While serving the United States overseas, 2002 College and Wharton graduate Matthew Asada has seen diversity and diplomacy go hand in hand.
Last night, Penn students and alumni joined together in the Amado Recital Hall at Irvine Auditorium to hear Asada’s stories from abroad.
After studying in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, Asada became a foreign service officer for the U.S. Foreign Service in Pakistan.
At the age of 22, “there I was, responsible for this post halfway around the world,” he said.
Since then, he has worked in Germany, India and Afghanistan, promoting American interests like ensuring traveler safety overseas and increasing domestic security in volatile regions. He currently works as a Career Development Officer for the U.S. Department of State. He previously worked as American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow representing Detroit, working on trade relations between the United States and Canada.
During the conversation, moderated by Director of Multicultural Outreach at Penn Alumni Relations and 1995 Wharton graduate Nicole Maloy, Asada discussed the challenges of a career in international diplomacy.
“The profession of diplomacy has gotten more dangerous in the last couple of years,” he said, recalling driving in armored vehicles in Pakistan and rocket attacks on military bases during his time in Afghanistan.
Regardless of the risks, he thinks that his career choice has been worthwhile because of “the motivation to do something against this violence in our world.”
The event was hosted by Multicultural Outreach at Penn Alumni Relations, an organization that focuses on promoting diverse cultural events for students and alumni. With recent discussions about diversity on campus, students were eager to hear about how diversity has affected Asada’s line of work.
As a fourth-generation Japanese American in the field of foreign relations, he emphasized the importance of diversity “to be able to navigate between cultures. It’s just understanding not everyone operates the same way you do.”
Asada also stressed how much he valued the diversity among his peers, who differ in race, sexuality, age and educational backgrounds.
The speaker’s candidness about his life in the foreign service sparked interest among audience members.
“I’ve always been kind of curious about careers in the public sector,” College and Wharton senior Mike Chen said. “This is something that I would consider for the future.”
Reflecting on his experiences during his time at Penn, Asada said the most important lesson he learned was that Penn has an important role to play in the community and across the world.
“I realized that the footprint of our institution is not limited to Philadelphia … we actually have an impact that can be felt all around the world,” he said. “The University not only has the opportunity, but the obligation, to address some of the problems the world is facing.”
College junior Mana Ghaemmaghami, who attended the event to learn more about careers in foreign service, was impressed by Asada’s experience and advice.
“What seemed to come through was the dedication and passion for what he does,” she said.
This story has been updated to reflect Asada was previously American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. He is currently a Career Development Office for the U.S. Department of State.