Student Spotlight: Dainis Butners, MSFS/MBA '18

Dainis Butners has a very unique perspective when it comes to foreign service.

“Growing up in a Latvian household gave me a perspective on culture, geopolitics, and history that is not taught in schools,” Butners said. His heritage and professional background have provided a lens for lifelong learning and focused his pursuits on U.S.-Russia relations, transatlantic relations, international business, and diplomacy.   

Originally from Albany, New York, Dainis was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment and served with the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  Assigned as a Platoon Leader in command of more than 30 military engineers, his unit was deployed in support of NATO-ISAF operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan during the Afghan Surge in 2010.  Leading soldiers into combat instilled in Dainis a sense of honor, personal courage, and an intense interest in international relations after having been on the sharp edge of American foreign policy. 

This interest was further reinforced when Dainis was assigned as a liaison officer to the NATO Military Engineering Center of Excellence in Ingolstadt, Germany.  He worked directly with other military engineers from the alliance to build on the shared experiences of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan so that coalition forces could operate effectively and fight better together.  It quickly became clear to him that no matter what language was spoken – English, French, German, Norwegian, Polish, Latvian, etc. – they all shared a common goal: achieve collective security to ensure peace and stability for society.

In 2015, Dainis made the decision to transition from active duty military service to pursue graduate studies.  He is currently completing dual degrees at Georgetown University, a Master of Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) and a Master in Business Administration (MBA), as well as the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and Eastern European Studies Graduate Certificate. 

The MBA program was a very challenging experience in developing a baseline of financial acumen and business principles.  During the first year of his studies, Dainis worked for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation where he was able to assist his team in the analysis, project financing, and due diligence of several projects, including the financial close of a $250 million Investment Guaranty from the Department of Treasury for the Taiba D’Naiye Wind Farm in Dakar, Senegal.  He successfully completed the MBA program’s Global Business Experience, where teams of students travel abroad to consult companies in the international market. He and his team traveled to Barcelona and were able to provide strategic business analysis and future business planning for Abertis Infraestructuras, the world’s largest infrastructure management company with over 8,000 km of toll roads under their management.  The exposure to global trends in business and foreign affairs greatly compliments the stellar classroom lectures, briefings, and workshops between the McDonough School of Business and Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Despite the demanding schedule of the two programs, Dainis has been actively involved both on and off campus.  He has served as the President of the European Business Association, the student organization that focuses on representing European cultural and business interests at Georgetown, as well as helping to prepare its members for professional careers in Europe and America.  He was accepted as a Fellow in the Veterans in Global Leadership organization, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower veterans seeking to enter positions of global leadership in order to make the world a better place. Off campus, he focused on providing pro-bono work in business development and external outreach for the local Latvian-American community. He also assisted the planning committee of the XIV Latvian Song & Dance Festival, which was held in Baltimore, Maryland during the summer of 2017.  Dainis felt that the experience of helping with this special UNESCO World Heritage Event was incredible, and helped to connect him with the American Chamber of Commerce in Riga, Latvia, as well as U.S. companies operating in the Baltic Sea region.

“Looking back on the time I’ve spent here at Georgetown, I feel confident that these experiences have prepared me to move forward into a dynamic and uncertain future,” he said.