Student and Alumni Profiles
Sofia Alsamadi, GVPT '18
"One of the most rewarding programs I’ve been a part of at UMD has been the Global Semester in Washington D.C. program. This program helped make my career dreams a reality. Global Semester notified me of an internship opportunity at the State Department. I thought I had a very slim chance of obtaining a position, but the FGSM Office helped me prepare my federal resume and statement of interest. Their assistance ultimately led me to receiving a primary position offer at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).
I am currently interning at Department of State (DoS) and it has been one of the best experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having. I have learned so much from being in the office environment rather than learning in a classroom. Yet, I have been applying many of the skills I have learned at UMD to my internship at State. I work within the Political Military Affairs of Iraq office under NEA. This unit focuses on the inter-agency coordination of the Counter-Da’esh campaign in Iraq as well as stabilization efforts post liberation. My primary tasks involve researching and drafting documents for various figures at State. This has truly been an incredible experience learning about the inner workings of DoS as well as enhancing my professional skillsets. The highlight of my internship experience was volunteering for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, where I sat third row at President Obama’s press conference!"
"I am very passionate about international issues; and I think my various involvements prove just that. I recently was accepted into the International Development and Conflict Management Minor program. My courses for the minor begin in Fall 2016 and I am very eager to enter this program. I have always been intrigued by international conflicts, especially the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. My interest for this stemmed from my Palestinian background as well as the complex nature of the conflict itself. I look forward to formally studying conflicts such as this along with others in the MIDCM courses.
However, my interest does not stop at the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict; it actually extends into the entire Near East region. The relations of the people, political parties, and countries within the Arab world intrigue me. Not to mention, I care deeply about the relationships between the United States and these aforementioned factions. In order to better understand the people and the culture, I am learning the Arabic language at UMD. Next fall I will be entering my third year of Arabic and will be studying at the advanced level. My goal is to become as fluent as possible in order to aid me in my future careers.
Additionally, I am a member of the College Park Scholars International Studies program, which allowed me to participate in the Scholars Model UN team. We took part in the 2015 Harvard Model United Nations Conference. At the conference, I was a delegate for Bolivia at the Special Summit on Technology. I enjoyed my experiences at this conference because of the connections I was able to make with international students and other students across the nation. The conference taught me that compromise may not always be easy, but it is certainly possible to create resolutions supported by different entities."
What's Next for Sofia?
"My future plans are not certain; however, I do know that I will pursue my master’s degree at some point after graduation. As for career goals, I would like to work with U.S. and Middle East relations. This has led me to focusing on obtaining a career at DoS or possibly USAID. I am still learning about different options and expect to narrow down my career path after interning at other agencies. I am thankful for the opportunities that Maryland has offered me to get the most fulfilling experience in IR."
Allyson McCarthy, GVPT '18
“Throughout the last three years at UMD, Army ROTC has provided me with many opportunities to study abroad and supplement my double degree focus of Government and Arabic. In the summer of 2015, I spent two months taking intensive Arabic classes on a Project GO scholarship in Muscat, Oman where I was also able to explore the complex government structure and political attitudes of the Omani people.
In the summer of 2016, I spent one month participating in a cultural exchange with the Bulgarian Army in Assenovgrad, Bulgaria with the ROTC CULP Program. After graduating in May 2017, I will finish my college career on an eleven-month study abroad in Meknes, Morocco with the Arabic Flagship Program, where I will hopefully reach professional-level fluency in Arabic. These experiences will help me be a better officer, fully equipped to deal with the complex cultural and political obstacles faced by the United States Army.”
“In addition to studying abroad, I have been able to develop my professional skills at UMD through many unique experiences. The UMD Arabic Flagship program has provided me with many professional development opportunities including the annual research colloquium. In the spring of 2015, I prepared a research presentation on the treatment of Arab citizens in Israel, focusing on the 2015 Israeli Elections. In 2016, I focused on the treatment of Muslim women in the West compared to the treatment of Muslim women in terrorist controlled regions in the Middle East.”
I have also taken advantage of the location of UMD, and completed an internship in the fall of 2015 at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington DC. There I was responsible for researching Omani and Persian Gulf culture and history, and then created lesson plans to educate others on the region.
“I was also honored to be chosen as the UMD delegate for the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in the spring of 2016. For this conference, I explored the issue of women involvement in ISIS and completed a 10-page research paper on the topic. At this conference I was able to interact with Foreign Service officers, ambassadors, and military personnel through informative panels on women in politics, women in business, and gender equality.
Choosing UMD to spend my college career has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I know that after I graduate, I will be well prepared to serve as a leader in the US Army because of my extensive study abroad and professional experience."
What's Next for Allyson?
"After graduating, I plan to serve as a military intelligence officer in the United States Army using the skills that I've acquired at the University of Maryland."
Aaron Bhatt, GVPT '16
What advice would you give to an IR student?
