#GLI- Politics

Tag: #GLI- Politics

Government Gap Years

By Jonathan Hogan

If you are interested in working in government but you’re not quite ready to commit to a career, or if you are simply looking for something to do between Lawrence and a career and have a background in government, you might want to consider a government gap year. In the following paragraphs, then, I will outline the most prominent programs and what they broadly entail.

Pathways Recent Graduate Program

The broadest program for government gap years is the Pathways Recent Graduate Program. Most broadly, the Pathways program is designed to “provide students [and recent graduates]… with a wide variety of educational institutions, from high school to graduate level, with opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while still in school and while getting paid for the work performed” (“Students & Recent Graduates”). The Recent Graduates Program, as the name implies, is generally open to students who have graduated in the last two years. An important caveat, as with many government programs, is U.S. citizenship. Interns must have U.S. citizenship by the end of their one-year program. What sets the Pathways program apart is the fact that it is administered by nearly every federal agency. This means that students with interests as differentiated as agricultural and diplomacy could both find Pathways internships working with the State Department and the USDA respectively. Such a variety of programs, nonetheless, makes it difficult to talk about specifics. Most broadly, recent graduate interns are expected to work full-time for a year, for pay, while learning the ins and outs of their agency. Excitingly, one of the benefits of the program includes the possibility of being offered a full-time position at the end of the internship, thus making Pathways an interesting program even for those more certain about a career path with the federal government. To learn more about Pathways programs, it’s best to go to the website of an agency of interest to learn more about their specific practices.

Peace Corps

One of the most prominent gap year programs is the Peace Corps. Broadly, Peace Corps members are deployed to countries around the world where they learn the local language, typically live with a host family, and volunteer their time working on projects ranging from education to community economic development. While experience in the Peace Corps is not an internship with a government agency per se, its challenges of working abroad, fostering cultural and linguistic competencies, and working to support development overlap significantly with many positions in the State Department and USAID. The benefits of the Peace Corps include a stipend of $10,000 upon completion of the 2.5-year program, tuition assistance to a broad list of graduate school programs under Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship, and a higher likelihood of getting a job within the federal government. To learn more, check out the Peace Corps website and get in touch with a local representative. 

State Government Gap-Years

State governments generally have fewer gap year opportunities than the federal government for recent grads, that being said, many states do offer some form of an internship. In Wisconsin, there appears to be only one opportunity for recent grads, namely the Department of Transportation Internship Program. This program can see interns working in a wide variety of areas while “networking with other interns, state government employees, and management” (“Division of Personnel Management Student Internships”). State internships are likely to vary greatly, so it is wise to investigate the programs offered in your state when considering gap years.


AmeriCorps, much like the Peace Corps, is a service-based experience in which recent grads can gain experience working to help communities in areas ranging from disaster recovery to education. As the name implies, however, this program sees volunteers help communities in America. It is important to note that AmeriCorps workers work through an NGO partnered with AmeriCorps rather than AmeriCorps itself, thus, volunteering doesn’t constitute government work. Nonetheless, volunteers, who dedicate between a summer and a year of their time to the program are granted not only a reasonable living stipend and student loan repayment assistance but also professional development resources that can help kickstart careers in non-profit and governmental industries. Additionally, dedicating a year of your life/resume to government-sponsored service certainly helps one stand out to potential government employers. To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit their website!

Works Cited

“Division of Personnel Management Student Internships.” Wisconsin.Gov, https://dpm.wi.gov/Pages/Job_Seekers/StudentInternships.aspx. Accessed 18 May 2022.

Home | AmeriCorps. https://americorps.gov/. Accessed 18 May 2022.

“Meet the Moment.” Peace Corps, https://www.peacecorps.gov/. Accessed 18 May 2022.

“Students & Recent Graduates.” U.S. Office of Personnel Management, https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-information/students-recent-graduates/. Accessed 18 May 2022.

Jonathan is a Third Year German and Government major. He works as a Peer Educator to assist students in the CJW and GLI career communities. In addition to professional development, Jonathan is interested in the cultural construction of the modern nation-state, normative constraints on rational behavior, and all things German. You can schedule an appointment with him here to improve your resume, learn more about the CJW and GLI career opportunities, and work on anything else professional development-related.

An Interview with an Ambassador

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with former Ambassador and Lawrence alumni Christopher Murray to learn more about life as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) for the State Department. Among his many postings as an FSO, Ambassador Murray has served as the Ambassador to the Congo, Chargé d’affaires in Brussels, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Algiers and Lebanon. Here are some of the key takeaways of our discussion:

The work of an FSO is often predicated upon cultural integration and personal relations…

As a young FSO following the mining industry and transportation network in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ambassador Murray was encouraged to engage with the local community by higher-ranking officers. By integrating with his local community and eventually becoming an officer at his community’s golf club, Ambassador Murray was granted a much more authentic understanding of both the mining industry and those associated with it. For those who are interested in becoming an FSO because they are interested in engaging with foreign cultures and languages, it would seem that doing so is not only possible during one’s career, but necessary—at least as a lower-ranking officer—if one wishes to do their job well.  

FSO’s do have some agency regarding their postings…

FSOs, while carrying out the policies of the Executive Branch, are not supposed to assume independent political stances. Yet, what if one fundamentally disagrees with the politics that they are being asked to represent? Ambassador Murray himself served during a period when many of his colleagues vehemently disagreed with President Reagan’s South Africa policy and he made it clear that, although FSO’s have little agency regarding the policy of the Executive Branch, they do have agency pertaining to where they serve. Most of those FSO’s that disagreed with the U.S.’s South Africa policy simply refused to serve in South Africa.  

Rank isn’t everything…

Ambassador Murray spoke briefly about the promotional culture in the Foreign Service, stating that many young FSO’s fixate on quick promotions and climbing the hierarchical ranks of the State Department. Yet, although Ambassador Murray was granted the highest-ranking position in the Foreign Service, he himself was promoted very slowly throughout the first half of his career. In his experience, however, those who are promoted the quickest are not necessarily those who are the best at their jobs, but rather those who are deployed to countries that are largely hostile to the U.S. For a fulfilling experience as an FSO, Ambassador Murray insists that intrinsic motivation and a certain amount of perspective regarding the promotional system within the State Department are essential.

Internships are ideal…

The Foreign Service, while offering opportunities to extensively engage with politics, languages, and cultures that would otherwise be inaccessible, is also quite demanding. For security reasons, Ambassador Murray was, for example, forced to largely remain inside of his embassy’s compound at multiple postings. Additionally, FSOs are expected to rotate to different posts in different countries every three years. Thus, the Ambassador highly recommended pursuing an internship with the State Department before committing to a career in the Foreign Service. One of the most prominent internships for the State Department is called the “Pathways Internship.” The application for next year’s summer Pathways Internship will be posted on USAJOBS in the coming months. If you have any questions about resumes, interviewing skills, or anything else professional development-related, be sure to schedule an appointment with GLI’s Ty Collins by clicking here.  

Jonathan Hogan

Jonathan is a Second Year German and Government major. He works as a Career Peer Educator to assist students in the CJW and GLI career communities. In addition to professional development, Jonathan is interested in the cultural construction of the modern nation-state, normative constraints on rational behavior, and all things German. You can schedule an appointment with him here to improve your resume, learn more about the CJW and GLI career opportunities, and work on anything else professional development-related.