Shayma Jannat

Class of 2010

Current Position: Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State
Majors: International Relations, Economics
Other Degrees: Master in Public Policy, Harvard University
Current Location: Washington, D.C.

A liberal arts education marries knowledge with purpose. It instills in you the habit of asking questions and to begin those questions with “why” as opposed to “what.”

William & Mary taught me to view comfort zones as danger zones and to reject narrow ways of thinking. I embraced that learning is less about the education we receive in the classroom and more about how we apply that education in the real world in order to impact communities beyond our own.

As an international relations and economics major, I learned to thread the needle between theory and practice. The interdisciplinary curriculum enabled me to hone my communication, foreign language and negotiation skills – all of which have been critical to my professional development as a diplomat. 

My passion for diversity advocacy and international affairs gradually translated into my career in the U.S. Foreign Service – a profession in which I am rarely faced with the comfortable or familiar. During my six-year tenure in the Foreign Service, I’ve advanced peace negotiations in Burma to end a six decades-old civil conflict, managed an immigration parole program for Cuban doctors in Colombia and promoted U.S. economic and business interests in Hong Kong. My liberal arts education equipped me with a variety of tools and experiences from which I draw to navigate these diverse challenges.  

The more I learned at William & Mary, the less certain I became about my assumptions and the more confident I became about challenging platitudes. That instinct to question everything and accept nothing at face value is what underpins a liberal arts education and it has been my most important tool in the workplace and in life. 

Above all, William & Mary taught me how to be an active, informed and responsible citizen. If I see a problem, I know it’s up to me to speak up, identify resources, mobilize my community and actively make a change. The lessons of civic engagement and public service that I learned at the university have been invaluable life lessons.