#WeAreElliott: Matthew Snow

Matt Snow smiles. He is wearing a grey sweater. Matthew Snow, M.A. in Global Communication, 2024, #WeAreElliott

Matthew Snow is a Global Communication grad student with a concentration in Public Diplomacy and a focus on human rights, gender equity, and global LGBTQ+ advocacy. He is a non-traditional, first generation student who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in political science and a minor in communication. Before he started his university studies, he spent eight years playing and touring in a rock band—an endeavor that shaped his interests in interpersonal communication, cultural diplomacy, and cross-cultural understanding. He enjoys: playing guitar, video games, and spending time with his dogs; learning; the outdoors; cooking, and exploring culture through food. 

Can you tell us about your background and what brought you to GW to pursue a graduate degree in Global Communication?

As a non-traditional student at GW, my background is diverse. After high school, I spent eight years touring and playing in a rocket metal and post-hardcore band, gaining moderate success. However, after the 2016 election, I felt a growing desire to get more politically involved. With the band slowing down, I decided to pursue a political science degree as a way to break out of my small town in South Carolina and make a difference in a larger setting. Juggling full-time work and online undergraduate studies at Arizona State University, I researched potential career paths and discovered the U.S. Foreign Service, particularly the areas of political affairs and public diplomacy, which intrigued me.

I applied for an internship with the State Department and was selected to intern with the consulate in Frankfurt during the spring of 2020. This experience solidified my interest in public diplomacy as I had the opportunity to use my personal background to bridge cultural gaps and build relationships through cultural affairs outreach programs. I also realized my passion for understanding cultures through food and gastronomic diplomacy. In my final year at ASU, I added a communications minor and graduated summa cum laude. When looking for graduate programs, I considered various options related to global communications, intercultural communications, and international and intercultural communications.

What ultimately led me to choose GW was the personal interaction I had with the program director, Dr. William Youmans, during Admitted Students Day in the Spring of 2022. Unlike other programs where I felt a lack of interest in my goals and identity as a student, Dr. Youmans showed genuine interest in me and my aspirations, which drew me towards GW, where the M.A. in Global Communication program is housed under the Elliott School of International Affairs and the School of Media and Public Affairs. I am now grateful for the decisions I have made and couldn’t be happier with where I am today.

What specific courses or projects have you found most impactful so far in your Global Communication program?

My coursework here at GW has been incredibly engaging, covering a wide range of interesting topics. Currently, I am enrolled in a course on global gender policy, where we analyze international agreements and policy documents through a feminist and gendered lens. We critically examine these documents to identify gaps, such as the lack of coverage on LGBTQ issues or the inadequate support for women and children in post-disaster situations. This multidimensional approach has provided me with a solid foundation to draw upon as I was preparing for the Foreign Service Officer Assessment, which I successfully passed.

In terms of projects, there has been a piggyback effect in my academic journey. For instance, in my research design course during my first semester, I worked on a project referred to as the “prospectus.” It involved developing a research paper and designing potential experiments to address a problem. This problem stemmed from my experience standing in line at an anime convention in D.C. during the summer of 2022. I was intrigued by how exposure to foreign media with accurate cultural depictions could foster positive perceptions and reduce cultural biases.

I explored the potential of using culturally accurate programming to bridge cultural gaps and bring people together in a more inclusive and understanding way, seeing foreign cultures in a positive light rather than as adversaries or unknown entities. This project stemmed from my personal interest in anime and culture, and my desire to understand how they intersect and whether it is possible to eliminate cultural biases through exposure to properly depicted cultural programming.

You have recently successfully passed your Foreign Service Officer Assessment, how has your experience at GW helped you achieve that?

