5 Questions with a USAID Foreign Service Officer

Jean-Marc Gorelick, ESIA MA '09
Jean-Marc Gorelick, ESIA MA ’09

Changing the world is just part of the job for Jean-Marc Gorelick, ESIA MA ’09.  Gorelick is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Afghanistan as a Senior Elections Advisor in Kabul.

USAID Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) are responsible for developing and managing foreign assistance programs that encompass economic growth and trade, agriculture and the environment, education and training, democracy and governance, stabilization and conflict mitigation, global health and humanitarian assistance.

We were able to connect with Gorelick to find out about his current tour (where he recently met US Secretary of State John Kerry), and what it’s like to pursue his dream:

GW: What is the goal of your current tour in Afghanistan?

JMG: Our mission here is to support Afghan-led inclusive, credible, and transparent Presidential and Provincial elections slated for May 5, 2014. Afghanistan stands at a crucial crossroads in its history. A peaceful transfer of power from one elected leader to another is critical for securing the country’s democratic future.

Jean-Marc Gorelick, ESIA MA '09 (center), meets Secretary of State John Kerry in Afghanistan.
Gorelick (center), meets Secretary of State John Kerry in Afghanistan.

GW: When did you know you wanted to pursue this career path?

JMG: In 2003, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa, I gained a deep appreciation for overseas work. I loved representing America abroad and working with people from a culture very different from my own. However, it wasn’t until I met Ambassador Charles Twining that I considered a career in the Foreign Service. Ambassador Twining encouraged me to pursue this path, at a time when I knew very little about this line of work. In Togo, he was consistently energetic, intelligent, perceptive, adventurous, and always curious. I thought to myself, “If this is what the life of an FSO is like, count me in.”

GW: What do you love most about your work as a Foreign Service Officer?

JMG: If you love to learn, this is the perfect job. Each country poses its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. The Foreign Service is truly a career for professional and personal growth. As soon as you master one set of skills, you move on to the next assignment for an entirely new experience. But, most importantly, your work makes a difference in people’s lives. USAID carries out US foreign policy by promoting broad-scale human progress at the same time it expands stable, free societies, creates markets and trade partners for the United States, and fosters good will abroad.

GW: How did your time at GW influence your career path?

JMG:  As a student in the Elliot School’s International Development Studies (IDS) program, I had the opportunity to participate in a capstone project in the field. Four of us IDS’ers conducted an impact assessment of an international development project implemented by CARE in Northern Uganda.

This exercise enabled us to apply our classroom learning to the field. Conducting extensive fieldwork and research in a challenging environment was exciting. This experience reaffirmed my commitment to pursuing an overseas career in international development.

In addition, I remain grateful to GW for allowing me to work while I pursued my master’s. I didn’t have to hit the “pause” button on my career, and I was able to enhance what I learned at GW with what I learned in the workplace.

GW: What advice do you have for aspiring Foreign Service Officers?

JMG: I think for both State and USAID FSOs, you need specialized skills in whatever cone or backstop you are seeking. However, there are fundamental qualities needed to succeed in this career: flexibility, resourcefulness, intellectual curiosity, and an ability to thrive in difficult environments.

–Thanks very much to Jean-Marc Gorelick for sharing these insights with us! To learn more about USAID’s Foreign Service, visit: http://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/careers/foreign-service

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