Lieutenant Colonel Ebony S. Thomas is a US Army Officer currently serving in NATO’s Supreme Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia. She is entering her third semester as an online Master of International Policy & Practice (MIPP) student at the Elliott School. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas has served in military assignments all around the world from Bosnia Herzgovina; Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, to South Korea.
What path led you to apply to graduate school?
I currently have an MBA with a focus in Public Administration from Liberty University but desire to continue public service after I retire from military service. I would like to use the skills acquired over my military career and continue service at the national level of government of the United States. I am convinced that a master’s degree from GW will provide essential and fundamental knowledge needed for continued national level public service.
Why did you choose the Elliott School?
I have always read Foreign Affairs Magazine over the years and the insights gained from the articles sparked my interest in international affairs. I longed to attend an ‘ivy league’ school that would give me a degree in this area. The Fletcher School and Elliott School of International Affairs always advertised in the Foreign Affairs magazine. I researched both schools to see if there was a degree that could work with my military schedule (initially), but after seeing that GEN (R) Colin Powell attended the Elliott School, I was sold – I said in my heart, one day I will get accepted into the Elliott School and get my degree from this prestigious university (even if it meant after my military career).
Where do you currently work, intern or volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals?
I am a United States Army Military Officer with over 27 years of service, 10 years as an Enlisted Soldier and 17 years as an officer to date. I enjoy serving in the US Army and will continue until I can longer progress. On the other hand, public service is like breathing to me – it is enjoyable, and I believe it is what I was born to do for the rest of my life. The leadership and international experiences gained from military service will allow me to bring a global perspective and some transferrable leadership skills to other institutions within the United States government once I retire from military service.
What tools/strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?
The first strategy is being very deliberate with my time. For now, everything (work, quality time with my husband and family, etc.) is built around my study and homework time for classes. It has been quite successful in terms of the quality of schoolwork that I am able to do. Another great tool that I love at the Elliott School of International Affairs are the various virtual forums, seminars, coffees with the Dean, etc., that I can participate in. These engagements provide excellent insight from real practitioners from around the world.
What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?
Remember why you started the journey in the first place; appreciate and enjoy the journey of learning your desired craft (the classes, writing the papers, briefs, engagements, even the not so positive feedback – it is the refinement of your greatness, etc.,); and although there are many GREAT PEOPLE that we learn about who change the world and become the change – there are not enough and the world needs your gifts, talents, abilities that are refined by your education, so stay motivated!
What has been your most memorable experience while studying at the Elliott School?
My first class (Strategy and Leadership with Dr. Laila Sorurbakhsh), I lacked great confidence and was very afraid to use my voice in writing or even verbally communicating my thoughts during classes. In fear that I was not doing well, I reached out to my professor to discuss my concerns and assumed she thought I was an idiot (wrong mindset on my part – insecurity at its best). On the contrary, she was professional and candid on her academic assessment of my performance as a student. I was so inspired and immediately gained the confidence I needed to enjoy the learning process as an MIPP student. That one engagement has set the tone for me moving forward at the Elliott School and in my life. Simple I know, but impactful!
If you could take a selfie with anyone in the world (living), who would it be and why?
I would take a selfie with Madeline Albright (former Secretary of State, 1997 – 2001). I have always admired her as a political authority figure and one who understood how to wield power with grace and class as a woman.
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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 email@example.com.
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.