U.S. State Department wants new hires to reflect America’s diversity – starting with UWM

The U.S. Department of State is hiring, and Susan Falatko hopes that some of its new employees will come from UWM.

Falatko is the State Department’s Diplomat in Residence for the Midwest. In April, she visited UWM political science students as part of a recruiting tour. The State Department is looking to grow its ranks, both of foreign officers who are stationed in U.S. embassies overseas, and of civil officers, who manage the Department’s bureaus in Washington, D.C.

“We’re looking for people with a broad knowledge and understanding of the world,” Falatko said before her meeting with students. “We actually hire all majors, and we can hire right out of undergrad. We’re looking for qualities that are indicative of success in the foreign service.”

Those qualities include things like cultural adaptability, good judgment, resourcefulness, initiative, and an ability to think on one’s feet. Prospective hires can gain those qualities anywhere, Falatko noted. She’s noticed that many people think that studying abroad is a requirement for a successful application, but even things like volunteer work, starting a club, or getting involved in student research can help students build those traits.

People hoping to enter the State Department must first take the Foreign Service Officer Test, and may choose one of five career tracks (consular, economic, management, political, or public diplomacy). These are considered “generalist” careers, and are available to applicants from all majors. The State Department provides the training needed.

The State Department also offers more specialized careers requiring different knowledge sets – some that people may not think of when they think about the State Department.

For instance, the Department is looking for IT managers, systems administrators, and software engineers to oversee its computer and data systems. It hires engineers to build and upgrade its embassy facilities and health care providers to take care of its personnel overseas.

Falatko, who majored in psychology as an undergraduate, said the Department is particularly looking for people with a background in STEM fields at the moment, both for policy and applied science careers.

As the State Department recruits, Falatko also wants to ensure that its new employees represent their country. That means recruiting people of different ethnic backgrounds, genders, neurodiversity, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and even geographic locations.

“I don’t think people in the Midwest tend to think of these roles typically, or they don’t think it’s for them. That was certainly the case for me,” Falatko said.

She grew up in the Midwest and has held posts as an economic officer in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Mali; as a public diplomacy officer in Rwanda; and as the Deputy Chief of Mission (Deputy Ambassador) in Mauritius and Slovenia.

Working at the State Department has been an amazing experience, she said, and she hopes that UWM students will also want to serve their country.

“Serve your country; see the world. We are working for the American people,” she said. “What we’re doing out there is all about serving Americans back home and making sure they are safe, secure, and prosperous.”

Students interested in learning more about careers with the State Department can visit the Department’s website, or contact Falatko directly at DIRMidwest@state.gov. The State Department also is looking for interns. Internships are paid, can be served overseas or in Washington, D.C., and include housing and transportation.

“The State Department is looking for highly motivated, intellectually curious students with great communication skills, who can accurately integrate and analyze information and are culturally adaptable” said political science senior teacher facuty member Kristin Trenholm after Falatko’s visit. “UWM offers a variety of foreign language, business, and social science programs that are well-suited for State Department careers.”

Falatko also sat on a panel discussing careers in government alongside Koreen Grube, a UWM alumna and Director at U.S. Commercial Service, and David Abundis, a regional recruiter for the Peace Corps.

By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science