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Diplomacy, Defense, and Development Concentration Prepares Students For Successful Careers

By Ryan Jordan

Students engaged in discussion around tables in a classroom.

This past fall, Graduate Professional Studies at American University introduced a new concentration for those who are interested in or currently working in the fields of diplomacy, security, or international development. As part of Graduate Professional Studies, students combine a graduate seminar and elective course while gaining practical experience through an internship or research course.

The Diplomacy, Defense, and Development (DDD) concentration provides a conceptual and practical understanding of how the fields of diplomacy, defense and security, and development work in DC and beyond. The semester-long program consists of instructor led classroom lecturers and skills sessions with guest speakers who have expertise in intercultural management.

Professor Jack Zetkulic, a foreign affairs consultant and former Senior U.S. Foreign Service Officer, exposed students to important aspects of U.S. policy and skills that students can take from the classroom and use in the workplace.

In addition to the classroom lectures, students learned through skills sessions on various topics, the requirements of crisis diplomacy and effects of new technologies, cultural competence in negotiation and conflict resolution, and planning effective strategic meetings.

John Robert Kelley, an assistant professor in the School of International Service, provided a skills session entitled “US Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Requirements of Crisis Diplomacy and Effects of New Technology.” His lecture not only focused on diplomacy, but also used a public relations approach to managing conflicts and crisis scenarios.

“Diplomacy is one of those things we hear a great deal about, but when pressed we find we know rather little,” Kelley said. “Half of our time together explored what diplomacy is and does, then we used the second half of the class to place it in crisis situations and look at how we work those out.” 

Ray Leki, Adjunct Professional Lecturer, who presented on the topic of Integrated Diplomacy, Defense, and Development, taught students how different cultures are involved, how cross-cultural negotiations take place, and potential conflict areas that may appear due to differing values and perspectives.

“One of the great joys I have is that I can build bridges, inspire and de-mystify students towards a career in the U.S. foreign affairs community,” said Professor Leki.

The DDD program exposes students to practitioners and policy makers to ensure a better understanding of the policy arena and skillsets needed to be successful in the field. In addition, Graduate Professional Studies, provides a foundation to a future degree by earning credit that may count towards a master’s degree at AU or other institutions. Joseph Walters, Fall 2016 Graduate Professional Studies student, entered the program with the clear objective of pursuing a master’s degree following the program.

“It is a good jumping off point for my academic and professional career,” said Walters. “If someone was in a point in their life where they were trying to make a transition and become more qualified I would highly recommend GPS. It’s a great way to get professional and academic experience.”

The Diplomacy, Defense, and Development program is a perfect next step for those interested in diplomacy, security, or international development. Whether looking to start a career in those fields or get a head start on a master’s degree, this program is a great transition towards a successful future.