Political Science student from MC gains valuable experience in D.C.

Seated in the audience at a forum of the Center of Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and surrounded by professionals in their 40s, 50s and 60s, 20-year-old Tan Wei was surprised by what happened next.

Pointing his direction for another question was the speaker, President Natsagin Bagabandi of Mongolia. “Good afternoon Mr. President, my name is Wei, Atlantic Council Of the United States, Asia programs.”

Tan, a senior at Marietta College, had the opportunity to utter these words as he spoke to the Mongolian president, who was addressing the CSIS Statesmen’s Forum. The excitement didn’t end there. In a serendipitous moment, Tan accidentally caught a glimpse of himself on CSPAN speaking with the president.

Tan, the son of Tan Wenbao and Wang Aidong of Chengdu, China, had the opportunity to study in Washington, D.C., during the 2004 spring semester and then again over the summer. A senior majoring in political science, Tan enjoyed his Washington Semester experience so much that he will serve as the Ambassador to Marietta for the American University program. Although Tan is graduating a semester early, he will soon be launching a campaign on campus to promote the program and recruit Marietta College students.

While in the nation’s capital, Tan worked with the Atlantic Council of the United States. The ACUS is a non-partisan and tax-exempt organization. The organization promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st century. Their programs include political, economic and security issues. The ACUS covers Asia, the Americas, and other regions in addition to Europe. All its programs are based on the conviction that a healthy transatlantic relationship is fundamental to progress in organizing a stronger international system.

Under the guidance of Dr. Banning Garrett, Director of the Asia Programs, and Jonathan Adams, Assistant Director of the Asia Programs at the ACUS, Tan worked as a research assistant. Besides daily office programming, Tan conducted extensive research focused primarily on providing informational reports and policy briefings for the Asia Programs projects on the cross-Strait relations, China’s policy on non-traditional security issues, Sino-American cooperation on weak and failing states as well as many others.

In addition to his contribution to the ACUS, Tan also performed marketing and publicity for the American Foreign Service Association’s leading magazine, the Foreign Service Journal.

AFSA’s principal missions are to enhance the effectiveness of the Foreign Service, to protect the professional interests of its members, to ensure the maintenance of high professional standards for both career diplomats and political appointees, and to promote understanding of the critical role of the Foreign Service in promoting America’s national security and economic prosperity.

The opportunity to work for these notable groups came to Tan’s attention after he traveled to Washington in December 2003 to participate in the Washington Semester Program at the American University during the spring until late April. While attending school, Tan was offered the opportunity to work an internship with the ACUS over the summer. Besides schooling and working, he also attended congressional hearings, seminars and lectures, and meetings with officials of the government and international organizations, foreign leaders, and diplomatic leaders.

“It feels absolutely excellent walking at a fast pace among all the professionals in the streets of Washington when all dressed up to go to work everyday,” he said. “Other than that, the three-months-plus working for Banning and Jon, as well as all other lovely people at the Council, has been a tremendous joy for me.”

Tan attributes much of his success in his work to what he has learned at Marietta College.

“Washington is a place all about practice, but if you have learned nothing about politics, there is nothing for you to practice,” he said. “Washington is always generous, but only for people who are not empty-handed. So, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all my professors.”

He believes the experience will help him succeed in his career. Washington provided a network of contacts for his study and future career.

“The business in Washington is power; and who you know in Washington is what you know,” Tan said. “Therefore, it is extremely important to have yourself exposed to what I call the Washingtonian business world, get yourself connected in proper manners, of course, and stay in touch. Your success is about your dedication and commitment.”

Since 1947, American University has offered the Washington Semester Program. The program offers experiential education where students learn by doing, participating, hearing, seeing, asking questions, interning, and much more. The idea behind the program is to take students out of the classroom and into the real world. Students gain experience and contacts to jump-start their careers. Marietta College is one of approximately 200 colleges and universities participating in the program.