THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
the drafting of shorter papers, akin to “action memos” in the State
Department. Concise and succinct drafting with well-focused
options and recommendations is a particularly valuable skill in
government, as well as in the private sector.
Group Exercises and Scenarios
Group exercises develop interpersonal skills and the abil-
ity to work in a group setting. Success requires leadership and
an ability to evaluate other views. It also requires discipline. In
one of my classes, I divide students into eight working groups.
Each group must prepare a presentation for the class on one
country in the Persian Gulf. The groups have a finite amount of
time during which they are to cover all aspects of that country’s
domestic and foreign policy, as well as its relationship with the
United States. It is a challenge and forces the group to be well-
organized, disciplined with their time and succinct.
Individual class presentations, if properly structured,
enhance briefing skills—another important attribute that
employers often find to be weak in applicants. Time-limited pre-
sentations on complex topics replicate the reality of the Foreign
Service workplace. The ultimate accomplishment is enhanced
student confidence in his or her ability to brief and to speak
Another important technique is the use of scenarios or crisis
exercises. In my course on the role of an embassy in the con-
duct of foreign policy, I assign each student to a position on my
country team. In the crisis scenario I feed the students data,
which they report to the country team. As in real life, some of
the information they receive is at variance with that from other
sources. In some cases the source itself is questionable. The team
must then analyze what they know and make assessments as to
what they believe are the facts.
They then have to determine what recommendations they
will make to Washington, and why. Inevitably there is much
debate and, often, dispute—exactly as in real life. In this course,
each student is paired with a Foreign Service officer who has
served in the same capacity as the student’s role on my country
team. The value of this additional ingredient is obvious. The
students gain a practical understanding of their responsibilities
and role in a crisis and, importantly, they develop a relationship
with a real practitioner.
While this idea may seem a luxury available only at universi-
ties located in the Washington, D.C., area, there are, in fact, FS
retirees around the country, as well as active-duty officers in
Washington, who are able and willing to engage with students by
phone or email, if not in person.