When Dave Fujimoto gives a presentation, it is like sitting in the Situation Room in the White House or the Pentagon. His strong presence and tone immediately commands the attention of an audience, no matter the topic. A second-year Master of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, Fujimoto owes his expertise in public speaking and on a host of topics to his twenty-two years as an Air Force staff officer and aviator.
“I like public speaking,” said Fujimoto with confidence. “I didn’t always like to do that, but I got to the point in my career where I was very comfortable talking to senior people about information.”
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fujimoto spent over two decades in military service, primarily flying AC-130s and remotely piloted aircraft. He participated in missions in the Middle East and Africa and served a tour at the Pentagon, retiring in 2015. Wanting to continue his service in a civilian setting, he decided to enroll in the Bush School’s MPSA program.
“I felt the values as well as the academic and networking opportunities offered by Texas A&M and the Bush School would give me opportunities to find other ways to serve the citizens of the United States,” Fujimoto said.
Known among his classmates as “Fuji,” Fujimoto quickly stepped into a leadership role at the Bush School, not only in his classes but also as chief of the Bush School Ambassadors, a group that represents the School on the Texas A&M campus and at conferences and speaker presentations hosted by the School or the George Bush Foundation.
“I’m really proud of Ambassadors because of the way they represent the School,” Fujimoto said. “All Bushies have a story to tell about why they chose the School and public service, and I think being an Ambassador provides a lot of opportunities to talk about the students who will be the next generation of public servants. I really enjoy telling that story and seeing others tell the story.”
The former Air Force aviator often shares his military experiences in the classroom, emphasizing the importance of professionalism in a career. He also offers guidance to his fellow students on their presentation skills, both as a leader and as a supporter of his fellow students.
“When you have gained knowledge and skill, it’s really important to pass it on and share the expertise,” Fujimoto said. “I was the beneficiary of some superb mentoring when I was in the military, and I want to share the things I learned.”
Aside from the academic knowledge gained at the School, Fujimoto has also learned the value of public service in non-military occupations.
“Being at the Bush School has shown me many ways people can serve other than in uniform,” Fujimoto said. “I now appreciate the value of public service, whether in government, a nonprofit organization, or serving a cause or an issue.”
Fujimoto was able to utilize his renewed perspective on public service over the summer at the state capitol in Austin as a fellow in the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Given his lengthy professional career, Fujimoto was not required to fulfill the Bush School internship requirement. His drive to fully immerse himself in public service, however, led him to a summer in the state capitol, working with the Governor’s Texas Military Preparedness Commission (TMPC). The Commission seeks to make Texas the “state of choice” for military exercises and defense contracts and to encourage the expansion or relocation of defense-related industry in Texas.
“The time spent in Austin greatly enhanced my knowledge of the executive branch of state government and its current and future priorities for the State of Texas,” Fujimoto said. “I was really pleased with my experience. I gained a lot of insight and knowledge that was only possible working in the capitol.”
The internship also meant three months in Austin away from his wife and two children. However, as a man who has served twelve tours of duty, Fujimoto noted that being a graduate student has benefitted his family; and he relishes his new “fulltime” job.
Now in his final year at the Bush School, Fujimoto is already looking ahead to his next career move. He is excited by the many opportunities afforded to him through the network he built at the Bush School and the TMPC as well as during his military experience, and he is committed to public service in his future.
“The tradition of service at the Bush School and Texas A&M makes it incumbent on graduates to make a difference,” Fujimoto said. “You’re part of the legacy of President Bush and the Bush School, and you’re forever a representative of this institution.”