Timothy Ponce had a clear message to Anderson University students when he spoke recently about his experiences working abroad.
“If you are interested in a career in foreign affairs,” said Ponce, “I’ve been in your shoes. Let me tell you now — you can do it from Anderson.”
Ponce, a 1998 AU grad, spoke to history and political science students about the time he spent working for the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer in places such as the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Qatar.
[Photo: Timothy Ponce is pictured in Jerusalem with fellow AU students during a study abroad experience.]
Serving primarily in a consular role, Ponce was charged with protecting and promoting American citizens and their interests abroad. At times, Americans find themselves needing assistance dealing with local authorities or getting in touch with a loved one back home. His office helped those citizens.
Ponce said it was a great experience to live and work abroad, but that it also had its challenges. He came into contact with poverty, crime, and the threat of terrorism every day. Ultimately, those experiences helped him to better understand the many differences that separated him from the people of those regions, but the experiences also allowed him to live life from their perspective. “Sharing those daily experiences helped all of us in my department to become stronger global leaders," he said.
Ponce said AU provided him with opportunities to develop essential skills, such as diplomacy and compromise, through practical learning in the Model United Nations program.
“Most importantly,” said Ponce, “through participation in any of the Model United Nations programs, you realize that the education you get at Anderson is every bit as good as the kids that are there from Harvard and Yale. It is a program that any one with interest in a foreign affairs career should get involved in, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Additionally, Ponce’s semester studying abroad in Syria through AU’s partnership with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities broadened his cultural insight and prepared him for a career abroad. Ponce said every student should consider a study abroad program, because it is important to understand other cultures and how they relate to all facets of life.
He explained that the cultural connections he made during his study abroad, along with the liberal arts background he gained from Anderson, helped him score highly on the Foreign Service Exam — a requirement to become a foreign service officer with the State Department.
Ponce continues to work within the U.S. State Department.
Dr. Joel Shrock, associate professor of history at AU, noted that while Ponce is not the first AU grad to become a foreign service officer, he is one of the more recent examples of how the AU experience directly translates into a career.
“It’s just so much more effective when successful graduates can illustrate how their AU degrees and their experiences on campus have influenced them," Shrock said. “The one thing I hope students heard is that what they are doing now matters for their future. The work now, although it may not seem like it matters, is creating the basis of skills that will ultimately determine success or failure.”
— Charles Holcomb is a sophomore from Westfield, Ind., majoring in communication arts and political science. Holcomb is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.