Current Student Feature: Sebra Yen

Allow us to introduce you to one of ESIA’s current students, Sebra Yen. Sebra is an M.A. Candidate in our Global Communication program (2017), with a concentration in Asian Studies. Sebra is currently a NSEP Boren Fellow in Taiwan (2015-16).




大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo)! 打給賀 (Dǎ gěi hè)! 台尬後 (Tái gā hòu)! Lokah su ga! That means hello in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and the Atayal language, one of the Formosan languages spoken in the beautiful island of Taiwan, respectively. These languages make up the diversity of communication used in Taiwan, with Mandarin as the official language.

One of the special features of learning Mandarin in Taiwan is Zhuyin Fuhao. Zhuyin Fuhao, also known as Bopomofo, is the system of phonetic symbols used to notate Mandarin. So for大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo), it would turn out like this: ㄉ ㄚˋㄐ一ㄚ ㄏㄠˇ! While the Mainland uses Pinyin, Taiwan uses Zhuyin, which is comprised of 37 special symbols to represent the Mandarin sounds. It is highly encouraged by teachers to use this system because it helps students develop better pronunciation. Taiwan also uses Traditional Chinese characters as opposed to Simplified Chinese characters. These are just some interesting things I have learned during my time as a Boren Fellow in the heart of Asia.

Hello, my name is Sebra Yen, and I am a graduate student in the Global Communication program (Asian Studies concentration) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, DC. My research interests include the domestic politics and foreign relations of Taiwan, cross-Strait relations, and U.S. policy towards Asia. My decision to apply for the National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Fellowship in Taiwan was heavily influenced by my desire to promote U.S.-Taiwan relations as a Public Diplomacy Officer with the U.S. Department of State. Upon graduating with a master’s degree from the Elliott School, I hope to join the Foreign Service and utilize my Chinese language skills through traditional (people-to-people exchanges) and new (social media) communication means to strengthen understanding and engagement with the people of Taiwan. Accordingly, the Boren Fellowship allows me to focus on my language acquisition as well as research and academic internships related to my program proposal.


I’m currently at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan for intensive Chinese language study with the Chinese Language Division of the university’s language center as well as the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP). These programs are important to my training as an aspiring diplomat, as it is my dream to become a skilled spokesperson when communicating U.S. policy towards Asia and forging relationships across Greater China. In addition to language learning, I have also pursued internships related to my study of Taiwan with the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei and Ketagalan Media, a media outlet uncovering the latest stories happening in Taiwan, focusing on Taiwanese history, politics, and culture. I assisted with the Publications Department and strategic communications at AmCham Taipei, and I am currently translating for Ketagalan Media. These activities enhance and support one of the main purposes of a Boren Fellowship: learning to communicate across cultures as well as analyzing economic, political, religious, and global perspectives in Taiwan.

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Internship at AmCham Taipei offered the opportunity to meet AIT Director, Kin Moy.

On top of school and work, I had the opportunity to travel to many places in Taiwan, including Jiufen, Yilan, and Tamsui. Another place worth noting is probably Smangus, an aboriginal Atayal tribe and the most remote aboriginal village in Taiwan. The beautiful natural surroundings of the village only complement the fact that the people of Smangus have adopted a communitarian system where every adult receives the same monthly salary from the elders, in order to preserve their culture. Observing their way of life has been fascinating and I hope to increase my travel to other places in Taiwan to hear their stories. Tainan (the former capital) and Kaohsiung (the second largest city of the island) are on the list. Engaging with the different people of Taiwan and getting their perspectives on politics and identity is very important to me as an international affairs professional focusing on Taiwan. As Taiwan recently went through an election on January 16, 2016, electing its first woman president and a legislature mostly composed of the opposition party, the status quo could change in cross-Strait relations, and the U.S.-Taiwan-China relationship will be interesting to observe in the upcoming months. I feel grateful to be here in Taiwan to do that, and I am thankful to represent The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs as a Boren Fellow.

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A visit to Smangus, Taiwan.

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With the other two Boren Fellows (2015-16) in Taipei, near National Taiwan University.


Choosing the Right School (We hope you choose Elliott!)

It’s been a pleasure working with all of our applicants these past few weeks and we are excited to meet our incoming fall 2016 class soon! As you weigh your options and decide on the best fit school, we wanted to encourage you to engage with the Elliott School.

