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Pitt alumni discuss their career in international affairs




Megan Oates took the skills to walk backwards, which she learned as a Pathfinder up to the State Department.

Oates, deputy director of the U.S. Department of State, said the relationship she built as a Pathfinder greatly helped her career.

I liked being a Pathfinder for a number of reasons, but mainly because I was able to build relationships on a small scale every day, which really helped me when I had to pass these skills on a larger, more important scale. , said Oates.

The students met with Pitt Dereck Hogan, the U.S. ambassador to Moldova and Oates on Wednesday morning over Zoom, through Series of conversations in the University Honors College Alumni Network. Hogan and Oates discussed how Pitt helped boost their careers in international affairs, and they provided advice to current students seeking to enter the field.

Hogan graduated from Pitt in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in politics and philosophy. After graduation, he attended a foreign affairs society at Princeton University. He later joined the US Foreign Service Corps where he served in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Belarus, Russia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and now Moldova.

Hogan said while he knew he wanted to join foreign services at a young age, he did not know how to get there. He said he had originally planned to go to law school, but the scholarship opportunity changed his course of action and led him to his career in foreign service.

The opportunity to join the foreign service through a number of steps was initially made known to me by the College of Honor and it helped me complete all the steps to get what is now called the Pickering Scholarship, Hogan said.

Hogan said his time in the foreign service gave him the experience in foreign policy and government relations he always wanted. He served as director for Northern and Central European affairs and also said he worked closely with two Secretaries of State where he helped promote U.S. interests abroad.

Hogan said he recommends that students recognize that their well-designed plans for the future can always change.

Be prepared to get out of your plan because there may be other options you were unaware of, Hogan said. By learning something completely different, it gives you another way of thinking, another way of intellectually processing things, and can really open your eyes to even more options in your life.

Oates graduated from Pitt in 2003 with a bachelor of philosophy in political science and sociology. After graduating, she attended the University of Chicago where she studied public policy, and then joined Presidential Management Scholarship as a start in her career in government.

Oates said she also shifted her original career goals. She said a study trip abroad to Mexico, where she taught English at a public high school changed her perspective on what she wanted to do with her career.

I was there taking classes during the day and giving English from 5am to 8pm, Oates said. What impressed me was how difficult it must be for a student in a class of 65 people without a textbook to learn by relying only on one volunteer outside teacher for one semester.

Oates said her study abroad took her on a path of public service and helped her discover her passion for international politics.

This experience started my interest in international politics and how the governments of each country really play a role in the opportunities that are available to the citizens, Oates said. This experience shaped me away from the law and more into public policy.

Oates said students need to be flexible and that trying new things is what ultimately allowed her to succeed and what she recommends students do as well.

By being open to ideas that you may not have necessarily planned, you allow yourself the ability to learn more about what is the right path for you, Oates said. Trying new things can change your mind or reaffirm your plans, which can be helpful in determining how to direct your life path.

Hogan said he recommends students learn to write and speak before entering any career field.

I would say that writing and public speaking are two very important aspects not only for the State Department, but for any career, Hogan said. We live and die over the written word and use it to persuade others to follow our suggestions.

Clare Stich, Constituent Relations Manager for the College of Honor, said this series helps connect Pitt current students with successful students.

These alumni chat events help students find examples of their desired path within the vast network of Pittsburgh University alumni, Stitch said. This helps them see not only the possibility of achieving their goals, but also the growth of connections to put themselves on the right path to success.

Oates said while perfect work does not exist, you learn from each well or differently.

You will not always find the perfect job or a job where all aspects make you happy, Oates said. But you will learn from each job and each opportunity what you want to do, and then you can search for those aspects in the future.

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