GWVets Visit the Department of State
Student Veterans from GWVets, a Student Veterans of America (SVA) Chapter at George Washington University (GW), had the privilege of visiting the U.S. Department of State on January 24, 2024, receiving a short tour of the building and attending an information session with staffers who are part of the Veterans at State group. This event was a joint coordinated effort between the GW Career Center, the Office of Military and Veteran Services, and the Veterans at State.
The trip began at the GW Military Community Center, a townhome located just a short walk from the GW campus and the State Department. During the short walk, student veterans were excited to learn that the visit was a GWVets exclusive event reserved only for current student veterans. This point of information sparked their amazement with the State Department noting their commitment to veterans.
Student Veteran Heather Willbanks, an Army veteran and sophomore at GW, was surprised to learn that this event was organized specifically for student veterans at GW. She had previously thought this was an opportunity open to all SVA chapters, not just GWVets.
At the Department of State, the GWVets group entered the building at the Hall of Flags, a large foyer featuring hundreds of flags representing various countries. This grand entryway exists to welcome all visitors by proudly displaying the flag from their country of origin. After leaving the Hall of Flags, the group was shown the Great Seal of the United States, and as a special privilege the group witnessed the key holder of the Great Seal use the press to certify two presidential appointment documents.
After the brief tour and the viewing of the Great Seal, the GWVets were met by several staffers from various organizations within the Department of State and given a private informational session on various opportunities for veterans who are interested in working for the government. This session covered such topics as inter-agency careers, how to apply for Department of State careers, and the many affinity groups within the organization including the group Veterans at State.
Prior to the visit Willbanks had aspirations of joining the Department of State, however, the visit still had a profound impact on her exposing her to veteran opportunities within the government.
“This has inspired me to start my employment process earlier,” said Willbanks, “I didn’t know there were specific hiring programs for veterans.”
The Veterans at State representatives further detailed their personal experiences on beginning their career journey, work-life balance in the government, and how they have maneuvered between careers at the Department of State. They also elaborated on continuing education while working for the Department of State and how there are tuition forgiveness and loan repayment programs for employees.
Navy veteran and graduate student, Alfredo Valdez, also attended the visit to the Department of State. The visit has shown Valdez that the Department of State cares about their veteran employees, their career journey, and is actively engaged with their veteran employees.
“I didn’t expect it to be as personal as it was, or as much support,” said Valdez. He further stated that he “appreciated that [Veterans at State] took the time to make this experience personal and tell their stories.”
Learning about the staffers and their personal story helped to eliminate some of the imposter syndrome that many veterans face when embarking on government careers. Knowing that the Department of State supports veteran in various ways has removed a perceived barrier to entry and inspired the group to seek employment within the government.
After the visit concluded, both Willbanks and Valdez believe that this visit was beneficial and that their fellow student veterans at GW should be more active with GWVets and the opportunities they provide. “It is a win-win, there’s no downside,” said Valdez about the GWVets and the events offered.