Below is a list of ten things you can do to help you make your admission decision or to learn about Elliott:

  • RSVP for Online Admitted Student Day on April 5th, an invitation will be sent by email.


  • RSVP for Admitted Student Day on April 8th, an invitation will be sent by email.


  • Attend an Elliott School Graduate Information Session, RSVP here.



  • Sit in on an Elliott School Class. Fill out this form to view a complete class visit list.


  • Attend a Regional Reception! You will receive an invite via email if we are going to be in your area.


  • The Elliott School hosts hundreds of events! Sign up for the ESIA Events Notifications, be sure to click the subscribe button on the top right of the calendar, and attend an event!


  • Schedule an appointment with graduate admissions if you cannot make it to an information session. We can also help coordinate a meeting with a program director or program assistant! This can be very helpful in exploring academic interests.


  • Check your email frequently. We will be sending a lot of great information about our school and programs.


  • Everyone who has been admitted received a program director letter in their email account. Each program director lists current students (and in some cases alumni) for you to reach out to. We highly encourage you to engage with current students and alumni in order to see what life is like as an Elliott School student, and what life is lack after being an Elliott School student. If you would like contact information for other alumni or current students, feel free to email us and we can put you in touch!



We look forward to welcoming you to campus!

Guest Blog: Advice from GW’s Office of Student Financial Assistance

The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) here at GW has written a guest blog for us today about how to stay on top of applying for Federal Financial Aid. Now that your application is submitted, it’s a great time to begin thinking about filling out your FAFSA, should you be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is interested in applying for Federal Financial Aid through the U.S. Government. Thanks to OSFA for their advice!

Financial Aid Preparedness for ESIA Students

Applying early is the key to ensuring your financial aid is in place by the first day of the semester when your bill is due. The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) has a priority deadline of May 1st for graduate students applying for federal and private loan funding for the upcoming Fall 2016 term. OSFA guarantees that students who complete their file by this date will have their loan money disbursed to their student account at GW by the first day of classes.

For most students, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) [] is the first step in applying for loan assistance. This is followed by submitting GW’s supplemental 2016-2017 Graduate Loan Questionnaire []. Complete application instructions for both federal and private alternative loans are found on OSFA’s website under the Graduate tab at

Once you have submitted all requested documentation and have been assigned a GWid number, remember to monitor your account through the GWeb portal []. Please note, you will not be assigned a GWid number until granted admission to The Elliott School. The ‘My Eligibility’ section under the Financial Aid Menu will display the status of your financial aid requirements. Once OSFA processes your loan request, you will be able to review loan amounts and types in the ‘My Award Information’ section.

Once admitted to a program, the Office of Student Financial Assistance will communicate with you through your GW email account should the need arise. Instructions for how to set up your GW email account will be given when granted admission. Therefore, make sure to monitor this email account or forward it to one that you use so important information about your loan status is not missed.


What To Do While You’re Waiting


You’ve submitted your application (or intend to by February 1st), so what to do now? There are plenty of ways for you to monitor your application materials, remain engaged with the Elliott School, explore funding opportunities, and fill your time while you excitedly anticipate your admission decision.

Checking Receipt of your Application Materials:

Applicants to any of our Master’s programs can log back in to their application portal at any time to check the receipt of application materials. Should you notice that we are missing any materials, you may email them directly to us at We would be happy to add them to your application for you.

  • What does my status, ESIA 1, mean?

Applicants whose application status says ESIA 1 have successfully submitted their application! That being said our admissions team manually checks each document for completion. If your application is still in this status, it means we are still processing your application. Once our team has had a chance to review your application, we will move your application to a new status, or notify you should we require any additional documents.

  • What does my status, ESIA 2, mean?

Applicants in ESIA 2 status are being reviewed for a variety of application requirements. In this status our team evaluates language background (for programs that require a foreign language), checks transcripts and test scores, and performs final reviews before sending your application on to completion.

  • What does my status, ESIA 3, mean?

Congratulations! This status means your application is ready for review by the admission committee.

  • What does my status, ESIA 4, mean?

Applicants who have an ESIA 4 status are incomplete, and an additional item or items will need to be submitted. You may contact our office with any specific questions after logging in to your application portal.

  • What does my status, ESIA 5, mean?

This status means that our office has not received official test scores. Please review our website for required tests:

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staff photo dec 2015

Meet the ESIA Admissions Team!

