Matthew Schaffer is a first-year master’s candidate studying Security Policy Studies, with a concentration in Transnational Security. He received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Foreign Policy at Gonzaga University, including a term at American University in DC with the Washington Semester Program and a term at the University of Salamanca in Spain. Additionally, he was selected by Gonzaga to represent the University for the 58th Air Force Academy National Security Assembly in 2017. Previously, Matthew interned on Capitol Hill with the House Republican Conference, tutored Arabic speaking international students, and taught US national security to high schoolers from all over the country. He currently interns at Counterpart International as a program assistant. After finishing his education, he is aiming to join the United States Air Force as an intelligence officer and eventually join one of the intelligence agencies later on.
When did you realize you wanted an international career?
I wanted a career in international affairs since I was very young. I grew up as an Air Force brat and constantly heard about the stories from my dad about being deployed across the globe and meeting people from different cultural backgrounds. When I was a high school senior, I spent most of my free time reading up on international affairs instead of watching Gonzaga University basketball. It led me to be one of the few people in my global governance course that could clearly explain the stability issues within the Middle East since 1979 and how it pertained to US national security at home and abroad. For me, that pursuit of working in the international realm has always been a goal and attending GW at the Elliott School has only strengthened my desire to do so.
Where do you currently volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals?
I currently volunteer with the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program (HOBY) as a facilitator in Idaho and Connecticut. In volunteering for this organization, I am teaching students what it means to be a civil servant within their own communities and in the larger global community as well. I am also taking time to learn about how I can be my own leader on the global stage, and how my actions can inspire others to make a difference and be the change this world needs through the personal, group, and societal leadership skills.
What tools/strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?
Using my professor’s office hours has been one of the greatest tools to my academic success at Elliott so far. I cannot count how many times I have gone to a professor trying to figure out where I am going with my course projects and having them explain to me what I should look for. Knowing that I have been able to use my professors as a resource in furthering the time at Elliott has been extremely valuable and I do not know what I would do without them
What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?
Take time to relax and do something fun. The coursework as a graduate student can be tough and draining after a while, and speaking from experience, makes it hard to feel motivated to get it done. Taking at least an hour to do something outside of studying will do you wonders. It can be anything from watching any sports game that is on at the time, taking a walk along the national mall, chatting with friends at a local coffee shop, or catching up on an episode of your favorite show. Taking time to unwind and shut your brain off for a short bit will help motivate you drive you to continue with your work.
Favorite place to unwind on the weekend?
When the weather is nice, it’s the National Cathedral campus up in Tenleytown. They have a lacrosse field up there where I can go and play for a few hours and a cafe that has a perfect view of both the cathedral and the garden around it.
The #WeAreElliott series highlights current Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.