This was actually my third attempt at the Foreign Service Officer process, previously known as the Oral Assessment, and my first time making it. My time at GW has been a non-linear journey without a specific course that provided me with a single kernel of knowledge to leverage. Instead, it has been about expanding my thinking and absorbing more knowledge, and then being able to adapt and apply it to different situations. Additionally, I cannot emphasize enough how invaluable it has been to have a public diplomacy scholar like Professor Chris Teal, who is a current Foreign Service Officer, as a resource. Professor Teal has been a massive support in discussing the career path, providing insights on what it looks like, and strategizing how things might unfold throughout the process. While he hasn’t provided me with study materials, being able to bounce ideas off him and draw from his experience has been reassuring and has helped me focus on what I need to learn and how to approach the subject and assessment with more confidence. Having a solid basis to draw from has been extremely helpful in navigating this process.

Considering your interest in multiculturalism and understanding different cultures, how has GW provided you with opportunities to connect with individuals from different cultures as part of your academic journey?

I am thoroughly enjoying the multicultural and international environment at GW. Coming from a small town in South Carolina where the population is predominantly white, African American, and Latino/Hispanic, with limited exposure to individuals from other countries, I am thrilled to be able to interact with classmates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and more. Incorporating this international dimension into my education is important to me as I aspire to be a good representative of the United States in my future career as a diplomat. I genuinely enjoy understanding people on a deeper level, recognizing that I have always felt somewhat different from where I come from. Bridging the gap between cultures and gaining a profound understanding of individuals, their personalities, identities, and how their culture influences them, including through food, is a passion of mine. I am particularly fascinated by anthropology and how human society has evolved through food and geography, and I find it incredibly fulfilling to understand people for who they are at their core, irrespective of their origin or background. I am always curious to learn and expand my understanding of different cultures.

What advice do you have for future students who are interested in pursuing a Global Communication graduate degree?

If you’re uncertain about a particular decision, my advice would be to go for it. I personally enjoy the flexibility and freedom that the global communications program at GW offers. While there are requirements, such as choosing a concentration, you also have the option to create your own concentration. As long as you can effectively advocate for yourself when communicating with the program director, you can shape your program of study according to your own vision. There will still be core requirements, such as the cornerstone, capstone project, and research methods course, but the rest is up to you to mold in the direction you desire.

One of the unique aspects of the global communications program is that it sits at the intersection of two prominent schools at GW: the Elliott School of International Affairs and the School of Media and Public Affairs. This allows you to draw from both schools and tailor your program to your liking. Personally, I have found this flexibility advantageous when selecting additional courses, such as skills courses from the School of Media and Public Affairs or international affairs courses from global gender policy. It has given me the opportunity to hone in on my specific interests, such as LGBTQ, gender, and human rights advocacy, and build my own minor within the program. This level of customization is something I did not see in other programs, and it truly sets the global communications program at GW apart.

This profile was originally published on the IPDGC Smart Power Blog. Matt Snow was interviewed by first-year graduate student Mohammad Fayaz Yourish. Fayaz is also in the Global Communication program working with the Institute for Public Diplomacy & Global Communication (IPDGC) on student engagement. Special thanks to IPDGC, Mohammad Fayaz Yourish, and Matt Snow for allowing us to republish Matt’s profile here.

#ElliottProud: Jelene B. Head

Jelene B. Head smiles. She is outside in front of a tropical landscape with an ocean view. Jelene B. Head, Master of International Policy and Practice, 2021, #ElliottProud

Jelene B. Head is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She has lived, worked, and studied in France, Japan, & Guam. On May 15, 2012, Jelene enlisted in the U.S. Navy. She reported to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan, in December 2012 as her first duty station. She worked as a Corpsman (Medical Assistant) under the Directorate of Medical Services from 2012 -2013. From 2013-2015, she served as a Financial Management Analyst for the Resource Management Directorate. After completing her tour in Japan, she reported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (WRNMMC) in January 2016. She was a Clinic Manager for the Medical Readiness & Overseas Suitability-Deployment Health Coordinator & Program Manager.