(From left to right, Josh Fulton, Lisa Curry, Nicole Campbell, Bee Walsh)

Bee Walsh, Executive Assistant

My name is Bee Walsh and I’m the Executive Assistant here in the Office of Graduate Admissions at the Elliott School. I am the first point of contact for prospective and current students interacting with our office, answering the phone, answering emails, processing applications, and often times presenting at information sessions and local graduate school fairs.

What Tips Would You Give an Elliott School Applicant?

1.) The best advice I can offer to prospective students is to carefully review our website for information on their intended program, application and academic requirements, as well as the Frequently Asked Questions. The more information an applicant can prepare themselves with, the more successful their application process will be.

2.) Being proactive about your application and enrollment process will ensure that you have the best possible experience as your start your graduate school career. You can be proactive by regularly checking your email, following up on your application status through the portal, and submitting any pieces that may be missing. When in doubt, reach out! We’re happy to talk with you anytime.


Josh Fulton, Graduate Admissions Counselor

My name is Josh Fulton and I am the Graduate Admissions Counselor within the Elliott School of International Affairs. I have the amazing opportunity to have a position that is very student facing and I am often the first face you will see when visiting us. I conduct our information sessions outlining the admissions requirements and academics that the Elliott School has to offer students. I also help plan our events and perform recruitment travel across the country. I am the main contact for any international and military students who have questions about admissions into any of our programs.

What Tips Would You Give an Elliott School Applicant?

1.) Utilize all of the resources that our office provides. We offer the ability to sit in information sessions, tune in to online webinars, and login to online office hours. We also have an Elliott School events calendar that sends you notifications about the 300+ events hosted at the Elliott school each year. We strongly encourage you to attend an event if you happen to be in the area!

2.) For international applicants, I am here to help you understand any questions or concerns that you may have regarding your transcripts and the TOEFL, IELTS, PTE language exams. Should you be admitted to a program, prepare to gather your visa documents early in order to obtain an F-1 visa.

I look forward to working with you!


Lisa Curry, Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions

Hi there! I am Lisa Curry and currently serve as the Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions here at the Elliott School. Many of you may have interacted with me in the past, either at a graduate fair, during a campus visit, or through an online event. These days my duties include application processing, recruiting around the U.S., and our behind the scenes work like social media, website editing, and overseeing our communications to prospective students. If I haven’t had a chance to meet, email, or speak with you yet, I hope to do so in the future. Interacting with our prospective students is one of my favorite parts of my job!

What Tips Would You Give an Elliott School Applicant?

1.) Be your wonderful self. Many prospective students will often ask what they can do to stand out during the application process. As simple as it sounds, being passionate and genuine go a long way. We can see and feel this when reading your application, particularly in your statement of purpose and reading what your recommenders have to say about you. In your statement or purpose (and MIPP essay should you be applying to our mid-career program) we are looking for quality writing, a keen level of interest in the Elliott School (faculty, research, and programs), and a unique enthusiasm in global affairs. Choosing recommenders who know you well will shine through in your application, as they are best able to speak to your professional or academic abilities.

2.) Compare and contrast programs and coursework. Oftentimes, applicants will get hung up on the title of a degree program, or the title of a concentration, without diving deeper into the curriculum. When deciding on a graduate program that is the best fit for you, the curriculum is one of the most important parts! At the Elliott school we have a great balance of theory to practice, and many amazing course offerings. Be sure to spend time exploring our courses on our website and reach out to faculty and program assistants with curriculum questions. If you find that certain program courses are jumping out at you when reviewing our academic offerings, that’s probably the program that is the best fit for your interests!


Nicole A. Campbell, Director of Graduate Admissions

Hello! I’m Nicole Campbell, and I serve as the Director of Graduate Admissions for the Elliott School of International Affairs.  I’m responsible for oversight of our application process, recruitment, and fellowship administration here at the Elliott School.  You’ll probably see my name on many of the emails you receive from our office, reminding you of upcoming dates and application deadlines (January 7th for fellowship consideration!).  In the fall, many of you will see me on the road, speaking with students at graduate school fairs around the country and internationally.  Additionally, if you are awarded a fellowship from the Elliott School, I’ll be sharing details of the fellowship with you.

What Tips Would You Give an Elliott School Applicant?

