From Simmons to the State Department: Mandi Bibbins '17 Talks Foreign Policy
My professors played an important role in enabling me to pursue my career. They encouraged me to think critically about the skills needed to secure a position in the federal government and how to strategically approach the D.C. job market, which is exceptionally difficult to navigate.
Tell us about your current position for the Office of International Media Engagement, Bureau of Global Public Affairs.
I work on a small team of foreign service officers and civil servants to deliver U.S. foreign policy messaging to journalists across the globe. We host telephone and video press briefings as well as one-on-one interviews for officials to speak on the record about foreign policy priorities in the news. My office also oversees the six Regional Media Hubs based in Brussels, Dubai, Miami, Johannesburg, London, and Manila, which coordinate State Department messaging.
Within the office, I work on the Middle East portfolio. I liaise with journalists to understand the stories they are working on, then identify the State Department officials best-placed to answer journalists’ questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East. It’s a complex and dynamic portfolio!
Tell us about your journey from Simmons to working for the State Department.
When I was a sophomore at Simmons in 2015, I interned for the office I currently work in. That summer spent in Washington, D.C. sparked my interest in working for the Department more permanently. It also exposed me to some of the finest strategic minds working at the intersection of communications and foreign policy.
After completing my summer internship, I continued to work for the Bureau through the Virtual Student Federal Service Program, which allowed me to work on interesting projects for the Africa Regional Media Hub while completing my undergraduate studies. It’s a terrific program and I would recommend it to any student interested in federal service.
In my final year at Simmons, I joined the Department’s Boston Passport Agency. I worked full time at the passport office while finishing my degree at Simmons. About six months before I graduated, I applied for a transfer to D.C., which allowed me to start a new job for the Department in D.C. once I ended my studies at Simmons.
The last five years have been a long-winding journey. From multiple unpaid internships to a full-time civil service position, my time with the Department has already taught me to be adaptable and forward-thinking.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
My work challenges me every day to think strategically about how we think about and discuss foreign policy. I enjoy working in an intergenerational, collaborative, fast-paced office, which keeps me on my toes. I also can't understate the significance of finding work that aligns with your personal values.
What was the most daring move you’ve made in your career?
Shortly after moving to D.C., I decided to enroll in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service to pursue a Master’s degree while working full time. I’m finally in my last semester, soon to be graduating with a degree in International Security. It was one of the best decisions of my life because it gave me the incredible opportunity to meet fellow practitioners to share our thoughts on the latest scholarship from the field. But it has been difficult to balance the demands of the office with my academics.
How did Simmons prepare you for what you’re doing now?
My professors played an important role in enabling me to pursue my career. They encouraged me to think critically about the skills needed to secure a position in the federal government and how to strategically approach the D.C. job market, which is exceptionally difficult to navigate. These professors demonstrated healthy mentorship which set a great example for me as someone who now mentors student interns at the Department.
Simmons also helped me to develop myself holistically. My time spent at university shaped my identity, ethics, and confidence. This personal development led me to find a close-knit friend group, gave me insight into what I was looking for in a career, and enabled me to reflect deeply on my personal and professional goals.
What advice would you give to students who are hoping to make a lasting impression during an internship?
What helped me most was to stay in touch with the people I met during my internship every other month. I would send a brief email to those people letting them know what I was studying, what I was looking to do and to find out what they were up to. Someone you intern for today could be your future employer, so it's better for them to hear from you consistently instead of sporadically when you need a recommendation or a job in the future.
It's never too early to know what you want to do—when you know, you know. Pursue what you want to do tirelessly.