Geraldine Gassam Griffith ‘09 received the Linguist of the Year award from the U.S. Department of State, recognizing Griffith’s dedication to public service through study of the Arabic language. In addition, the Middle East Policy Council named Griffith to their “40 Under 40” list for 2021.
“I’ve been in language training throughout nearly a decade of working and serving in the Middle East,” said Griffith. “Spending this much time in training meant that I didn’t take a more conventional path. However, it did ensure that when unexpected opportunities arose that required a high level of Arabic proficiency, I was ready.”
Griffith graduated from the Bush School of Government and Public Service with a Master of International Affairs in 2009. She said the Bush School prepared her for public service.
“I chose the Bush School because of its emphasis on the practical, real-world skills needed to succeed as a public servant: concise writing, persuasive public speaking, and a commitment to the greater good. To this day, I still draw on the lessons I learned from the Bush School in my work, and I appreciate the guidance and mentorship of my professors along the way,” she said.
Griffith went on to serve as a Political Advisor embedded with U.S. Special forces in Syria supporting the counter-ISIS campaign. She has also served in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, El Salvador, and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in Washington, DC.
Despite her demanding career in public service, Griffith has found a way to give back to the Bush School. She is currently an alumni representative on the Bush School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
“An important part of addressing discrimination and inequality in the United States is ensuring that the talent and potential of underrepresented students are supported and nurtured, so I jumped at the opportunity to support the Bush School’s DEI efforts. It is heartening to see firsthand the work being done by the Bush School to build a pipeline of talented students and instructors from all backgrounds who are committed to public service and bettering our world.”
For those hoping to work in the federal government or overseas, Griffin said language proficiency confers a valuable advantage. “I hope that this recognition encourages others who have struggled with language acquisition to stick with it,” she said. “There is no substitute for time, and it will eventually pay off.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.
By Micaela Burrow