After a successful Navy Enlisted tour at WRNMMC, Ms. Head enrolled in a Master’s program for Public Health-Policy at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health in 2020. During her studies at GW, she worked at the D.C. Deputy Mayor’s Health & Human Service Office (DHHS) as a Health Policy Program Manager. During her tenure at DHHS, she performed qualitative research on the Family First Prevention Service Act of 2018 to analyze the program’s effectiveness in reuniting and maintaining Foster Care Youth with their families. Upon completing her internship, she completed a Master of International Policy & Practice from the Elliott School of International Affairs in May 2021. Ms. Head works as an Industrial Hygienist and aids in Occupational Health Policy for the Department of the Navy at the U.S. Naval Medical Readiness & Training Command in Agana, Guam. She desires to promote Public Health on a Global scale.

When did you realize you wanted an international career?

During my formative years, I always attended schools that were ethnically diverse and rich in culture. I soon developed a passion for language, human rights, public health, and international policy, including business administration that extended beyond U.S. borders. Upon completing a master’s degree in business administration & health care management, I enlisted in the Navy in 2012. I began working overseas as a Corpsman (Medical Assistant) at Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan. While working overseas, my desire to support service members and aid disadvantaged and underserved communities domestically and overseas grew. After separating from the Navy, I immediately embarked on two master’s degree programs at GW, focusing on Public Health-Health Policy (2020) & International Policy & Practice (2021).

Describe your current position and what are your favorite aspects of the job?

I work for the Department of the Navy in Guam as an Industrial Hygienist. This position has allowed me to ensure the occupational safety & health of mariners, Naval Medical Service Corps members, Marines, and the Naval Fleet. People often need to learn the importance of Industrial Hygiene since it does not involve direct patient care. Additionally, we work behind the scenes while evaluating operational processes. However, working in this field, I combine all of my educational experience to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and control environmental factors while developing policies that reduce work-related stressors and trigger acute or chronic health conditions.

What are the current trends driving the future of your career field and what advice would you provide an Elliott School graduate student that is interested in your field of work?

Industrial Hygiene is not a field that most Elliott School graduate students are aware of. I embarked on this career path because I am passionate about Public Health Policy beyond domestic borders. However, due to technological advancements in manufacturing organizations and operational procedures, progressive developments have been made regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) policy regulation. There is innovative PPE, which can monitor and track workers’ health. Employees’ health outside of work is a growing trend for many companies. This is trending since outside activities affect workers’ productivity, corporate growth, and financial return on investments.

If anyone is interested in this field, I highly suggest working operationally before working in an administrative policy role. This helps the individual to have a greater “overstanding” of the conditions, work environments, and exposure to hazardous materials that people experience while working in healthcare settings, warehouses, DoD installations, and other work environments.

How does your current position compare to what you thought you would be doing when you first started your degree at the Elliott School?

I wanted to work for USAID to promote the health and well-being of African women and children. Even though I am working in a field that is drastically different from what I previously envisioned, I still have the opportunity to work in Policy as a Public Health Practitioner domestically and abroad on offshore platforms while honing my skills to create policy advancements that will aid members of the Department of Defense (DoD) and their beneficiaries, Governments workers, veterans, and local citizens working on DoD facilities in the U.S & internationally.

What do you most value about your experience at the Elliott School?

I must reflect on what occurred on a World Stage when I attended the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2020 & 2021. Social unrest was evident, and there was much conversation regarding race relations, particularly with the Black community. Naturally, I began to focus on the political, social, and financial state of the Black/Pan-African community. 

My Leadership Capstone project during the MIPP program focused on the Economic Empowerment of the Black/Pan-African community. I chose this Leadership challenge to confront and develop a policy to combat the disturbing study, The Road to Zero Wealth, authored by (Asante-Muhammad, D., Collins, C., & Hoxie et al. 2017). The study concluded that the Median household wealth of Black families in America would fall to zero by 2053. Initially, this is a domestic issue. However, that perspective is limited due to the matter of global security if this issue manifests. 

