Alumni Q&A: Keegan Pierce (F’02) Credits SFS with his “International Perspective”


Why did you decide to come to SFS?

I chose SFS because I wanted to challenge myself in an international undergraduate environment. Growing up in Oakland, California, I’d had the chance to travel a bit in Europe and Latin America; those experiences piqued my interest in culture, politics and languages, and I came to Georgetown looking to build on that initial exposure, by studying at the U.S.’s preeminent school of international relations.

Did you have any mentors or advisors at SFS that made a big impact on you?

Among the many great professors I had at Georgetown, a few made a particularly strong impact. Sabina Dym taught me Spanish in record time, preparing me for a life-changing exchange year in Chile and Brazil. Charles King lectured on comparative government, but –just as importantly– he showed us how to make a proper argument. Charles Weiss taught STIA majors about the drivers and dynamics of innovation, which proved a huge help in my business education years later. Inku Marshall introduced us to the Korean language –while also acting as my first Korean mother– and helped prepare me for my immediate post-graduation experience: living in Seoul and working as a sports reporter for The Korea Times daily newspaper.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I’ve always liked Emerson’s quote about leaving the world a better place, “whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition”. I think there are unsung heroes all around us; they’re the folks who work every day to improve the lives of those within their immediate sphere of influence.

Since assuming my current role in higher education, I’ve gained an even deeper appreciation for the work of educators – such as my mother, who’s been a teacher of the visually impaired for over three decades, and my brother, who’s currently working at a public high school in Seattle.

What is your favorite memory of your time at SFS?

Academically, few experiences encapsulated the SFS experience like Charles Pirtle’s Map of the Modern World course. Spring semester of your freshman year, you’d pack into the ICC Auditorium with the rest of your SFS classmates, and discover the world –its contours, its history, its flashpoints– through Professor Pirtle’s eyes. (I enjoyed the class so much, I even audited it again my senior year, just to be sure I hadn’t forgotten anything!) And on a personal level, I’ll always remember the conversations with friends from around the country and around the world: whether in your dorm room (Village C East, Copley and Village A #202, in my case); in front of the ICC on a warm afternoon; or during a quiet moment by Dahlgren Chapel.

Describe your current role and what makes you most proud about that.

I’m currently based in Spain, where I work for ESADE Business School, a partner university of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. I graduated from ESADE’s MBA program in 2011, and in my current role as Associate Director of International Admissions, I travel regularly around Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, meeting with partners and alumni and recruiting candidates to help grow our international programs in Barcelona.

Before my MBA, I worked in broadcasting and communications for Chivas USA, a Mexican-owned Major League Soccer club based in Los Angeles. Even in my current role, I remain connected to the world of sports: I do a regular Spanish fútbol segment on SiriusXM radio in the U.S., and this year I’m teaching a sports marketing seminar at ESADE.

I’m proud of having cultivated an international career that’s given me a chance to travel the world, while also combining several of my passions –sports, business, languages and education– all at once.

How did SFS prepare you for your current role/career?

SFS gave me international perspective. It helped me understand systems, whether political, technological or socioeconomic and the interrelation of actors and interests. It taught me languages. (I actually studied five during my time on campus!) It gave me a framework for continuing to learn about the world and the humility to challenge my own assumptions. Finally, it allowed me to feel comfortable moving across borders – to not to feel like a complete outsider, even in a place that’s completely unfamiliar. I try to draw on these learnings every day.

Have you traveled extensively? For work or for pleasure? What is your favorite place?

I love traveling, so it’s hard to pick just once place. But here goes:

Barcelona, the place I call home, is one of my favorites. It’s a medium-sized city by European standards (only 1.5M in the city proper), but with the vibrancy and cosmopolitan air of a much larger metropolis. Its Mediterranean climate, Modernist architecture and Catalan spirit give the place its own special flavor.

During the past year I’ve been traveling regularly to Istanbul for work: the city is fascinating, with a deep history and location at the intersection of Europe and Asia. For me, Turkey is a fascinating case of a country seeking its own “brand positioning” in a globalized world, and given the many internal and external tensions in the country right now, I’m really interested to see what direction Turkish economy and politics will take during the next few years.

Two more: My most recent trip was to the northeast of Brazil, where my brothers and I cheered on the USA at the World Cup… And for any Bay Area visitors who haven’t yet checked out my hometown of Oakland, I’d highly recommend it: it’s one of the most diverse cities in America, and a great place for history, music and culture. (Oh, and delicious food, too!)

What advice do you have for current SFS students?

Enjoy your undergraduate experience: take advantage to learn as much as you can. You can never be certain what skills will be relevant for the next phase of your career, so apply yourself as best as possible to both your core classes and your electives – even if sometimes you might not see their importance right away.

Take advantage of the diversity you have on campus: get to know your classmates, especially those who come from another reality – whether that’s from your own hometown, or from halfway across the world.

Finally, take the opportunity to explore DC and all it has to offer. Georgetown has a beautiful campus, located in a lovely neighborhood, but I think Hoyas can occasionally forget what an amazing city they are living in.