The Foreign Service Journal - September 2017
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cessful career in diplomacy into university curricula is, therefore,

a necessary albeit challenging endeavor.

Recently I headed a task force on “Practice” at The George

Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs

mandated to do just that—to make recommendations on how

best to integrate practical skills into students’ university experi-

ence. (The “Practice Task Force” was one of four set up by Dean

Reuben E. Brigety to focus the Elliott School on STEP— Scholar-

ship, Teaching, Ethics and Practice.)

For our students, we must first identify the skills that are most

valuable in the diplomatic profession, and then seek out tangible

ways to address them both in and out of the classroom. The goal

is, ultimately, to produce well-qualified, competent individuals

for careers in the dynamic and challenging arena of international


I present the highlights of our findings here.

Identifying Primary Practical Skills

The task force surveyed the attributes employers that hire

international affairs students rated as very important, important

or somewhat important. They fell into four major practical areas:

(1) Leadership, Teamwork and Training (critical thinking, leader-

ship and negotiating skills); (2) Policymaking and Policy Manage-

ment (political analysis, formal briefing, development of policy

options, media relations and risk analysis); (3) Analysis (quantita-

tive analysis, long-term forecasting, case management analysis

and financial statement analysis); and (4) Communication

(writing skills, public speaking, foreign languages, use of online

interactive social media, and cross-cultural communication).

Note the similarities to the professional attributes that are

used to rate members of the Foreign Service for promotion and

for assignment: leadership, intellectual skills, communication

ability, interpersonal skills and management.

How then does one design a curriculum or syllabus that gives

students the opportunity to develop these skills? One way is to

have professors incorporate assignments and classroom engage-

ment activities that reinforce these skills into their syllabi. In

fact, the task force’s review of syllabi revealed that the majority

of courses


this. Elements of critical thinking, writing, political

analysis and developing policy options were the most prominent

skills addressed. Leadership, risk analysis and public speaking

were also prominent in course content.

For example, most professors already assign papers that

require in-depth research and analysis. With instruction and

guidance, professors can highlight the importance of critical

thinking and policy options. What is less often tasked, however, is