Matt Hinson is a member of the SFS Class of 2017 and a 2017 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellow. As an International History major at Georgetown, Matt also worked at the Library of Congress, the Clinton Foundation, and served as an editorial fellow with the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. As a Rangel Fellow, Matthew worked in the office of Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge on foreign affairs issues before beginning his graduate studies at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Matt is currently a first year MPA candidate concentrating in International Security Policy and European Studies and will be working at the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) section at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria, this summer. Here are Matt’s reflections as Rangel Fellow so far:
As one of the few fellowships that offers employment in the federal government after completing graduate school, the Rangel Fellowship differs from other programs in that it is difficult to separate from politics. Reflecting on my first year in the program, most of my thoughts surround what the Foreign Service will look like when I join in two years.
These reflections are not based on disdain for the President or my political party affiliation but rather about the fact that I’m now forced to watch policy changes because they could affect my career trajectory, which becomes increasingly precarious every day.
Every week or so, one can open the New York Times, Washington Post, or Foreign Policy (the SFS student’s favorite trio of news publications) to find an article lamenting the new administration’s radical changes to the Department of State. These stories detail the exodus of career ambassadors, the reorganization of the Department’s bureaus and offices, and downsizing of the Foreign Service, and the reduced role of the United States in multilateral agreements. As someone planning to join the State Department in less than two years, I find these stories alarming.
News about the Foreign Service’s culling does not trouble me because I’m worried I’ll be out of a job. The decisions are disturbing because they seem to contradict every piece of conventional wisdom regarding American foreign policy that I studied at Georgetown (and now at Columbia). 9 million American citizens live in foreign countries—not counting those who reside in the United States but are currently traveling abroad—all of whom require consular assistance. On top of that, the demand for visas to the U.S. increases every year. Factoring in diplomats who work to manage international crises and strengthen bilateral relations, the numbers would suggest that a bigger Foreign Service is necessary to manage the workload, not a shrunken one.
I don’t expect to personally have a significant impact on U.S. foreign policy. As entry-level officers, my colleagues and I in the Rangel & Pickering programs will start out as lowly bureaucrats posted in remote locations. But one doesn’t have to be an ambassador to care about the changes being made to the State Department. Before graduating Georgetown, I wrote an article in The Hoya about why philosophy is important for foreign policy. The goal of the article was to demonstrate how multidimensional global issues can be, a view I’m not sure the administration grasps.
Just as it was interesting to be a member of the Class of 2017 – the first class to enter Georgetown in Obama’s America and exit into Trump’s America, entering the Foreign Service in this particular era will be interesting too.