George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Military veterans get 'speed mentored' at U.S. State Department

March 21, 2019   /   by Buzz McClain

Government and international politics major and Air Force veteran Sheryl Ann Weatherbee is "speed mentored" at the State Department. Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

Speed was of the essence for seven military veterans who are students in George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and who were mentored in matters of life and career during a recent visit to the U.S. State Department.

In roughly five-minute intervals, the students were “speed mentored” individually by 13 fellow military veterans, all members of Veterans@State. Members volunteer their time to assist fellow military veterans in early career decisions.

By the end, as students rotated clockwise after each timed conversation, every student had been counseled by all 13 volunteers.

“Our main reason for existing is to support veterans as an affinity group,” said Joseph Giblin, an economic officer in the State Department’s Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement. “As fellow veterans, [the volunteers] have information they can share that might be helpful to both of them.

“It’s a growing process,” the U.S. Army veteran added. “For the mentor, he or she gets to share their experiences; the mentees get to learn from the mentors and benefit from those experiences.”

Mason has more than 3,500 students who are either active military, veterans or members of military families. It also is one of 103 institutions ranked by U.S. News and World Report as among the “best for veterans,” and is ranked as “military friendly” by guidetoonlineschools.com and militaryfriendly.com.

Michael Williams, a nondegree graduate student at the Schar School and a U.S. Marine veteran with leanings toward homeland security, wanted to hear “different perspectives from different departments” at the State Department.

Political science graduate student Ali Nayyef, an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard and a 2018 Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship recipient, wanted to learn more about the State Department and the differences between the diplomatic corps and the foreign service.

Michael Williams, a non-degree graduate student and Marine veteran, gains insight about career and education options. Photo by Buzz McClain/Schar School of Policy and Government

Did he gain insight?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I feel I really did have an inside look at the inner workings of the departments and how there are so many diverse opportunities in the State Department as a veteran, as a student and as a scholar.”

The speed aspect of the session was not a drawback, he said.

“I feel like it was a benefit because it forces you to give that elevator pitch, summarizing who you are and where you want to be, and having that ability to communicate that with people who don’t know your background can really be an asset,” he said.

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