Tara Foley serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the State Department's Office of WMD and Terrorism.
Hello Dipnote readers. It's been awhile. In the past few weeks, I've been fortunate enough to visit both of my alma maters, Boston College and the University of Chicago, to speak to students there about my work for the Department. At BC, I participated in a "Women in Diplomacy Panel," and at the U of C, a career panel for students in the Committee on International Relations masters degree program. Since several Dipnote readers have asked about my background, how I found my place with the Department, and why I choose to do what I do, I thought this might be a good time to share some of my history with you. Being invited to speak at my alma maters was an honor. It was inspiring to talk with students who are so passionate about and invested in their work. It also provided me the opportunity to look back on the past few years on my life, and think about how I got here, musing about my life on Dipnote (who would've thought?). So, as Lewis Carroll says, let's begin at the beginning...
Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 was something like my fourth day of college. That's not the whole story, but it is an important piece of it. I was sitting in a Fundamentals of Politics class that morning when the planes hit the Twin Towers, completely unaware of what was going on outside of our classroom. Later, I watched the events of the morning unfold on TV, and, as many Americans, grappled with so many questions, layered over feelings of confusion and loss. As a newly independent young adult, out in the world on my own for the first time, that day, in many ways, framed the way that I looked at the world, both as an individual and as a student of political science. It caused me to look at myself, and my country, in the larger context of the world, to ask questions, and to apply myself to some of the challenges we face as a nation. I started studying Arabic, and I added a Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies minor to my Political Science major.
I was fortunate that BC, a Jesuit Catholic school, is an institution that encourages students to think about their role in the larger world. One of the school's mottos reads, "Men and women for others," and I can't think of a better way to describe my path from Chestnut Hill to Washington . My education was rooted in the values of community and public service. We were constantly encouraged to think about our place in the community – whether the immediate group of friends and family, our nation, or our global society. My experiences at Boston College demanded that I think about my role in my wider communities, what I had to offer, and how I could contribute.
Throughout my time as a student, I took every opportunity to explore new ideas and interests – study abroad in Morocco and the UK, picking up a new language, a summer internship here at the State Department, community service in Boston, and cultural immersion programs in Nicaragua and Kingston, Jamaica. Experiences like these prepared me, as well as one can be prepared, for the work I do today. After BC, I went on to receive my Masters degree in International Relations from the University of Chicago . It was, as a professor warned me it would be, "academic boot camp." It was also a wonderful opportunity to continue to ask questions and cultivate my topical expertise. After Chicago , I was offered a Presidential Management Fellowship, a program specifically for people with graduate degrees wishing to enter the federal government. And that, along with the incredible support of family and friends, is how I find myself here, at State, and blogging on Dipnote.
To call myself an American diplomat is one of the greater privileges I've experienced in my life. It truly is such a rewarding career, one that is intellectually stimulating and constantly engaging. The experiences I've outlined here are just one perspective, but I think the lives we live do inform our world view, and help determine how we interact with the larger world. At BC, we were told to consider three questions in life: 1) What do you love? 2) What are you good at? and 3) What does the world need? Where these three answers intersect, we would find our vocation. Here at the State Department, serving my country and working in the wider world of foreign affairs, I believe I've found my answer. I am fortunate for the opportunities I've had, and I'm still learning. I hope that the students I spoke with at BC and at Chicago, as well as interested readers, will consider a career in public service, and join me in the experience.