The Foreign Service Journal - June 2016
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JUNE 2016



Mentoring for

the Deep Bench

In her April President’s Views column, “Building the Deep Bench,” Ambassador

Barbara Stephenson estimates that lead-

ers are produced roughly in accordance

with the following “rule of thumb”: 70

percent on-the-job experience, 20 percent

mentoring and 10 percent formal training.

It would be interesting to delve more

deeply into the mentoring component

of the foregoing formula. For example,

is “mentoring” a formal component of

a supervisory FSO’s job description? In

other words, does it actually take place?

Furthermore, is the deputy chief of

mission (or USAID’s equivalent) at post

responsible for ensuring that junior FSOs

are properly mentored by their supervi-

sors, or even occasionally by the chief of

mission? Just as importantly, is feedback

on the adequacy of their mentoring expe-

rience actively solicited from junior FSOs?

Without such formal mentoring desig-

nations and responsibilities, and an effec-

tive feedback loop, the early on-the-job

experiences of first- and second-tour FSOs

may amount to little more than an implied

edict to “sink or swim!”

Fred Kalhammer

SFS USAID, retired

Sun City Center, Florida

Universities for Africa

I greatly appreciated Don Lotter’s April

article on the need to help Africa develop

its university system as a better way to

develop the continent in general (“Devel- opment Aid to Africa: Time for Plan B?”).

During my 20-plus years of service in

Africa at eight posts, I was continuously

frustrated by our ever-changing develop-

ment policies and priorities.

The only constant was that Africa was

forever developing, but never quite getting

to “developed”—despite the countless

Western experts and consultants who

were there to show the way. Since retiring

from State I’ve now spent 13 years at Texas

Tech as vice provost administering inter-

national programs, and I heartily endorse

most of Lotter’s points.

The best example I can offer is Ethio-

pia—once the poster child for the Four

Horsemen of the Apocalypse—a country

where I served twice and still visit every

few years to help establish partnerships

between American and Ethiopian univer-


When I arrived there as ambassa-

dor in 1999, the literacy numbers were

abysmal—especially for girls. Thanks to

a national policy that first promoted pri-

mary education, and later extended that

to high school, current estimates are that

more than 50 percent of women and two-

thirds of men can now read and write.

Ethiopia is now undertaking an even

more ambitious campaign to go to the

next level: building from scratch a network

of universities across the country. In 2000

Ethiopia had just three national universi-

ties—today it has 31, and the country

is spending more than a quarter of its

national budget on education.

But while Ethiopia is graduating thou-

sands with B.A. degrees, they desperately

need M.A. and Ph.D. degree-holders to

serve as faculty in their new universities.

This is where U.S. universities can

help—by establishing partnerships with

Ethiopian universities to collaborate on

degree programs (here, there and by dis-

tance), faculty training, curriculum design

and academic management.

Also appealing is the idea of helping

establish U.S.-style universities across

Africa. For example, a first-rate compre-

hensive university to serve the Horn of

Africa, one that conferred U.S.-quality

degrees on students from the region,

would be a positive force in many ways.