Jayson Browder has a pretty crazy August ahead of him. As the founder and only staff member of Veterans4Diplomacy, he’s running the organization’s first three-day fellowship program at New York University from August 7 to 9, 2015. Then on August 10, turning around and moving back down to Washington, DC, to start a new position at The White House.
But working under pressure isn’t unfamiliar for Browder. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Browder joined the military right after high school and spent four years on active duty in an engineering unit, traveling around the United States and the Middle East where he had a lot of responsibility thrust upon him. “I was 22 in Iraq and I was working on multimillion dollar development projects,” he explained in a phone interview.
After he finished his tours with the Air Force, Browder went to Fordham University to “get a better understanding of where the military fits into foreign policy,” then moved to Washington, DC, after graduation, where he spent time in the White House and the U.S. House of Representatives, working as a military adviser for Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Browder first became involved with YPFP as a student at Fordham and continued his involvement while in the nation’s capital. “I was able to balance the professional experiences that I was building upon in the military with professional and personal experiences outside and with YPFP. So I thought it was a very good balance, and it complemented one another.”
Browder then applied for a Fulbright and left his job on the Hill to teach English and contemporary American history at a Turkish university. “It was a difficult decision to leave DC,” Browder said, “but I thought that it was a great opportunity to live on that side of the world again.” But after a year of working and researching abroad, he was ready to go back to school. “I think people get caught up in the professional experience, and it’s good to take a step back and revisit some of the things that you’ve been doing the last few years to get a ten thousand foot-level view of what you’ve been doing.” He received his Executive MPA from New York University and the University College of London this spring.
It quickly becomes clear when talking with Browder that his experiences in the military have shaped his career, and that training continues to influence his decision-making. “My framework for a lot of the things I choose to do are based on three things that I think the military really instilled in me,” he said. “That was building relationships, empowering individuals, and learning. And so I choose my professional and academic experiences around those three lenses.”
But Browder is quick to admit that he’s not unique, and many other veterans and servicemen and women view foreign policy problems, and their own careers, through similar lenses. “Military veterans and military members have a lot of the same skills and experiences, and they come out of the service, and they’re sort of lost within the transition.”
Browder wants to ease that transition, and help veterans fill these holes in public service, so Veterans4Diplomacy was born. “We created an organization that hopes to bridge the gap for student veterans who have gotten out of the service, are going back to school, and have an interest in serving their country again.”
The organization hopes to leverage the experience and skills they gained in the military with the education they are currently receiving at school in the end, enabling them to earn meaningful positions back within the government.
He added, “We want to change that narrative and say veterans coming back aren’t a social burden. They are actually going to be very productive in society. They have the potential to really give back again and most of the veterans coming out of service want to do that.” Browder and Veterans4Diplomacy have identified prestigious scholarships and fellowships, like the Harry S. Truman Scholarship or the Rhodes Scholarship, as the best way to bridge that chasm. “Student veterans are very competitive for these scholarships,” Browder explained, “and they’re great platforms to get into the federal government and to really bring impact and change.
Those same government-sponsored scholarships are ones that all undergraduate students interested in foreign policy can take advantage, and Browder strongly recommends travel as a way to differentiate oneself. “There are great opportunities for undergraduates to learn a new language, to live in another country and at the same time serve their country and if I could give any student advice, I think that would be something I would look into doing.”
When asked what he wanted to do next in his career, Browder explained, “At the end of the day, I want to have meaningful impact, and I think that’s one thing that sticks with me.” But right now, he admitted, he’s focused on making it through August. “To be honest, I just hope the first class goes well.”
Maxine Builder (@maxine_builder) is Associate Director of Communications for YPFP NY.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.