"The first component to any International Relations major's toolkit should be studying abroad. I did that by studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I was pushed out of my comfort zone in the land of smiles. Although I never lived abroad before, I realized I prefer direct immersion as opposed to learning in a classroom. But I've also engaged in the classroom in an academic sense, doing research with both the GVPT Honors Program and the Center for American Politics and Citizenship. It brought me closer to the core of IR issues such as security in the Asia-Pacific region and the elections in multi-party democracies."
The D.C. Experience
"Being close to D.C., I've been lucky enough to have interned with government agencies, participate in the Rangel Scholars Program, and find a core group of people- young and old- who have helped me navigate the city and mentored me in pursuing new opportunities."
What's Next for Aaron?
"I hope to work in a career that allows me to engage with South Asian civil society to affect positive change."
Maya Hardimon, GVPT '16
What advice would you give to an IR student?
"In my four years at UMD, I have combined my Government & Politics major with an Arabic major to create an academic focus on Middle Eastern politics. Thanks to the flexibility of both departments, I have been able to study abroad in the Middle East on three occasions: in Morocco, in Oman, and in Jordan. After returning from my time abroad, I continued my study of international politics through writing a 125-page undergraduate thesis about the use of violent and nonviolent rhetoric among opposition leaders around the world.
"I have been able to use my time at UMD to develop my professional skills through completing five internships related to international politics and Middle Eastern cultures. I have conducted research on radical ideologies at UMD's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, and I have shared my passion for learning about the Arab world through interning with the Arabic Flagship Program on campus.
At my most recent internship at the International Rescue Committee, I was able to use both my political background and my Arabic and French language skills to help newly-arrived refugees adjust to life in the United States. I'm so glad that during my time at UMD, I have been able to combine classes, study abroad programs, and internships to create a well-rounded undergraduate experience."
What's Next for Maya?
Maya will spend 11 months in Meknes, Morocco as a Boren Scholar in the Arabic Flagship Program. During this time, she will study different Arabic dialects and intern with a Moroccan NGO. Maya hopes the program will help her reach professional-level fluency in Arabic so that she can be more prepared for an eventual career in Middle Eastern politics.
Jessica Liu, GVPT '16
My Career in GVPT
"Coming into my freshman year, I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go with my government and politics major, other than a general sense that I wanted to study international relations with China. However, after taking GVPT100, I discovered that I was interested in political data analysis, a field I hadn't even known about before. Because of my interest in the material and meeting a great professor in the department, Dr. Sarah Croco, I ended up becoming her research assistant. It was the first in a series of steps that led me to finding a passion for combining data analysis with public service."
Research and Scholarships
"Working with Dr. Croco, I completed a Maryland Summer Scholars research project, and had the opportunity to present a paper at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor's Emerging Scholars Conference. In the process of honing my political data analysis skills, I decided to incorporate a statistical analysis portion into my GVPT undergraduate honors thesis studying China's behavior in the United Nations. To my knowledge, the particular focus of my statistical analysis on China's behavior is one of the first in the literature."
"I also looked for public policy internships to supplement my GVPT studies, and was accepted into the Global Semester U.S. Diplomacy program, where I learned about the variety of public service careers that were available to me as a GVPT major. As a result of the combination of my experiences at Maryland, I ultimately chose to pursue a career path in the public sector that combines data analysis with public policy, particularly through using data science for social good. As such, after I graduate in the spring, I will be working at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System as a research assistant in the International Finance division. After the two-year position, I hope to pursue a graduate degree in data science."
What's Next For Jessica?
Jessica will work as a research assistant in the International Finance division of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.
Samuel Juh, GVPT '10, MPP '11
"I am currently a Foreign Service Officer serving in the Political Affairs section in the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels, Belgium. In this role, I focus primarily on NATO's approach to challenges in the Middle East and in North Africa, including security and capacity building assistance to NATO partner nations."
Unique Opportunities through UMD
"AT UMD, I was a GVPT major and a Spanish minor. I studied abroad in Seville, Spain in the summer of 2008. I participated in several internships during my time at Maryland, including two associated with the campus; at the Institute for Governmental Services and Research and at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. I also completed the joint BA/MPP program and began taking MPP courses my junior year."
GVPT and the Career Path
"My GVPT major serves as the practical and theoretical bedrock of my knowledge of political science and international affairs. My GVPT coursework prepared me for my internships in legislative affairs, the executive branch, and research, all of which prepared me for graduate school and my current career at the Department of State."
"No matter how high or low one is on the totem pole, in the world of U.S. foreign policy and national security, and international affairs more broadly, it is critical to have a conceptual understanding of governance, security, and international relations. My GVPT major helped me aquire that understanding."
The Road Ahead
"I plan to continue to pursue a career at the Department of State, both in Washington and in overseas assignments. Longer term, I am interested in pursuing new opportunities and challenges within the international security and economic affairs space, either in or outside of government."
