who is one of the many students who have reached out to the event’s organizers to express how their participation in Foreign Service Day impacted them. “I just applied for the FSOT [Foreign Service Officer Test] and passed. I feel like Foreign Service [Day] would definitely prepare students for the oral examination.”

The hands-on skills-building and networking opportunities provided by Foreign Service Day wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated support of the U.S. Department of State and of DACOR, an organization that supports foreign affairs professionals. They are instrumental in anchoring the real-world impact of the event by being the main contributors of subject matter experts. As part of Foreign Service Day, students are given the bios of participating “mentors”—retired and current diplomats, many of whom are members of DACOR—to determine who they would like to network and forge relationships with.

Mentors sign up to return each year in order to continue creating connections with Mason students, and like all good mentor–mentee relationships, the impact of the connections doesn't flow just one way. The event has struck a chord with not only Mason’s students, but also with Mason’s neighbors and community members across the river. The mentors enjoy engaging with the students as much as the students do with them.

Dr. Michael Anderson, a three-time attendee, told the organizers, “You—and we—are lucky to have a very enthusiastic group of students interested in international careers…”

As one of the organizers of Foreign Service Day, S-CAR is committed to providing as much information and as many opportunities as possible to assist students in seeking to apply their conflict resolution skills through the Foreign Service.

“As the daughter of a retired U.S. ambassador, raised in American embassies around the world, I know that Foreign Service Day provides a unique opportunity for students to dig deeper into the world of diplomacy and receive a timely glimpse into the work of the American Foreign Service,” said Christie Jones, who is an undergraduate academic advisor and field experience coordinator at S-CAR, where she is also a PhD candidate. “Students should not miss this chance to learn from both current and retired U.S. diplomats, many with decades of overseas experiences.”

Related people: Leslie Durham, Christie Jones