Diplomacy graduate pursues foreign service

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For John Gordon ’13, it is not a question of whether he will serve his country working for the U.S. Department of State, but how.

While working on his Master of Arts in Diplomacy from Norwich University, Gordon passed the State Department’s Foreign Service examination and received an offer to become a Foreign Service Officer. Then in April 2014, he was named a finalist for the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, a prestigious two-year paid government fellowship sponsored by the federal Office of Personnel Management for recent graduate students who seek a two-year fellowship in a federal agency.

“I’m trying to decide if I want to go with the guaranteed option from the State Department to be a U.S. diplomat, or through the President Management Fellowship route as a Foreign Service Officer. The PMF program would be ideal for getting to the middle and upper management levels in the Department of State. However, I really wouldn’t be doing a true diplomatic mission as a Foreign Service Officer,” says Gordon. “I’m going back and forth on each, but they’re both options that wouldn’t be available if it wasn’t for my master’s degree [in diplomacy] from Norwich.”

Presidential Management Fellows work in all Cabinet-level departments, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Library of Congress, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the United States Agency for International Development. Following the conclusion of the two-year fellowship, Presidential Management Fellows have the opportunity to convert their fellowship into a full-time permanent position.

“A Foreign Service Officer is your quintessential diplomat. I would receive a black passport, I would be an actual U.S. diplomat ... working in furtherance of the U.S. diplomatic mission in whatever country I was in,” Gordon explains. “As a Foreign Affairs Officer, I would be posted in Washington, working at the headquarters of the State Department on a variety of issues in different areas, basically in support of the State Department’s mission abroad.”

Norwich’s Master of Arts in Diplomacy program gave Gordon “a subject-matter expert level of knowledge of international affairs” that enabled him “to not just simply look at an issue within the international affairs realm and then analyze and assess it.” It also gave him the “academic standing and the academic power” to analyze and assess global issues “not simply as a standard American citizen, but from the perspective of a policy maker.”

“Throughout the master’s program I focused predominantly on transnational issues within the Middle East and central Asia. Because the Middle East and central Asia are essentially where the largest focus of U.S. diplomatic power is existing today,” says Gordon, an eight-year Marine Corps veteran who has served two combat tours in Afghanistan. “That is because those regions of the world have the greatest impact, right now, on U.S. national security and also, U.S. foreign policy abroad. And also my experience in Afghanistan drew me to a significant interest in the central Asian region as well.”

Gordon’s favorite course in the diplomacy program was “History of Diplomacy in the International System,” because it provided a comprehensive understanding of the factors surrounding diplomacy throughout the overarching field of global politics.”

“This course was interesting to me not just because of the topics covered, but rather the intimate analysis of international relations and diplomatic interaction in the context of the modern state system, which has shaped the current socioeconomic and geopolitical environments of the international community,” says Gordon. “The analytical framework upon which the course is based necessitated an introspective approach to the research required for success, thus it really increased the intrinsic value of the course.”

Whatever the path he chooses, a foreign posting is Gordon’s long-term goal.

“Five years from now, I’d like to be serving as a United States diplomat at a foreign diplomatic mission in an area of the world where I’ll be able to contribute to U.S. interests,” says Gordon. “I was driven to a career of service to our nation stemming primarily from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Those attacks prompted me to have an overwhelming desire to join the U.S. Marine Corps and be part of the wars of my generation. I’ve served eight years in the Marine Corps ... and I want to continue to serve my country for another 20 years with the Department of State.”