Category: Graduate Profiles 2023, Students

Title: Elizabeth Wollan (MSFS’23) Reflects on Rewarding SFS Experience as She Joins the U.S. Department of State

Author: By Anna Broderick
Date Published: May 9, 2023

Elizabeth Wollan (MSFS’23) fully embodied her role as a student during her two years on the Hilltop. “I know that I will be so grateful that I went to graduate school when I did and took advantage of every opportunity to expand my horizons and build authentic relationships,” she says, “ I am a testament of my incredible community, and I am so grateful for all those who have encouraged and accompanied me along my journey.  I think I will look back at this time as the beginning of my vocation, and a beautiful one at that.”

The MSFS community has inspired Wollan to pursue a career in global public service with the State Department and United Nations, working on her passions of conflict negotiation, human rights, stabilization, nuclear non-proliferation, and post-conflict reconstruction.

As Wollan joins the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State, she expects to use what she learned at MSFS in her career. “I am grateful that many of the aspects I will miss most from graduate school are coming with me into this next chapter. I will miss the Georgetown community but take comfort in the reality that so many of us will be crossing paths for the rest of our lives in our field of work and that I will be able to rely on my mentors for continued guidance and  encouragement,” she says, “I will miss the stimulating intellectual conversations I have found in the classroom but look forward with great anticipation to being able to synthesize those with the realities of the world.”

Wollan and her friends at the MSFS Winter Ball (including Brian Castro MSFS 2023, Anastasia Voellm MSFS 2023, and Aliya Iftikhar MSFS 2023)

DC Opportunities

Wollan, originally from Saint Paul, Minnesota, holds an impressive resume from her two years at SFS. Along with her Master of Science in Foreign Service, she is graduating with a certificate in diplomatic studies and proficiency in Spanish. She worked as a policy intern for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the U.S. State Department and also as a political intern for the United Nations Mine Action Service within the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Additionally, she served as the chair for professional development for Georgetown Women in International Affairs, as a graduate teaching assistant for the Conflict Transformation Lab, and as a graduate assistant for the HOME Program (Homelessness Outreach | Meals | Education) at the Center for Social Justice. 

Along with her professional experiences, Wollan recognizes the importance of being kind to oneself throughout a busy schedule. “I think ten years from now, when I am 35, I will look back on this chapter of life with even fonder eyes,” she says. “One can be so hard on themselves throughout such a rigorous and demanding time like graduate school, and I think that it is important for graduate students to live out Georgetown’s commitment to cura personalis, or care of the whole person. I have found that my memories made with friends and the relationships fostered during this time are just as enriching and fulfilling as the hours spent in academic or professional experiences.”

Wollan with Zsofia Deak (MSFS 2023) on a trip to Paris during their internship in Geneva

Looking back at her time in graduate school, Wollan shares advice to her first year self to breathe and savor. “It is going to be a rich season where you meet some of the most brilliant and inspiring people of your life, many of whom will be on this journey with you for the rest of your life,” she says, “But this is just the beginning! If you graduate having more questions and doubts than you did coming in, I would argue that is a sign of an experience well-lived. Savor this season.”   

In the Classroom

Along with her many extracurricular activities and internships, Wollan had many classes she calls her favorite: Nuclear Weapons and International Security with Dr. Robert Gallucci, Government & Stabilization Operations with Dr. Patrick Quirk, and her capstone class through the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, which focused on Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine taught by Professor Gene Fishel.

Wollan in front of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland from her internship

“All three of these classes have shaped my understanding of conflict negotiation, peace operations, and stabilization processes while reminding me of the critical need to engage in meaningful interagency and international dialogue and action to combat these transnational issues,” Wollan says, “All three professors have challenged me to delve into the security space as well as the diplomatic arena, and I have become a better writer and practitioner because of their guidance.”

Along with these three professors, Wollan has formed tight bonds with many mentors at SFS. “I have been so fortunate as to have many mentors guide and support me throughout my time here on the Hilltop. I feel particular gratitude for the continued support and sage counsel from Ambassador Mark Lagon, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Professor Elizabeth Phu, Dr. Joseph Helman, and Professor Christopher Klein.”

Attending the Let Freedom Ring Celebration in honor of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of her role on the board of the John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award. From left to right, President John J. DeGioia, Theresa Miller DeGioia, Madeleine McCullough, and Wollan

Wollan also found herself inspired by her fellow classmates, as she interacted with future academics and foreign service leaders, who are also studying to shape the world. She reflects on her peers, saying, “I have been so impressed by the talent, humility, and tenacity of the SFS community. My colleagues have done truly remarkable work before entering the program and remain eager and open to learning new concepts and engaging with new perspectives.”

Wollan recognized that passionate and driven students and faculty, together, are what make Georgetown special.  “I deeply value the fact that there are so many within this program, faculty and students alike, who would like to make the path smoother for those that follow them than it was for themselves, and therefore are proactively supporting students by sharing resources and information while connecting them to their respective networks,” she says.

Photo at the Lincoln Memorial with Katie-Meelel Nodjimbadem (MSFS 2023) and Hye Seung (Esther) Jung (MSFS 2023) before the MSFS Winter Ball

“I look forward with great anticipation and hope for all that is to come after my time on the Hilltop,” Wollan says. “My graduate experience has opened doors professionally that I could have never imagined, and SFS has given me the skills, confidence, and curiosity to pursue these goals and build a career that is centered around integrity, character, and sound moral judgment.”