Alex Roberds (SFS’18, MAGES’19) Dives Into German and European Studies

Roberds during the Mr. Georgetown Pageant

January 17, 2019 by Kareeda Kabir

Alex Roberds (SFS’18, MAGES’19) arrived at Georgetown as an undergraduate with a long-standing interest in Germany and Russia, and through classes and internships built on this passion. He now studies Russian interference operations and European energy studies through the Master of Arts in German and European Studies (MAGES) accelerated program, in which he completes his undergraduate degree and graduate degree in five years. Roberds, originally from St. Louis, Missouri, has “always been interested in the outside world.” He remembers being fascinated by Ancient Greece and the Cold War as far back as elementary school. He started learning German in middle school, and “the rest,” he says, “is history.”

When it was time for college, Roberds was looking at a number of schools in D.C., but, ultimately, it was Georgetown: “I absolutely fell in love with Georgetown. I visited a lot of great schools, but none of them ever made me feel at home like I did at Georgetown.” Throughout his four years at Georgetown, he’s managed to find a family in the pep band, playing the tuba and conducting: “Pep band was always my number one thing (outside of classes, of course), serving in leadership for seven of my eight semesters. Pep band quickly became my family on campus, and I still consider many of them my closest friends.” He was also a part of the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, and of course, the Georgetown German Club.

Roberds playing the tuba; he played every semester of his time as an undergraduate.

Location, Location, Location

Roberds credits Professor Thane Gustafson as the first person who got him interested in energy issues in his undergraduate classes, and solidified this interest through his classes in MAGES.  Internships throughout his undergraduate experience helped him discover what he was most passionate about. “This past summer, I did some work on energy at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, and now I’m hooked,” he says. “Being in D.C. has been fantastic for me, he adds. “For my field, there is no better place to be than D.C. It’s the center of all the action in the foreign policy community, so we have all the best jobs, internships, and experts. I’ve met some amazing people and had some great opportunities that would not have been possible if I had been in a different city.”

As he was approaching his senior year, Roberds started thinking about his future. Considering his interest in Europe, the MAGES program caught his eye, and after meeting the students and faculty in the program, he knew it was the right place for him. For other students considering the accelerated masters’ programs, Roberds emphasizes timeliness. “Decide early and make sure you know all the details as soon as you can.”

Roberds tabling with other members of the German Club.

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Roberds has embraced flexibility throughout his career progression. He cites the three internships he’s done in the past few years: the State Department Office of European Union and Regional Affairs, the Streit Council for a Union of Democracies, and the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, along with his current position as an editing assistant with an academic journal. Throughout all of these different opportunities, a consistent theme has been adaptability. “In my daily work at all of these jobs, my position drastically changed at least once, often more than once. To be successful, I had to be adaptable to the needs of the organization and find the way to make myself most useful to my team.”

Finishing up his Master’s degree also means looking towards the future. Roberds was recently chosen as a finalist for the Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) Program, run by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The PMF program is a prestigious and highly selective two-year training and development program for the U.S. federal government civil service.

What I’ve learned from that is that it’s impossible to predict too far into the future, as the opportunities that open up to you are often the least expected, and you shouldn’t pass up an opportunity just because it’s not in your ‘plan.’