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A W&M student reflects on his summer as a Harriman World Fellow at U.S. Embassy London

By Kate Hoving

When Bennett Hawley ‘23, an international relations major and environmental science policy minor inHawley at St Andrews (Courtesy photo) the St Andrews William & Mary Joint Degree Programme was selected as the 2021 Harriman World Fellow, he was in a great position to have a wonderful experience. First, already in the U.K., he was able to build off his first-hand experiences of living during a unique moment in British history with the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, and Scottish impendence, all common subjects of debate in and out of the University of St Andrews classroom. Second, as a World Fellow (the Harriman fellowship granted to a William & Mary student), Hawley had secured an internship on the Economics Desk at the U.S. Embassy in London, which was going to be at the epicenter of a very busy diplomatic season.

“I served with the Economics Section at a really interesting time because we had the G-7 right when I arrived––so I was instantly thrown into that work,” he recalls. “There was a lot of preparation in terms of research and analysis but also just general support for the conference. We had a lot of people coming from Washington, so the embassy was really involved in logistics.”

But the G-7 was just the beginning. “Then we started preparation for COP26 [2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference], which was coming up in Glasgow in just a few weeks. It was at that pointHawley at U.S. Embassy London (Courtesy photo) that I also started to do daily briefings for the embassy.” Hawley was getting a crash course in life as a foreign service officer at a major U.S. embassy.

“The Embassy sends cables back to Washington and to all other diplomatic posts on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes these cables are issue-specific, so I was in charge of a few cables on digital tech and climate policy. I worked on U.K. competition policy and the labor market as well. Others were more routine, like the Daily Briefing. These help prep U.S. policymakers in D.C. who cover the European region on what’s happening in the U.K.”

A firm academic and intellectual foundation

Hawley’s William & Mary courses served him well.

“As an I.R. major, a lot of my classes involved writing policy memos, especially at William & Mary, and that really was good preparation. So having that sort of experience in first year—literally in the first class you take —was really important,” Hawley says. “It allowed me to build upon that skill through first, second, and third year, so I definitely felt prepared.”

Though the State Department’s Student Internship Program was remote due to COVID-19, Hawley still decided to take the train down to London. “Being in London allowed me to build a connection with people —to meet colleagues from the Embassy and Whitehall offscreen and learn from them, their careers, and things that they’ve learned along the way. That really was valuable.” The summer gave him a real-life experience he hadn’t imagined.

He was also able to follow U.K. policy by listening to locals, talking to fellow students, and engaging with William & Mary and St Andrews faculty. Hawley was in his element: “I learned a lot, and I think it’s rubbed off.”

Hawley had, in some ways, been preparing from a very early age. “I’ve always had a really deepHawley at the Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament (Courtesy photo) interest in British history,” he explains. “It began with a focus on the Revolutionary War as the elementary school curriculum embraces it, but then it really just grew. I’m a big history buff. I spend a lot of my own time reading nonfiction books on the subject.”

When it came time to consider his university education, he knew what he wanted.

“I knew going into the college admissions process that I wanted to study abroad in the U.K., and I was looking at St Andrews and W&M separately before I found out they were linked,” he remembers. “And I was like, ‘Well, there’s just the number one option!’” Hawley was accepted to the Joint Degree Programme and spent sophomore and junior years in Scotland, and will return to W&M for his senior year.

“I think a lot of people in the Joint Degree Programme would say that St Andrews and W&M are more alike than different. Both have really engaged student bodies, similarly sized towns, and are really proud of their long histories.”

Yet, he notes the approaches to education are different. “William & Mary is quite practical in its approach with policy memos and exposure to research methods in first year. St Andrews is much more theoretical. We don’t take classes on data science or geospatial analysis [at St Andrews]; it’s much more theory-driven. While theory was covered at W&M, there’s certainly a greater focus at St Andrews on exposing us to the full range of literature out there. With the Joint Programme, you get the benefit of both, which is, I think, really great.”

Invaluable experience and personal connections

Hawley understands the unique opportunity afforded him by the Harriman Fellowship. “I would like to thank all those that support the Harriman Fellowship, both financially and administratively. It really is a fantastic way to honor Ms. Pamela Harriman’s legacy and commitment to civil service and all that she did, but it also supports students who are doing this unpaid internship with the State Department,” Hawley says. “It is truly an investment in the future.”

The Harriman Fellowship enabled him to have a unique experience in an embassy and even enabled a new William & Mary connection: Hawley’s direct supervisor was Nabil Flowers. “Mr. Flowers actually studied at W&M, which was a fun coincidence!” Flowers ‘12 serves in the U.S. Embassy London’s Economic Section and is the lead on the digital economy, data privacy, competition policy, intellectual property, and telecommunications policy portfolio.

Hawley found that perhaps the greatest benefit of the Fellowship was what he learned from public servants during “the more informal conversations about how they got to where they are, what they studied, learning about why they entered the foreign service, what motivates them to stay in.”
He found that many join the foreign service after graduate school and other experiences. “They’ve worked in the private sector, they’ve been in the Peace Corps, maybe in the military. It can be beneficial to have experience outside the foreign service before joining because it gives you a different perspective, and when you join the foreign service, you’re given more responsibility,” Hawley explains. “So, I did hear that perspective quite a bit. But then I also know about some of the State Department’s graduate programs, which could be very interesting as well.”

Whatever the path to the diplomatic service, Hawley has gained profound respect for the profession and the commitment of the people: “As talented individuals, you know they have the option to go elsewhere.” “I think the work that you do in the foreign service is both fascinating and truly important. It was an exciting time to be in London and just an awesome learning experience.”

Ambassador Harriman would be proud.