It’s 7 a.m. on a chilly fall morning in Washington. TFAS alumnus Anthony Shop (ICPES 03) is full of energy as he directs a film crew and a handful of TFAS staff members in preparation for a busy day shooting alumni and student interviews in various locations around the District. The videos are just one part of a major online recruitment project that Shop’s digital communication company Social Driver has been working on with TFAS.
“It’s been great working with Anthony. Not only is he an amazing communication strategist, but he is an active TFAS alumnus to boot,” said Erin Brett, director of communications at TFAS. “His knowledge and passion for our programs and our mission makes his work that much more impactful.”
Shop’s relationship with TFAS began in 2003 when he was studying for his bachelor’s degree at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. “My professor, Gary Armstrong, had done ICPES when he was in college, and he recommended the program to me,” said Shop.
According to Shop it was a challenge to be in a new place and to get his studies done while working at a demanding internship. “Some days I felt overwhelmed, but then I also realized that if I could do all of that, I could do anything,” he said.
According to Shop, one of the best parts of the program was his internship with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. While there Shop worked directly with the agency’s sole economist.
“My internship really opened my eyes and pulled back the curtain on a variety of opportunities,” said Shop. “When you go to college in a place like Missouri, you get a great education, but if you don’t interact with people in different fields, you just don’t even know what kind of opportunities exist.”
After graduation, Shop began working for an organization that was involved with the TFAS programs in Greece and Hong Kong. One day during the summer of 2006 when Shop was in Hong Kong, he heard a compelling story about a then-IIPES student named Roy Abdo (IIPES 06, CSS 07) who had left his home in Lebanon to attend IIPES only a few hours before a conflict broke out between Israel and Hezbollah – a conflict that turned the Beirut runways into a pile of rubble. Now, three weeks later, Abdo was faced with the reality that he would not be able to return home for the fall.
“I remember vividly. It was midnight in Hong Kong, and it was noon in Kansas City. I picked up the phone and called William Jewell’s president David Sallee, whom I had gotten to know as editor of my school paper,” explained Shop. “I said, ‘this is Anthony Shop. I’m calling from Hong Kong, and I have a student from Greece who can’t get home to Lebanon. I’d like to know if you can give him a scholarship for the fall.’ Without even missing a beat he said, ‘yup, we’ll do it.’”
After that Shop organized a group comprised of TFAS alumni and other students from William Jewell to help raise money for Abdo’s flight to the United States, his incidentals and some winter clothing. The group also joined forces to help him set up a job on campus.
“Anthony is the kind of person who makes things happen. I know this firsthand,” recalled Abdo. “The scholarship that he arranged for me at William Jewell made great things happen in my life. It kick-started my current success. But the part that’s really amazing is that Anthony had never met me before. He was putting in hours of work for someone who was a complete stranger. Anthony is one of a rare breed of people who embody true leadership.”
The next semester, Abdo was given a partial scholarship from TFAS to attend Capital Semester. Again, Shop stepped up to the plate. He did another round of outreach to help raise the additional funds, and Abdo was able to attend the program. Additionally, when Abdo said he would like to complete his coursework at William Jewell, Shop was quick to fundraise and help him earn the money to stay at the school.
“It was pretty cool to be able to go to the graduation ceremony at William Jewell and see Roy in his cap and gown and watch him graduate,” said Shop.
The two alumni have remained close friends since Abdo’s graduation, and both now live in Washington, D.C. where they are an active part of the TFAS alumni network.
“You know, this really isn’t a story about me. It’s a story about the TFAS community,” said Shop. “I felt so much closer to TFAS after that experience.”
Since moving back to Washington, Shop has earned his MBA from The George Washington University and is now co-owner of Social Driver where he helps businesses and organizations like TFAS figure out ways to accomplish their mission using social technology.
“It’s really an exciting time to be in this line of work because technology has changed so much over the past few decades,” said Shop. “We’re challenged with helping folks continue to do great work, but to do it better because today they can do it more efficiently thanks to the tools that are now available.”
The first round of Shop’s project with TFAS was completed this fall with the launch of a new recruitment website for U.S. programs. Shop will continue his partnership with TFAS throughout 2013 as Social Driver takes on a new recruitment website for TFAS International and develops a recruitment Facebook application.