CUNY Responds to Powells Call for More Minority Diplomats
A keystone of Secretary of State Colin Powells tenure at the State
Department has been a commitment to increase minority representation in the Foreign Service. To that end he has reorganized the State Department hierarchy and dramatically increased the allocation of funds for recruitment of new personnel. His efforts have been supported in Congress by the dean of New Yorks Congressional delegation, Charles Rangel.
On October 8, representatives of the nineteen CUNY colleges met at City College to launch CUNYs entry into this diplomatic workforce development initiative.
City College, which has been participating in Howard Universitys program, has presented its own proposal to Congressman Rangel for a New York-based initiative that would recruit students at all CUNY campuses into the Foreign Service. CCNYs Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies will be the coordinating body.
The College has already taken a first step by persuading the State Department to place a Diplomat-in-Residence (DIR) in the Powell Center. At the October 8 meeting, CCNY President Gregory Williams introduced the new DIR, Mark Minton, who was a DIR at Baruch College last year and has experience in preparing candidates for the Foreign Service exam. (Only about 500 of the 15,000 who sit for the exam each year are accepted as junior Foreign Service officers.)
Minton is the only DIR in the Northeastern U.S. and his arrival at CCNY was in large part due to the efforts of Dr. Marina Fernando, the director of the Colleges International Studies Program.
Over his 24-year career, Minton has been posted in many parts of Asia, notably as Consul-General in Sapporo, where he helped to negotiate Japans $13 billion contribution to the 1991 Persian Gulf War effort.
Noting that universities like Georgetown have sustained a culture in which students are routinely oriented toward diplomatic careers, CUNY representatives saw the need to create an environment on their campuses in which students would see themselves as Foreign Service material and focus their studies on international affairs. Two CUNY campuses, City College and the College of Staten Island, already have undergraduate International Studies programs. City College and the Graduate Center, which operate Masters programs in International Relations, have a ready-made pool of candidates for the diplomatic service.
Campus representatives of this initiative will also encourage their students to apply for State Department internships under Mintons guidance. Minton, who is confident that CUNY can produce a cadre of successful candidates by the end of the academic year, envisions a long-term program that will make New York City, with its concentration of minority populations and new Americans, a major recruiting ground for minority candidates for the Foreign Service. Their entry into the Foreign Service, he believes, will more truly present the face of America abroad.
Sharmeen Ahmed, a 19-year-old International Studies senior, hopes to make the cut at the exam next spring. A naturalized American born in Bangladesh, Ahmed says, For me its a way of giving back to my country. I think minorities make good ambassadors because they represent the diverse make-up of America, a nation of immigrants.