A 2021 graduate of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, Charlotte Volpe is now serving as an Economic Officer with the U.S. Department of State. In her current position, she recently traveled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to serve in a temporary capacity with the U.S. Embassy there. In her role with the Embassy’s Economic Section she worked on a multitude of projects, including the planning of a U.S. Trade Show and the organization of an event with American scientists working on a National Science Foundation-funded project in Bangladesh.
Looking back on her recent experience abroad, Volpe shares that “it was great meeting our Bangladeshi counterparts in person while in Dhaka. I was able to meet with counterparts in the Government of Bangladesh as well as with U.S. business advocacy organizations.” She also talked about what life was like working in a U.S. Embassy, stating that it was challenging to complete both her day job, which involved meeting with contacts and focusing on USG programmatic and policy efforts on-the-ground in Bangladesh, while also balancing requests coming into post from Washington. Overall, Volpe found the experience to be an edifying one as she not only deepened her economics expertise, but also really enjoyed learning the realities of everyday life in Dhaka, along with gaining knowledge about Bangladesh’s history and culture.
Volpe got her start at the State Department following the completion of her Boren Fellowship in India. Specifically, while studying at Syracuse University, Volpe had the opportunity to take a gap year while completing her Masters in Public Administration and International Relations to take part in the Boren Fellowship. Speaking about her experience as a Boren Fellow, Volpe shares, “I honed the Hindi skills that I started while in college through daily, immersive language study, and learned so much about India’s complex and very fascinating political, social, and economic context.” This experience paired well with her overall graduate education at Syracuse University, which allowed her to step out of the day-to-day grind and think critically about her work, enabling her to see how what she was learning in school could advance broader U.S. foreign policy objectives, and the long-range impact of those policies.
As a Boren Fellow, Volpe secured her first role at the State Department as an Economic Officer in the Office of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Bhutan through the Boren hiring board. Thinking back to the early days of her career, Volpe comments, “I started the Economic Officer role with a basic background on broad economic issues, but I’ve learned so much on the job through exposure, especially on macroeconomics, and have enjoyed it so much.”
When asked about what has made her successful not only in her work with the State Department, but also as a graduate student and Boren Fellow, Volpe cites three things. The first is her study abroad experience as an undergraduate student at Barnard College. While studying abroad in Italy during her junior year, she had the opportunity to intern at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, which ignited her passion for international affairs and diplomacy. Volpe recounts, “I was fascinated with modern European history and Indian history in college,” and this experience motivated her to delve deeper into studying South Asia as a graduate student.
Volpe also credits the Robertson Foundation for Government as a key contributor to her success thus far, stating that becoming a Robertson Fellow opened the door to multiple opportunities that she would not have had otherwise. Volpe explains that “the network of RFG Fellows is fantastic, and I’ve learned so much from seeing other academic and career paths that Robertson Fellows have gone through.”
Finally, Volpe emphasizes the benefits of networking both for her personally, but also for any future aspiring students interested in a career in public service. She underscores that it’s important to keep in touch with friends from college, grad school, and the Robertson program because the “best way to learn about opportunities in the Federal Government is through your networks and you never know where your career interests with someone else may overlap!”
This article represents Charlotte Volpe’s personal thoughts and is not an official position of the U.S. government.