The Georgetown University Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) program values and prioritizes diversity in its academics, student body, and overall operation. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month, more than fifty MSFS students participated in a facilitated workshop to develop skills to effectively navigate multicultural spaces and succeed as leaders in the international arena. Following the workshop, students volunteered to support two greater-D.C. area non-profit organizations, putting into practice the lessons learned throughout the day.
The morning started with MSFS Student Representative and the event’s organizer Tyra Beaman (‘19) welcoming her peers and encouraging them to challenge their existing perceptions about cultural competency. Beaman was motivated to plan the workshop because she noticed that there was an opportunity for growth in the application of the MSFS core values - Leadership, Creativity, Ethics, and Service - into practice through extracurriculars.
“I was determined to celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and legacy through an important interactive conversation on diversity, identity, and service,” Beaman said. “Also, one of the concerns previously raised from MSFS students was MSFS's challenge with being culturally competent, inclusive to our international students, and aware of the opportunities for growth in the rhetoric we choose when addressing identity throughout our community.”
The MSFS Student Representatives partnered with the MSFS administration to invite Honorary U.S. Cultural Ambassador Yewande Austin to lead the workshop. Ms. Austin has produced socio-economic empowerment programs in sixteen countries on three continents, and established the Global Institute for Diversity and Change to help provide diversity, inclusion, leadership, empowerment, and social consciousness training for tomorrow’s leaders.
Throughout the day, Austin encouraged the MSFS students to “challenge their existing perspectives by acknowledging these three simple facts: 1) we come into this world knowing nothing; 2) we learn through the connection that we share with other human beings; and 3) when we leave this world, we take everything that we've learned with us!”
Austin also encouraged students to understand the local contexts in which they will be operating. “When we fail to understand how specific challenges affect those that live with them daily, then we will likely fail to solve the problem,” she said.
Following the workshop, students participated in an activity to serve local D.C. communities, because, as Austin said, “Service is one of few platforms that can teach us empathy, diversity, inclusion, leadership and communication skills in one experience.”
The group made 300 sandwiches for Martha’s Table, a non-profit that has served D.C. families for nearly 40 years. Each night, Martha’s Table distributes approximately 300 sandwiches through their #SpreadtheLove initiative, which seeks to address the District’s hunger problem.
Students also prepared 50 care packages for Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-Span), which aims to assist homeless populations in northwest Virginia.
Throughout the day, students expressed how excited they were about being exposed to new ideas, perspectives, and experiences. “I hope that MSFS students walked away from the MLK Day event yearning for more spaces and opportunities to have these conversations,” Beaman said. “While discussing identity is often challenging, it is imperative for international and domestic leaders to be equipped with the tools and knowledge to lead diverse spaces and ensure that those around them feel safe and secure to express their opinions, views, and concerns.”