1.) Spend time researching fellowships at the university, but also beyond.  The field of international affairs has a lot of funding resources for graduate students.  Organizations and government agencies want to support strong students, who will be engaged leaders in the future.  Very few full-tuition awards are offered at the MA level, so exploring all possibilities can work to your benefit.  At the Elliott School, we’ve compiled a growing list of funding sources, both internal and external, so I highly recommend visiting the “Funding Your Education” page on our website.  Spend some time evaluating each award and applying to those you qualify for.  Note that many have deadlines that differ from the application deadline, so plan in advance and prepare accordingly.

2.) Please remember that the Graduate Admissions Office is here to help you in the best way that we can.  We will work hard to help you through the process; that said, we also expect that you are doing the same on your end. Read application instructions and emails in their entirety to make sure you are fully informed. This way, when you have a chance to speak with a member of our team, you can effectively use your time to ask about the things that are unique to you and your education goals.  Your interactions with our office are the first chance we will have to see the kind of student you will be in our classrooms-Have you done your homework?  Did you come prepared? Will you be successful?

Student Highlight: Matt Berrey, Master of International Policy and Practice

Matt with some of the young Vietnamese soldiersMatt Berrey is an incoming Master of International Policy and Practice (MIPP) program.  The MIPP degree is a program intended for mid-career professionals with 8 or more years of professional work experience or an advanced degree.

After completing a BA in Political Science, Matt joined the U.S. Air Force where he primarily supported counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, including deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Upon separating from the Air Force, Matt continued working for the Department of Defense, primarily supporting U.S. global security efforts.

At the Elliott School, Matt is looking forward to the flexibility of the MIPP program and plans to explore many different academic areas and utilize the many resources the Elliott School has to offer.  Although subject to change, Matt hopes to enter the policy development or public diplomacy sector of international affairs after completing the MIPP program.

Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II Named Elliott School Dean

(This article was originally published on GW Today.)

Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety IIThe George Washington University announced Monday that Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II will serve as the new dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs. Dr. Brigety is the U.S. representative to the African Union and the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

“Ambassador Brigety is an outstanding leader whose vision and experience will raise the Elliott School’s already prominent reputation in international affairs education, policy and research,” President Steven Knapp said. “I look forward to working with him on strengthening our existing programs and research, as well as exploring new opportunities that will enhance our students’ GW experience.”

Dr. Brigety will succeed Dean Michael E. Brown, who brought global recognition to the school during 10 years of leadership. Dr. Brown announced his plans to step down from his position last October.

Prior to his current appointment, Dr. Brigety oversaw southern African and regional security affairs as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs. He also served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, where he supervised U.S. refugee programs in Africa, managed U.S. humanitarian diplomacy and developed international migration policy.

“I believe young people come to the Elliott School because they want to engage with the hardest challenges of our time. Our job is to prepare them both intellectually and practically to make the world a better place, and that’s what I’m excited to do in this new position,” Dr. Brigety said.

Dr. Brigety has held positions at the Center for American Progress and U.S. Agency for International Development. He was a senior advisor for development and security to the U.S. Central Command Assessment team in Washington and in Doha, Qatar.

His background is rooted in scholarship as well as public service. He taught government and politics at George Mason University and at the School of International Service at American University between 2003 and 2009. He also conducted research missions in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch.

“I’ve spent time doing work on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Africa and the Caribbean, where I used my intellectual preparation to be an effective practitioner in the field. This has helped me understand how important it is to prepare young people both intellectually and practically to engage in these problems,” he said.

Dr. Brigety began his career as an active duty U.S. naval officer with several staff positions in the Pentagon and in fleet support units. He earned a B.S. with merit in political science at the U.S. Naval Academy and was designated a Distinguished Midshipman Graduate. Dr. Brigety also holds an M.Phil. and a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Cambridge.

“The committee was impressed with Dr. Brigety’s bold vision, enthusiasm and passion for the school, and his deep understanding of international affairs, from both the practitioner and academic sides,” said Jennifer Brinkerhoff, professor of public administration and international affairs and chair of the search committee that selected the new dean.

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Susan Sell, another member of the search committee, added that she believes Dr. Brigety “will bring fresh energy and dynamism to the Elliott School.”

“Students of international affairs especially will be excited about his policy experience as U.S. ambassador to the African Union, and his work on humanitarian diplomacy, refugees and international migration,” she said. “He has a compelling vision that will build on an already excellent foundation, and I will look forward to supporting Dean Brigety in his mission to take the Elliott School to the next level.”