Baylor Alumna Speaks On Life In The Foreign Service

Oct. 10, 2003

by Marianne May, student writer

"Life in the Foreign Service is a unique lifestyle," Baylor University alumna Pamela Tremont told students and faculty when she spoke on campus Oct. 7 as part of the Council for International Education's Global Issues lecture series.

Tremont, first secretary of political-military affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, earned her bachelor's degree in political science and her master's degree in international relations at Baylor. She was invited to speak about her career and offer advice to those interested in a job with the Foreign Service.

Working in political-military affairs, Tremont determines conditions for the success of new U.S. foreign policies in Turkey and then makes recommendations to the U.S on what they should or should not expect from Turkey.

"I try to put myself in their shoes," she said, speaking of the Turkish people she works with. "If I can't understand where they're coming from, then I won't be able to explain [new policies] to them."

Tremont is finishing a two-year tour in Turkey and is currently bidding for her next post. The bidding process is highly competitive, and Tremont said that she beat out 17 other officers for her current position.

Location makes a difference, Tremont said, because she lives, works and socializes with the same group of people. "The Foreign Service is not a job--it's definitely a lifestyle," she said.

For Tremont, her choice of career has placed her in the minority. "I regret to say that the percentage of women [in the Foreign Service] remains stuck at 30 percent," she said.

Tremont said that many women start careers in the Foreign Service, but most end up leaving because their husbands have a difficult time finding jobs in the private sector.

"Most of my female colleagues have since resigned so that their spouses can pursue more lucrative jobs," she said.

Tremont explained that students interested in joining the Foreign Service would be required to take a written and an oral exam and then go through an interviewing process.

Before taking the exam, students must choose a political, economic, consular, management or public affairs career track. She said management positions are the most undersubscribed jobs, while political jobs are the most competitive and, ideally, someone interested in becoming a Foreign Services officer should be extroverted, flexible and analytical. She said that skills in learning new languages are also valuable.

During a question-and-answer time at the end of her lecture, a student asked Tremont how she handles personal disagreements with U.S. policies that she has to promote and implement.

"It can be really difficult," she said. "I've found that policy changes don't affect my level so much, but some people do end up leaving partly because of personal disagreements. For me, I think it's a question of wanting to be part of the solution rather than resigning and having no say at all."

With anti-American sentiment on the rise, Tremont has her work cut out for her, but she said she enjoys working in Turkey and has a genuine desire to see the country succeed.

"In recent years, Turkey has done a lot to improve relations with its neighbors," she said, "It can be a very useful mediator."

Tremont's own mediation skills recently were put to the test when she gained permission for three Baylor professors--Dr. Mark Long, Dr. Bill Mitchell and Bill Baker--to travel across Turkey's border and into Iraq in August.

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