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The GW Hatchet

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Generations Dialogue Project seeks to grow diverse representation in foreign policy

Photo Illustration by Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer
The home page of the Generations Dialogue Project.

An Elliott School of International Affairs initiative is connecting students from diverse backgrounds to career guidance in American foreign policy before its funding from a private foundation expires in May.

The Generations Dialogue Project, which secured funding from the Hewlett Foundation from May 2022 through May 2024, organizes events for students from diverse backgrounds to receive career advice from leading professionals in international affairs. Jennifer Brinkerhoff, the project’s principal investigator and a professor of international affairs, said the project’s team aims to educate students about navigating career options, imposter syndrome and racism in the field of American foreign policy.

Brinkerhoff said the project uses the book “The Young Black Leader’s Guide to a Successful Career in International Affairs: What the Giants Want You to Know,” which she published with her co-authors Aaron Williams and Taylor Jack in July 2022, as a framework for inspiring students whose identities are underrepresented in American foreign policy to explore careers in the field. She said the project’s team hosts panels for international affairs professionals to expand on the career advice outlined in the book.

“What we’re doing is we’re replicating the intergenerational dialogues that are in the book before a live audience,” Brinkerhoff said.

Brinkerhoff said she started working on the book with her co-authors in 2015 and published it in July 2022. She said the book consists of interviews with international affairs “giants,” or successful leaders whose racial identities are underrepresented in the field, who answered questions about mental health, adversity and leadership.

“It’s really conversational as we interweave the stories and advice and quotations from all the people we interviewed,” Brinkerhoff said.

Brinkerhoff said she asked the international affairs leaders to elaborate on their personal struggles to connect with a younger audience. She said it is easy for students to look up biographies on successful people, so she wanted the book to go beyond a summary of their accomplishments and offer both personal examples of hardship and advice on overcoming these challenges in the field.

“We wanted this project to be different, we wanted this to be personal,” Brinkerhoff said.

Brinkerhoff said over the summer, the team organized a two-day workshop for faculty and advisors from minority-serving institutions and historically Black colleges and universities. She said not every school has an international affairs program so the team wanted to connect faculty with professionals in international affairs who could then relay opportunities and resources to interested students.

“Maybe they and their students don’t know very much about international affairs or see a pathway for them,” Brinkerhoff said. “And so we started with a panel of these superstars.”

She said while funding for the project ends in May, she hopes the project will receive additional funding to continue in another location outside of the Elliott School.

“We’re working with the Hewlett Foundation to see how we can maybe hand off the project to another implementer,” Brinkerhoff said.

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