Schar School Military Veterans Get ’Speed Mentored’ in Life, Career Advice at Dept. of State

By Buzz McClain

Government and International Politics major and Air Force veteran Sheryl Ann Weatherbee is ‘speed mentored’ at the State Department. Photos by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

The session was based on the practice of “speed dating,” wherein couples impart as much pertinent information about themselves as possible in a short span of time to see if they are a good match. But in this case, it was “speed mentoring,” not dating, between U.S. military veterans and Schar School veteran students at the State Department in early March.

Michael Williams, a non-degree graduate student and Marine veteran, gains insight about career and education options.The Friday morning session brought together seven Schar School students, both graduate and undergraduate, to meet for five-or-so minutes with some 13 veterans, members of Veterans@State, who had volunteered their time to assist fellow veterans in early career decisions. The session, was held in a conference room at the State Department’s Marshall Center in Washington, D.C., and was sponsored by the Schar School Alumni Chapter Veterans Committee.

By the end, as students rotated clockwise after each timed conversation, every Schar School student had been counselled by all 13 volunteers.

“Our main reason for existing is to support veterans as an affinity group,” said Joseph Giblin, an economic officer in the State Department’s Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement and a board member of Veterans@State. “As fellow veterans, [the volunteers] have information they can share that might be helpful to both of them.

“It’s a growing process,” the Army veteran said. “For the mentor, he or she get to share their experiences; the mentees get to learn from the mentors and benefit from those experiences.”

Michael Williams, a non-degree graduate student at the Schar School and Marine veteran with leanings toward homeland security, wanted to hear “different perspectives from different departments” at the State Department.

Political Science master’s student Ali Nayyef, an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard and a 2018 Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship recipient, learned about foreign and diplomatic services.Political Science master’s student Ali Nayyef, an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard and a 2018 Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship recipient, wanted to learn more about the State Department and the differences between the diplomatic corps and the foreign service.

Did he gain insight?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I feel I really did have an inside look at the inner workings of the departments and how there are so many diverse opportunities in the State Department as a veteran, as a student, and as a scholar.”

The “speed” aspect of the session was not a drawback, he said.

“I feel like it was a benefit because if forces you to give that ‘elevator pitch,’ summarizing who you are and where you want to be, and having that ability to communicate that with people who don’t know your background can really be an asset,” he said.