Jon Danilowicz, the newly appointed U.S Department of State’s Diplomat in Residence (DIR) for the New England area, has spent 26 years working as a foreign service officer and is now based at Tufts. According to the State Department website, “[DIRs] are career Foreign Service Officers and Specialists located [at colleges and universities] throughout the [United States] who provide guidance and advice on careers, internships and fellowships to students and professionals in the communities they serve.”
Returning to his home state of Massachusetts to focus on this new chapter of his career, Danilowicz sat down with the Daily last week to talk about the passions that brought him to the foreign service, his experiences abroad and his role as the DIR for New England.
The following is an abridged version of the interview.
The Tufts Daily (TD): What responsibilities constitute your role as a DIR?
Jon Danilowicz (JD): My role as DIR is focused on recruiting for the State Department, for jobs in both the civil service and the foreign service, [including] internships as well as civil service positions, foreign service officer generalist positions and foreign service specialist positions.
TD: Why did you choose to take on this new role?
JD: It’s a role that I’ve been interested in for most of my foreign service career. It’s a great opportunity to come back to New England, which is where I grew up, and also to talk about a job and career that I love — working for the State Department.
TD: What are your first impressions of [Tufts]? What are you most looking forward to during your time here at Fletcher?
JD: Well, the relationship between the State Department and Fletcher is a long and…positive one. I feel very fortunate that I’m able to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors. I’ve only been on campus [since last Tuesday], so [I’m] still finding my way around. But I look forward to interacting with students and faculty and staff and looking for ways that we can support each other in our various missions.
TD: According to [a June 1] The Express Tribune [article], you joined the foreign service directly after graduating college. What made you choose this career path?
JD: I grew up in Worcester, Mass. and definitely had an interest in exploring the world and also an interest in public service … Working for the State Department as a member of the foreign service was an opportunity to combine both my interests in travel and…in public service.
TD: According to the same article, you were based in Bangladesh and Peshawar. How does it feel to be back in your home state?
JD: My father worked [at] an insurance company two miles away from our house and drove back and forth to work every day, two miles. In some ways, my choice of career was probably influenced a bit to be different [from my father’s]. I now feel that, in some ways, life has come full circle, that after 26 years of traveling the world, I’m back home in Massachusetts. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family and having a chance to explore parts of New England that I haven’t seen before.
TD: What has been the most rewarding part of your time in the foreign service? The most challenging?
JD: [Representing] the United States [and helping] explain the United States and U.S. policies to foreign audiences has been very rewarding. In my career I’ve had the opportunity to serve in different parts of the world. I think the challenges of foreign service life vary, but for me, one of the challenges has been to maintain a balance between my professional life and my personal life. I’m very grateful to my family, my wife and my four children, who’ve followed me around the world and shared adventures and also some of the hardships that come with an international career.
TD: What piece of advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in the foreign service?
JD: Well, I guess the advice I would give is that both the process of entering the foreign service and a foreign service career are more of a marathon than a sprint … For applicants coming straight out of school, [especially], it can be quite a challenging process to get through the very steps in joining the foreign service. But I would advise people to persevere…to stop by my office to say hello and talk with me in person [and] certainly to check out the State Department careers website, careers.state.gov, which has a great deal of information about both the foreign service as well as civil service [and] the various opportunities and the different pathways to entering into State Department careers.
TD: Do you have plans to return to working abroad?
JD: Well, I’m still serving as an active member of the foreign service, so this is a two-year assignment for me here at Tufts. We’ll see what happens after that, whether it’s opportunities to take me overseas, or back to Washington or another domestic assignment. One of the fun parts of the foreign service is that there’s a lot of variety in the job, and [there are] lots of opportunities to daydream about the future.
TD: Is there anything else that you would like to add about your role here at Tufts?
JD: Just to add that while I feel very fortunate to be based at Tufts, to have the institutional relationship between the State Department and the Fletcher School, my responsibility as [DIR] extends to the entire New England area. And [although] certainly we value our relationship and the opportunities on a university campus, our field is a lot broader than that.
I look forward to interacting with individuals at other schools and institutions throughout New England — former military personnel who are looking for new careers and also…younger students who are thinking more about the future — [and help them] start thinking about ways in which they could prepare for a career in the foreign service.