Categories:  Students

On a mission to recruit future ambassadors

Ian Kelly

Leadership in community organizations is good experience for a foreign service career, Ian Kelly says. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Thinking about a career with the U.S. State Department?

There’s a good resource on campus: Ian Kelly, diplomat-in-residence for the Midwest currently based at UIC.

Before his current appointment, Kelly was most recently U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, based in Vienna, and U.S. co-chair of negotiations to resolve a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The State Department offers careers in both civil service (working in Washington, D.C., and other State Department offices in the U.S.) and foreign service, he said.

Students interested in foreign service must complete three assessments. For the written test, Kelly advises students to educate themselves in American and international politics and read The Economist religiously for three months — advice to him 30 years ago.

Applicants must also write personal narratives, reviewed by an evaluation panel, and complete an oral evaluation.

“During the oral assessment, you’re asked to provide examples of how you show cultural adaptability and flexibility,” he said. “The best thing you could do is try and get a leadership role in some kind of community organization.”

Although studying abroad is great preparation, Kelly said, students don’t need to leave the city.

“If you teach in the city of Chicago, you would be showing pretty good cultural adaptability,” said Kelly, who has a master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Kelly was a spokesperson for the State Department from 2009 to 2010. “I worked very closely with this woman right here,” he said, pointing to a picture of himself with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I accompanied her on all of her travels for one year,” he said. His favorite place? “Probably India,” he said, adding that he also joined Clinton on a trip to Baghdad.

“She’s a wonderful woman and she’s also from the Chicago area, so we hit it off,” he said. “She’s a very warm and accessible person, has unbelievable energy.”

Kelly is based in the UIC Office of International Affairs.