As Lisa Burkholder ’08 travels the world, her education at Lebanon Valley College has proved instrumental in deepening and expanding her worldview. Impactful and engaging academic experiences—such as an immersive European Union course—helped provide the political science major with the skills she needed to succeed in pursuing a global career with the U.S. State Department.
“As a result of my history and political science classes at LVC I believe I am more interested in learning new things about the places where I live overseas,” affirms Burkholder. “I am very interested in learning more about the history and current events of the world around me, enabling me to have a greater appreciation for the places I live.”
This international appreciation led Burkholder to volunteer with a human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Kolkata, India, after graduating from LVC. Here, she spent a year with the International Justice Mission doing administrative work in their field office.
“I liked living overseas and getting to know another city, region, and country by living there instead of just hearing about it, as well as being able to learn more about these areas over a period of months instead of days,” explains Burkholder.
Following her experience in India, Burkholder returned to the United States to work as a legislative secretary for State Representative Seth Grove (R-York) at his Harrisburg office. While she enjoyed using her political science background in the field, Burkholder found herself drawn to a life overseas.
“About a month or so before I left India another volunteer told me about her sister-in-law who was a foreign service officer with the State Department,” recalls Burkholder. “I kept thinking about applying for the next few years and then finally decided to apply for a job with the State Department in 2012.”
This application resulted in her current position at the State Department as an Office Management Specialist (OMS). An OMS can be posted domestically and internationally and assist various sections in embassies and consulates with administrative work. They can also serve as executive assistants to ambassadors, principle officers who are in charge of consulates, and deputy chiefs of mission who are the second in charge at embassies. For her first post in Jakarta, Indonesia, Burkholder spent two years in the economic section and worked in the executive office for the ambassador and deputy chief of mission.
Burkholder says she enjoyed the variety of the job and working throughout several offices in the embassy. One of the more memorable opportunities during her employment was assisting in the signing of the two Memorandums of Understanding between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and two Indonesian ministers during Kerry’s visits to Jakarta.
Burkholder is currently undergoing five months of French training in Washington, D.C., in order to prepare for her second overseas post in Dakar, Senegal. Once the training is complete, she will be working in the security office in an administrative capacity.
“I’m looking forward to working in a different office and living in and learning more about the culture and life in West Africa and Senegal,” says Burkholder.