SIA student goes above and beyond at U.S. Embassy in Berlin

SIA student and U.S. Army Captain Jason Isgrigg

When U.S. Army Captain Jason Isgrigg began his internship at the United States Embassy in Berlin this summer, he was asked to go above and beyond the duties of their standard interns.

“Because of my experience level, they didn’t employ me as a traditional intern,” the Army intelligence officer said. “They treated me as a junior to mid-grade foreign service officer. When I started, I was given 48 hours to write a cable on German-Turkish relations.”

Being asked to write an official diplomatic document concisely summarizing international relations as his first task was challenging, but Isgrigg said his experience in the Army and his studies at the Penn State School of International Affairs prepared him to work in the high-stakes field of international diplomacy.

“A number of the courses I’ve taken, especially with former Ambassador Dennis Jett, focused heavily on diplomacy and foreign policy, so I could appreciate and relate those lessons as I saw it actually happening,” Isgrigg said. “His courses really prepared me to succeed in this internship.”

Over the course of the summer, Isgrigg went on to write four more official diplomatic cables, including three additional updates on German-Turkish relations. Isgrigg also hosted visiting dignitaries at the Berlin embassy, trained new interns, attended diplomatic meetings, wrote briefing and decision memos, and assisted with research and drafting official position statements of U.S. foreign policy—knowing that some of the materials he helped research and write went as high up the chain of command as the president’s desk.

“At first I was a bit taken aback, but also incredibly excited, that I was trusted with such high-profile work,” Isgrigg said. “It was exciting to watch the back-and-forth, to see diplomacy and foreign policy executed and conducted live.”

Isgrigg credits the SIA Career Services Office for helping him take advantage of this opportunity, as it was Career Services Director Grant Littke who first informed him of the State Department application deadline. And now that Isgrigg is back stateside, he’s looking forward to applying his new diplomatic experience to his studies at SIA.

“I came back with a great appreciation of the work and the dedication of foreign service officers. They are very committed to foreign policy and diplomacy, and work very hard and stay until the job is done—something I could identify with being in the military,” Isgrigg said. “Bringing that experience back here is really going to help me succeed.”