After meeting Juniata alumni, Scott Kohmel in D.C. the previous year. I became very interested in joining the Foreign Service. Scott works for the U.S. State department and is the Vietnam desk. This is a four year job that he will soon leave to work at an embassy overseas. On his visit to Juniata he discussed how the State Department makes policy and how to write.
A very valuable piece of advice from Scott is that everything that happens in the State Department is based on writing. It is essential to improve your writing ability. The State Department looks for brevity, reading nothing over one double spaced page. Every sentence has to have a point, and it is best to write using as few as possible words. Professor of international politics, Emil Nagengast stated that in his experience students that couldn’t write well also did not read a lot. I am neutral on Professor Nagengast’s statement because I understand that reading does improve your writing syntax; however, struggling with grammar issues and spelling myself I do not believe that reading improves these issues.
As policy was described to me, I did not see much difference between it and some of the papers I write in my politics classes. To draft a policy you have to have an idea, research, and a valid argument that can be put into practice.
Another part of policy is conversation. Scott wanted to highlight that face to face communication is very important for creating a policy. You have to talk to someone in order establish and finalize a policy. This communication develops into negotiations, which are secretive in nature. Scott argues that negotiations should be secretive because the officials who make policy, especially policy with other nations need to be able to talk through the policy and come to a compromise. This compromise will not happen if the public and interest groups are watching and reacting to the negations. The negotiations are where the shaping of the policy is created and allowing these negotiations to be done in secret acts as a massive brain storm see if a win-win situation is achievable. It is important, however, to release the policy to the public in order to get public support. A policy is not very successful unless you have public support.
One thing that Scott stated that stuck with me that I am still trying to analysis is the statement “you cannot let your classes get in the way of your education.” I will leave you to think about that statement as well.
To hear more about Scott, check out this video.