What I valued about my experience at the Elliott School was the support given to me by Dr. Matthew Levinger & Dr. Lauren Van Metre. Their guidance helped me dive deeper into my research and identify how the racial wealth gap in America is a social determinant of health and affects international borders due to global security. Furthermore, they introduced me to subject matter experts so that I could develop leadership initiatives to reduce the racial wealth gap through technology. Additionally, I had the opportunity to learn how to approach the problematic conversation of race relations in America. Moreover, I learned how to gain buy-in to promote better policy and combat negative sentiments through conflict resolution. I am grateful to experience the support of Dr. Matthew Levinger & Dr. Lauren Van Metre.

What TV show have you most enjoyed in the last year?

The Netflix series “YOU” has intrigued me the most in the last year. The show “YOU” leaves an indelible print displaying the multi-contextual layers of the human psyche and the complexity of how a person exudes and demonstrates LOVE. Experience and natural observation have shown me that people spend much time seeking love and validation from others instead of loving themselves. As the show brilliantly displays, the root cause of this fervent yearning for love often stems from trying to heal from childhood pain, traumatic experiences, or both. The truth is that a person must heal their pain and learn how to love themselves unconditionally & unequivocally to establish stable relationships. Unfortunately, when pain and trauma have never been addressed or healed, consequential damage always ensues.

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The #ElliottProud profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights graduate program alumni to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

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.

#ElliottProud: Andrea Bair

Andrea Bair smiles wearing a white blazer outdoors in front of a blurred background of fall leaves. Andrea Bair, M.A. in Security Policy Studies, 2023, #ElliottProud

Andrea Bair is a recent graduate of the M.A in Security Policy Studies program at the Elliott School of International Affairs, with a concentration in Transnational Security. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2021 with a degree in World Politics, minoring in International Development and Political Economy and she also studied abroad in Brussels to take courses in European Security and European Union Politics. At MSU she worked extensively in student advocacy as the Chief of Staff at Associated Students of Michigan State University. Recently, Andrea has held internships for the Partnership for Public Service and the Department of State Office of European Union & Regional Affairs, and currently works as a Contract Specialist for the US Navy. Her interests include environmental security and intelligence, and she was recently named as a 2023 finalist for the Presidential Management Fellows program.

What was your favorite experience at the Elliott School so far and why?

My favorite experience so far at the Elliott School has been meeting my fellow students at Security Policy Studies Happy Hour events. We are all young professionals trying to navigate new careers together and these have been so helpful for me to learn from other experiences, learn about opportunities I would have never heard of elsewhere, and learn about the happenings of our academic program. The people I have met at the Elliott School have made the experience all the more impactful, and I have made some friends along the way.

What courses have you found most helpful in your work experiences and how have they been useful?

My Transnational Security course with Prof. Rollie Lal was extremely helpful because it introduced me to a diverse set of issues in the world of security studies I had never considered before and challenged me to think about solutions for these issues. The practice of proposing policies at the end of each class to a presented case study was a wonderful learning experience and encouraged me to consider flaws in current policy responses to security threats while also thinking outside of the box for potential solutions of my own. Prof. Lal also would offer counterarguments to our policy suggestions. She is such a great professor I recommend her to all my classmates and I was also in her capstone section.

Describe the pros and cons of being a full-time versus part-time student at the Elliott School.

Being a full-time student while also working full-time was challenging but also a learning experience in time management and prioritization. Admittedly, my wonderful family, friends, and fiancé have been a huge support in me being able to balance all of this, and I am very grateful to them. There are times I have had to miss out on the more social or fun aspects of living in Washington DC, but I know that focusing my education and career now will pay off in the future. Having a career in public service is my goal, and hard work is how I intend to accomplish it. It’s not an impossible task if any other students are looking to do it in the future, I just encourage you to be organized and ask for help if you are struggling.

What resources have proven to be the most valuable in helping you achieve success at the Elliott School?

The most helpful resource the Elliott School has is their amazing faculty. Every professor I had was professional and knowledgeable. They have been extremely flexible to the challenges of my full schedule, and they also have been very encouraging to students pursuing topics in their coursework that interest with them by offering their time and advice outside of the classroom. They have expansive networks all over the world of people working in the types of careers that Elliott School students aspire to, and an interest in setting you up for that success.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are comparing a graduate program at the Elliott School with other DC grad schools?

