How has SIS made a difference in my world?
Entering SIS as a freshman, the school broadened my areas of study beyond my limited interests at that point. I feel like if I had been at another school that did not provide such a clear and balanced curriculum I might never have moved outside my comfort zone. While I still had the freedom to pursue my own particular interests (usually whatever class was being taught by Ambassador Quainton that semester), SIS also pushed me to take equally valuable courses in cross-cultural communications, international economics, China-Japan relations and more.
What was one important turning point during my time at SIS that influenced my professional path?
While I had planned on pursuing a foreign policy-related career back in high school, I can absolutely pinpoint one SIS class where everything fit together and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had chosen the right path. Professor Murray's Foreign Policy Decision Making class showed me that foreign policy really isn't the result of a few demi-gods sitting in a smoke-filled room making choices for the rest of the world. Rather, I was able to explore the multitude of theories that support foreign policy decision making in which I now have the opportunity to play a - very minor - role. Also, that course let me write my favorite term paper ever - Cloudy With a Chance of Wienerschnitzel: The Decision Behind the Berlin Airlift.
What has been a -- possibly unexpected-- pivotal experience or piece of knowledge that has led me to my current position?
I absolutely would not be in my current position if I had not earned a Presidential Management Fellowship while at AU. SIS played a vital role in helping me receive this fellowship through broadcasting the PMF as a career alternative and providing preparation for both the entrance examination and the PMF job search process.
Why I chose SIS?
Pretty simple, actually. I honestly do not believe that any other school can offer the perfect blend of underlying theory and applicable "how-to" lessons like SIS. Just as importantly, I would categorically say that my professors at SIS were committed to teaching first, any other project came second.
How I make a difference in the world?
I currently work for the Chief Financial Office of the Department of Homeland Security. My portfolio inside the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation includes the department's cybersecurity, intelligence, infrastructure protection, and biometric security missions. Our goal is to provide a strategic view of resource requirements across DHS and present data-driven analysis during the creation of a five-year budget. By presenting comprehensive resource alternatives to leadership, I think that our team makes a difference by helping to drive deliberative and efficient decisions in a constantly maturing department.
Field of study?
U.S. Foreign Policy
SIS Undergraduate Research Symposium
German and Italian
World issue of interest?
Transnational crime, counter-terrorism strategies, cybersecurity, international religious freedom, European integration, Italian politics.
Professional role model?
Since the age of three - not a typo - my role model has been Thomas Jefferson. Even now from a professional perspective I still find so much to model and repeat from Jefferson's life - especially his ability to connect themes and facts from various disciplines and sources. I think that today's professional world sadly forces us to become experts in a narrow field of study instead of encouraging a general approach to global issues. While I can't say that I will invent a swivel chair and experiment with French oenology while writing timeless political philosophy like Jefferson, I always hope to keep a broad view of the world around me.
Non-Fiction - Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August provides a vivid inspection into her introductory statement that war is "the unfolding of miscalculations." The entire book focuses only on the first month of World War I, but highlights so many tragic ingredients to war that remain constant in international relations - secret alliances, sabre-rattling arms races, military overconfidence.
Fiction - My favorite novel is The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Combine Aristotle's literary criticism, St. Augustine's theology, medieval Benedictine monks and wrap it up in a murder mystery and I'm hooked.
I can't imagine that any film will ever surpass La Vita é Bella as my favorite movie. Roberto Benigni's use of comedic effects like racially superior Italian bellybuttons and signs that say "No spiders or Visigoths allowed" provide a simultaneously thoughtful and cheeky counter to the evils of the Axis regimes. Plus it's always an inspiration to think that a poor waiter's greatest weapon against the horrors of a concentration camp was his unconditional love for his son and his principessa.