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A unique opportunity

JMU graduates benefit from CISR's longstanding relationship with the Department of State

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Former FDK fellow Emma Smith Atkinson ('09) with a Norwegian People's Aid mine action worker in South Sudan.

SUMMARY: The Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Memorial Fellowship at the Department of State is administered by JMU's Center for International Stabilization and Recovery. The fellowship offers JMU graduates a unique opportunity for professional career development.

By Jessica Nickels, editorial assistant

A State Department fellowship administered by James Madison University’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery creates a unique opportunity for JMU graduates. These fellows are learning much more than professional skills; they are gaining worldly experiences that can be applied to any career field.

The Frasure-Kruzel-Drew Memorial Fellowship, established in 1999, is a two-year, paid, professional development program in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. 

“It provides fellows with great career advancement opportunities,” said Chief of Programs Jerry Guilbert, who supervises the fellowship. “It is very rare for someone [just] out of college to have a lot of direct, firsthand experience with managing funding and managing programs.”

The FKD fellowship honors the memories of Ambassador Robert C. Frasure, Dr. Joseph J. Kruzel and Col. Samuel Nelson Drew, all of whom lost their lives in a car accident in 1995 while traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a diplomatic mission to negotiate peace.

Since 1996, CISR and the State Department have been working together to raise awareness of landmines and other explosive remnants of war around the world. CISR leverages JMU faculty members’ expertise in providing resources, including research and training, to help individuals and communities rebuild in post-conflict environments. The center also publishes The Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction, the longest continuous source of information on conventional weapons destruction programs in the world, and an annual report for the State Department. 

Suzanne Fiederlein, interim director of CISR, said the fellowship grew out of a discussion between former  CISR director Dennis Barlow and the director of the Humanitarian Demining Program office at the Department of State, Donald “Pat” Patierno.

“As JMU was close to Washington, D.C., and with [CISR’s] experience and expertise, JMU was seen as an ideal partner for this internship,” Fiederlein said. “In the context of this formative period of the [Department of State Political-Military Affairs/Humanitarian Demining Program] office, a grant was set up to support the internship program.”

Amy Haupt ('20M) began her FKD Fellowship in 2020.

Because of this longstanding relationship, every year a JMU graduate is guaranteed in the FKD fellowship program. The other fellow is chosen from applications from around the country.

Current fellow and JMU alumna Amy Haupt (’20M) said she applied for the fellowship because “it seemed like an opportunity that was equally balanced with learning and growing professionally.” 

At first, Haupt, who earned a master’s degree in English from JMU, worried that the fellowship would not suit her because she was not a political science or justice studies major. But after a representative from the State Department visited one of her classes, she changed her mind. “He said, ‘Actually, we love hiring English majors because almost every role in the State Department has a considerable amount of writing and a lot of communication,’” Haupt said.

A geography major with a minor in political science, Daniel Gurley (’19) began his FKD fellowship in Fall 2019. 

“There’s no other opportunity that I’m going to find like this, and I’ve really gotten to learn so much about conventional weapons destruction and the various different aspects of that,” said Gurley, who learned of the fellowship while working as an office assistant at CISR.

Daniel Gurley ('19) (right) was an assistant with CISR before graduating and becoming a FKD Fellow.

“JMU has this culture of ‘If you can dream it, you can do it,’ and that really set me up for success at the State Department,” said former fellow Emma Smith Atkinson (’09), who majored in communication studies with a concentration in conflict analysis and intervention. “JMU helped me develop initiative as a skill, and they are really good at making you feel like you have great chances.”

Eric Keefer (’13, ’14M), a justice studies major at JMU who went on to earn a master’s degree in European Union Policy Studies, was a FKD fellow from 2014 to 2016.

During their time as a fellows, Eric Keefer ('13, '14M) (left) and Chris Murguia ('12) (center) had the opportunity to travel to the Regional Centre on Small Arms in Kenya, Africa. 

“JMU really benefits from an engaged community and an open, excited student body that is genuine and eager to learn,” Keefer said. “The faculty really enables and supports that, too. You have to have that same willingness to learn and do whatever it takes in school and in the workplace. For me, these skills were really homed in on while I was still a student.”

The fellows’ first year is spent in the Resource Management branch, where they are responsible for reporting audits, collecting and compiling data, working with grant officers and reviewing outputs and documents. The second year is spent in the Programs Management branch working with regional portfolios, facilitating email communication with organizations and partners, and creating reports.

Emma Smith Atkinson ('09) (fourth from right) with a group of HALO deminers in Sepon, Laos.

When it was created, the fellowship was a one-semester, unpaid internship. In 2006, CISR and the State Department began sharing ideas to transform the fellowship into a paid, professional development program.

“There was a lot of value that the fellows were bringing to the office, which prompted the first expansion of the program,” Guilbert said. “We found that after one year, the fellows began to hit their stride, and all that investment of building up their subject matter expertise went out the door.” 

In 2013, the program became the two-year, paid position that it is now.

By working in Washington, D.C., fellows gain unique hands-on experience working with other nations as well as with foreign policy, assets management and national security.

Atkinson (center) in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, with former Undersecretary for Arms and Control and International Security Affairs, Andrea Thompson (right). 

“When I came in, I was given what I felt like were big, real, important, adult things to work on as soon as I was in the office, which was different from what my friends were experiencing in their internships and first jobs,” said Atkinson, who was offered a full-time position within the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement following her fellowship, and now serves as branch chief.  

Keefer, who is now a program manager in the office, said the fellowship provided a great foundation for his career. “It was a really good learning experience for when I was put into a position to make decisions,” he said. “It was the easiest transition I could have imagined into the job.”

Brenna Matlock ('14) by The Broken Chair in Geneva, Switzerland, while attending the International Meeting of Mine Action National Directors and United Nations Advisers. The sculpture was commissioned by Handicap International to bring awareness to victims of landmine violence. 

Brenna Matlock (’14) is CISR’s senior project manager, program coordinator and fellowship coordinator. A justice studies major at JMU with a minor in Asian studies, Matlock was also a FKD fellow in 2014-15.

“Even though you might be new to an organization and given real responsibilities, you can do it,” Matlock said. “You learn and grow and start doing things you could have never imagined. 

“I was given a platform where I could succeed and build my confidence,” she said, “and that’s thanks to JMU, CISR and the State Department.”


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Published: Monday, March 22, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, June 7, 2021

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