Advice for Undergraduates
"Good grades in one field of study are not enough! The job market is getting more and more competitive by the day, and candidates needs to demonstrate academic excellence and the potential for professional success in several disciplines. Learn another language, study abroad and take classes doing something that requires more than just writing long form essays. All of these things make you more well-rounded and help create a unique story for you to tell employers. All the while, make sure you're having fun in your professional work and personal life in College Park. Coming from a big, fun, diverse state school was a huge competitive advantage for me. At the end of the day, it's the individuals that have fun at work and make the office environment more enjoyable that are the most effective workers and leaders in GVPT-related careers."
David Nelson, GVPT '11
David serves as Protocol Officer and Social Secretary to the Ambassador at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington. On any given day, he liaises with dozens of professionals for whom protocol- the customs and traditions that govern official conduct- is not their expertise or for whom English is not their mother tongue. In addition to serving as an advisor to the Ambassador and his staff on matters relating to protocol, David plans more than 250 events and welcomes nearly 3,000 guests to the Embassy each year.
Unique Opportunities Through UMD
During his time at Maryland, David divided his time amongst a number of undergraduate organizations: serving as president of the Sigma Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society; founding the University Traditions Initiative; working as a writing consultant at the University Writing Center; serving as an undergraduate representative on the Facilities Master Planning Steering Committee and the Committee to Inaugurate President Wallace Loh; and playing the mellophone in the "Mighty Sound of Maryland" Marching Band, to name a few. He was also involved with the CIVICUS Living & Learning Program, to which he credits a large part of his post-graduate success. CIVICUS transformed how he views his role as a citizen, and caused him to place tremendous faith in the power of engagement with the community- any community- be it cultural, professional, political, or otherwise.
Community Involvement and Professional Development
The concept of participating in and serving the community shaped Nelson's Government & Politics goals, leading him to realize that he was interested not only in the implementation of policies, but also the behind-the-scenes coordination that makes them possible in the first place: scheduling, event planning, travel coordination, security management, etc. Making guests, whether it be ministers and ambassadors, business leaders, or military officials, feel welcome and at ease is one of David's favorite parts of his job.
To keep in touch with his roots, David returns to UMD twice a year to speak about his experience and the importance of protocol. Specifically, he leads a discussion on the relationship between protocol and civility in the fall and teaches a class section focused on business etiquette in the spring. He also makes time for at least one football and one basketball home game each year. "So much of who we are as graduates we owe to our time at the university," Nelson pointed out. "Giving back to our campus community with our time and energy is one way to show gratitude."
Advice for Undergraduates
"Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions. Do right by yourself and by those you love, and always say thank you. Through mutual respect and civil discourse, one can have a positive effect on others. This is the bedrock of my profession."
Joshua Lustig, GVPT '06
Joshua is a Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai where he manages cultural, civil society, and educational exchange programs. His work is wide-ranging and includes planning, executing, and sometimes featuring in public programs to introduce the Chinese public to American cultures and values. Some of his tasks have included interviewing professors for university exchange programs, planning a 6-month awareness campaign on anti-domestic violence issues, giving a public lecture on the 2016 election, and starring in his office's Chinese New Year video.
Unique Opportunities Through UMD
Joshua believes his experiences at Maryland were extremely beneficial in terms of preparing him for his career. As a writer for the Diamondback, he was able to gain valuable writing and drafting skills. His knack for public speaking developed through his late-night comedy show on WMUC, the University's radio station. The best training for his job, however, came from his two study abroad programs in Italy and Israel. He credits them with setting the stage for him to gain a passion for living abroad and working in other cultures, which he considers "a must" for any aspiring diplomat.
GVPT and the Career Path
Joshua enjoyed his courses, particularly the ones that had to do with international relations. They gave him the opportunity to delve into the political systems, cultures, and histories of many different regions of the world. One course that sticks out to Joshua is his seminar on African politics, which gave him a small taste of the history and culture of a region that he knew nothing about. It was so influential that it inspired Joshua to enlist in the U.S. Peace Corps after graduation. He eventually spent two years as a volunteer in Cabo Verde, experiencing first-hand what he had learned in the classroom.
The Road Ahead
Joshua hopes to stay with the State Department and specialize a bit more, although he says it's difficult to predict the changing nature of his work. His next assignment will be in Jakarta, Indonesia, which will give him an even broader understanding of the Asia Pacific. One day, Joshua would like to return to the Portuguese-speaking Lusophone world.
Advice for Undergraduates
Joshua believes that it's crucial to maintain a healthy curiosity about the world. He cannot stress enough how important it is to master foreign language comprehension and to study abroad. While in-class work can help students from a great base, there needs to be immersive, in-country experience to gain the practical language comprehension skills needed to work at a professional level in another country. These skills differentiate students from other people in the job market- plus, those skills open up new areas of the world for travel.
"It's a cliche, but foreign language fluency does really lead to a world of new opportunities, so get out there!"