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Our Global Stake

Ambassador champions tomorrow’s diplomats

Americans are tired of war. Ambassador Philip Kaplan gets that.

But our wariness about military intervention doesn’t mean we should retreat from the costly and difficult task of maintaining stability and the balance of power around the globe. In fact, he argues, we have no alternative but to play a role on the world stage.

“Superpowers don’t get to retire,” Kaplan says, quoting historian Robert Kagan. Still, diplomats like Kaplan do retire, creating the need to train their replacements. We all have a stake in making sure that today’s brightest and best will guide our involvement in tomorrow’s global conflicts.

That’s why Kaplan and his wife, Barbara, a high school history teacher, are funding a scholarship for second-year graduate students at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The aid is earmarked for students who are dedicated to a career in international public service and have excelled in their coursework.

“It’s very important that we have a continued focus on our role in the world and that we have the people with the smarts and the determination to play an important part,” says Kaplan, who is a partner at a law firm in Washington, D.C., and a lecturer in international affairs at George Washington University. His 27-year Foreign Service career included working with former Fletcher Dean Stephen Bosworth in the Philippines in the 1980s and serving from 1989 through 1991 as U.S. ambassador and deputy representative to the 22-state Vienna Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

Regarding the scholarship, he says, “We wanted to provide support to the absolutely top students who also have financial need. That affords the best prospect of contributing effectively to the next generation of American diplomacy.”

Fletcher’s Kaplan Scholars prepare to serve

Paula Armstrong, F15

Languages:

  • German (native)
  • English
  • Japanese
  • French

Places she called home by age 18:

  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Switzerland
  • the Philippines, the United States (her father works for the Foreign Service; her mother is German)

Specialty:

  • International security and migration and refugees studies

Biggest extracurricular commitment at Fletcher:

  • Program coordinator for Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program. “I volunteered with a South Sudanese woman. Things that might seem simple to us, like making a phone call, can be so hard.”

Country she chose to move to after college:

  • Japan, where she taught English for two years

Family’s refugee experience:

  • Her maternal grandmother was a refugee twice—first leaving Czechoslovakia with her family as a young girl at the end of World War II, when ethnic Germans were expelled from that country, and then fleeing East Germany with her future husband to resettle in West Germany when she was 20 and he was 21 years old, leaving their families behind the Iron Curtain.

Capstone project:

  • Examining remittances from immigrants to families abroad, which U.S. banks sometimes refuse to process because of security concerns, and providing policy recommendations.

How the Kaplan Scholarship helps:

  • “It let me spend a summer in New York City working for a nonprofit that could offer only a small stipend.” Her internship at the International Rescue Committee resettlement office “solidified my desire to work in refugee affairs.”

Emily Cole, F15

Languages:

  • English (native)
  • French
  • Pulaar

Specialty:

  • Human security with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, particularly the western Sahel

Teaching assistant for:

  • Economics 201: Introduction to Economic Theory

Peace Corps insight:

  • While volunteering in health, gender, and development programs in Senegal, she saw refugees still living in “temporary” camps set up 20 years earlier and Koranic students—young boys—walking across the country with their teachers after being expelled from Gambia. “I’m interested in the most vulnerable populations,” she says, “and what happens to them during conflict, when people are displaced and lose their assets, their livelihoods, their status, and, often, their communities.”

Experience that confirmed her path:

  • Summer 2014 internship with the House Committee on Ways and Means, helping with research and briefings. “I like the fight of politics,” she says. “I like being really hands-on.”

Her dream job:

  • Doing human security policy decision-making in the federal government, either in the administration or in Congress

Capstone project:

  • Analyzing and making policy recommendations based on changing patterns of human trafficking and slavery in the western Sahel

Why she’s grateful:

  • “I’m volunteering for an unpaid project with ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] rather than increasing my work-study hours. The scholarship makes it easier for me to say yes to opportunities like that when they present themselves.”