George Mason University

News at Mason

Inaugural Foreign Service Day a big hit for aspiring diplomats

April 26, 2017   /   by John Hollis

Students Jasmine Renderos (left) and Kelsey Greenland (center with Richard

Government and International Politics student Jasmine Renderos (left) and Conflict Analysis and Resolution student Kelsey Greenland (center) with Richard Armitage at Mason's inaugural Foreign Service Day on April 22. Photo by Ann Ludwick, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate AcademicAffairs of the Schar School of Policy and Government.

Aiming high was just what George Mason University’s Jasmine Renderos had mind when she first began entertaining ideas about serving in the Foreign Service following graduation.

As the first member of her family to attend college, the junior government and international politics major from the Schar School of Policy and Government had always sought a career where she could make a difference. Saturday’s inaugural “Foreign Service Day” at Merten Hall, which featured inspiring testimony from Ambassador (Ret.) Laura Kennedy and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, left Renderos more convinced than ever that she’d chosen her future profession wisely.

“I thought it was amazing,” she said afterward. “I really learned a lot. That sealed the deal for me.” 

The informative daylong event also included breakout sessions with current State Department employees from various fields, including George Mason alums Tangela Torain Myers and Faisal Khan, and a simulation exercise in which the students were tasked to use their diplomatic skills to help resolve a nonproliferation treaty dispute. 

But Kennedy and Armitage were the star attractions, and neither disappointed, regaling the 50 hopeful undergraduate and graduate students with stories and wisdom gleaned from their star-studded careers.

Kennedy, whose career as a State Department diplomat spanned nearly 40 years, served as the U.S. ambassador to Turkmenistan from 2001 to 2003.

The day’s keynote speaker, Armitage has also enjoyed an illustrious career, most notably serving as the deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005 in the George W. Bush administration. 

Armitage praised the many Americans serving today in the Foreign Service in the more than 200 embassies, consulates and missions around the globe, saying they served with every bit of distinction as do members of the nation’s armed forces. He noted that 248 State Department employees have died while in service to their country, including 42 since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

“It’s necessary, it’s hard and sometimes it’s dangerous,” Armitage said. 

Armitage fielded questions from students following his speech, while Kennedy stuck around all day to interact with the students she’d welcomed to the event that morning and to attend the breakout sessions. The students listened attentively as she recounted how she began on her own career path and the many twists and turns since.

“It was great,” Renderos said. “I enjoyed that she took the time to sit in our breakout sessions. It was really an honor to be able to talk with someone who has accomplished so much.”

Kelsey Greenland, a conflict analysis and resolution major who will graduate in December, said hearing firsthand from luminaries such as Kennedy and Armitage was “very inspirational and overwhelming.”

“It’s been a great experience,” Greenland said, “and definitely gives you a lot of hope for yourself.” 

The event was collaboratively put on by the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Global Affairs Program, Global Programs, the Schar School of Policy and Government, the School of Integrative Studies, University Career Services and University Life, as well as the U.S. State Department and Diplomacy Center.