When I was choosing a program for myself, I placed a lot of value on the people I met during admissions events, and I found the Elliott School to be the most helpful, transparent, and knowledgeable on their admissions process and the career prospects after graduation. I also appreciated their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within their admissions process.

What is the last show or movie that you really enjoyed and why?

I recently watched some older seasons of Survivor because I am rewatching the series. I heard the newer seasons are pretty good, and it is crazy to me that there are over 40 seasons! I love reality competition shows and Survivor is so interesting to me because the idea is so simple, but every season has such different characters that come on the island with similar strategies that can play out so different from season to season. I also think I have learned some serious negotiation skills from the show!

Want to connect with current Elliott School students and alumni? Click here to see how!
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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

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.

#WeAreElliott: Lydia Kiros

Lydia Kiros smiles wearing a tan blouse, standing on a mountainous terrain overlooking Lake Chamo in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. Lydia Kiros, M.A. in International Affairs, 2024, #WeAreElliott

Lydia Kiros is a first-year Masters candidate in the M.A. in International Affairs Program at the Elliott School. She received her bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Pepperdine University. She has an interest in sustainable development and gender equality with a focus in East Africa. Lydia has a diverse working experience ranging from working with international airlines to working in the education sector. In the past she has also contributed weekly blog posts to Amplify Africa on topics relating to African affairs. She hopes to utilize her breadth of experiences in a future career empowering local development in Ethiopia. Lydia enjoys traveling, catching sunsets, and enjoying a cup of coffee in a local coffeeshop.

What path led you to apply to graduate school? Why did you pick the Elliott School?

I have always had a love for global affairs, cultures, and languages. I find great joy in travel, experiencing new parts of the world, and immersing myself other cultures. In particular it was my travels to Ethiopia which inspired to me to pursue a career in international affairs so that I could one day work to further development in the country. Since I am transitioning into this field, the route that made the most sense to accomplish this goal was to obtain an education in international affairs and development. So, I decided to apply for my M.A. in International Affairs at George Washington University. I was particularly drawn to the Elliott School because of its prime location in Washington D.C., its faculty who are active in their respective fields, and its Institute for African Studies.

How has your involvement with student organizations shaped your experience at the Elliott School?

It’s been very helpful to have student organizations available with amazing resources and connections for students. I really valued the opportunity I had to go on a site visit of Chemonics, an international development consultancy firm, with Young Black Professionals in International Affairs. It provided me with a unique pathway to learn more about the organization and connect with leading professionals. Events like these are also a great way to connect with other students with similar interests.

Where do you currently work and how does it fit in with your career goals?

I currently work as a substitute teacher and I hope to incorporate my experience in education to improving educational development in East Africa. In five years, I hope to be working in sustainable development in Ethiopia. In particular I would love to work with women to foster economic empowerment and local development, and improve educational access to youth.

Think of where you were when you applied to the Elliott School. What advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now, as a student?

If you are leaning on the fence about starting a new (and maybe scary) chapter in your life, lean all the way over. Yes, there are challenges, obstacles, and learning curves, but you learn so much more in the times of discomfort and change. What you learn and the experiences you gain are worth taking the leap of faith into something new, invigorating and inspiring.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far at the Elliott School?

I have been learning a lot about disasters and gender intersectionality which is an entirely new field to me. However, it has helped me to view global and local events in a new light that is sensitive to gender dynamics and the impacts to well-being. I am excited to apply this knowledge and the research skills I’m learning in the field one day.

What is your favorite place in DC to enjoy reading a book or sipping a cup of coffee?

The Coffee Bar is one of my favorite spots in DC to enjoy coffee. It’s nestled in a cozy neighborhood in NW DC and has a very warm environment. Their outdoor seating is beautiful place to sit on a warm day!

Want to connect with current Elliott School students and alumni? Click here to see how!
Find out more about this program by creating a CustomViewbook!
Join us for an information session, RSVP here!
Click here to apply to the Elliott School!
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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

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.