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SAIS Experience Enhances Knowledge Gained from Military and Foreign Service Posts

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Annie Bohlen
MAIR '22

1. Tell us about your background and what you were doing before attending the school? 
Before SAIS, I lived in Rio de Janeiro on my first tour as a Foreign Service Officer for the U. S. Department of State, prior to which I was a U.S. Marine Corps Officer, serving mainly in the Asia-Pacific. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, where I studied neuroscience, and my first job out of college was working on an education project in Hargeisa, Somalia.

2. What encouraged you to apply to Johns Hopkins SAIS
After a handful of years working with foreign militaries and foreign policy partners, it became increasingly clear that economic power and the instruments of economic statecraft were more important than ever. I sought out a graduate program with a heavy economic and quantitative focus, and SAIS’ international economics concentration seemed to fill many of the gaps I had in my own understanding.

3. What program are you in and what do you hope to gain from it?
I chose to concentrate on Strategic Studies and specialize in international finance. Though not an obvious combination, I hope to gain a thorough understanding of the global financial system and then apply that knowledge to better understand the range of policy challenges the U.S. government faces. 

4. How has your military background contributed to your learning experiences?
My military background has certainly helped me to contextualize many of the things I’m learning at SAIS, though I’d argue that what has enriched my experience the most is the ability to approach issues with a military and diplomatic lens. After working for the Department of State and the Department of Defense under two very different administrations, I understood each institution's priorities and how the interagency coordinates (or doesn’t) to tackle foreign policy challenges.

5. What has been one of your favorite classes or experiences at the school so far?
Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence Adam Szubin’s Economic Sanctions and Statecraft course was outstanding. This course looked at the global community’s attempts at leveraging economic tools to confront security and policy threats. Through a series of case studies ranging from South African apartheid to Iran’s nuclear program, we analyzed how the international community has leveraged economic sanctions with varying degrees of success. The class was engaging, intellectually challenging, and Professor Szubin is really funny. Though it might be the worst grade I’ve earned at SAIS, I’m glad I didn’t miss out on the opportunity to take this course.

6. How will your degree enhance your career as a Foreign Service Officer post-graduation?
I anticipate the network of friends and colleagues I’ve gained during my time at SAIS will prove to be indispensable. As a Foreign Service Officer, it’s always good to have loads of friends throughout government, and the private sector, who you can call when you need additional advice, perspective, or expertise regarding a certain policy issue.

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