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TFAS Mentor Program Provides Resources for Students to Expand Network


TFAS students and alumni know firsthand the value of mentorship. Offered to students in our Washington, D.C. Academic Internship Program, the TFAS Mentor Program connects students with professionals who provide career guidance, resume advice, insider tips and networking opportunities over the course of the program.

Welcome to the TFAS Network

Matthew Ellias ’18 was completing his third year at the University of Delaware when he decided to pursue an internship in the nation’s capital. When the then international relations major sought after the ultimate D.C. experience, he applied and was accepted to the TFAS Academic Internship Program in 2018.

Ellias ’18 (center left) participated in International Affairs program track geared toward preparing students for a career in foreign policy, intelligence, international development, diplomacy or national security.

“TFAS provides such a good introduction to the D.C. world,” Ellias said. “Not only does the program allow you to intern somewhere, but it also allows you to build broader connections in the D.C. community. That was something that was really impressive to me.”

During his summer internship with Defense Priorities, Ellias participated in TFAS networking events, guest lectures and site briefings that introduced him to D.C. area professionals in his field, and the TFAS Mentor Program tied all of the opportunities together. It was through the mentor program that Ellias made one of his most lasting and consequential connections: his mentor, Zach Pagovski ’10, PPF ’12.

Zach Pagovski ’10, PPF ’12, currently works as a partnerships officer at the German Marshall Fund.

A participant of the TFAS Prague program in 2010, Pagovski – like Ellias – had always been interested in pursuing a career in international affairs. After graduating from the American University in Bulgaria in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in European studies, political science and international relations, Pagovski moved to the United States to pursue his master’s degree in international affairs at the American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C.

Throughout his academic and professional career in Washington, Pagovski interned with the United Nations and was selected to participate in the TFAS Public Policy Fellowship in 2012. Today, he works as a partnerships officer at the German Marshall Fund (GMF), where he has been since 2012.

Strong Bonds Lead to Invaluable Opportunities

It was no coincidence that Ellias and Pagovski were matched as a mentor/mentee pair. TFAS staff takes care to pair each student with D.C. area professionals based on common factors such as career interests, hometowns, alma maters or political ideology.

Not only does the program allow you to intern somewhere, but it also allows you to build broader connections in the D.C. community. That was something that was really impressive to me.” – Matthew Ellias ’18

Pagovski said what he enjoyed most about mentoring Ellias was their shared interest in diplomacy and international affairs, which allowed Pagovski to guide Ellias as he began his career. Through Pagovski’s advice and mentorship, Ellias ultimately applied and was accepted for an internship with Pagovski in strategic partnerships at GMF for the fall 2019 to spring 2020 term.

Liberty Fund Seminar 10-7-2017
Pagovski ’10, PPF ’12, also participated in a marathon weekend of learning and discussions in a three-day seminar on “Philanthropy and Liberty” in 2017.

“When I initially talked to Matt, he said he was interested in pursuing a master’s degree, so I talked him through what the top schools are, his graduate application strategy and how to strengthen his profile to be a competitive applicant,” Pagovski said. “After mentoring him for the summer, we still talked a lot about his professional career and how to build his resume.”

A graduate student at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Ellias believes that his TFAS mentorship with Pagovski has allowed him to forge his own career path by receiving guidance from a young professional who was once in his shoes.

“It was really great being able to meet and build a relationship with someone who has similar interests as me, but is also a few years ahead of me in his career,” Ellias said. “There are a lot of different paths available to you, and it’s good to be able to talk to someone who can show you things that will help you move down your path, whether it be tips on your graduate school application or professional opportunities.”

The 2020 TFAS Virtual Mentorship

Although the 2020 students won’t meet their mentors in person, the 2020 TFAS Virtual Summer is no exception to the lasting connections and valuable contacts students will make. The mentor program officially began on Wednesday, June 17, with a kickoff call and orientation meeting. Mentor and mentee pairings heard from advice from alumni and staff, and mentors connected with students to begin sharing valuable advice.

Alumna Brittany Hackett ’07, PPF ’15, shared her excitement for this year’s program during the Virtual Mentor Program kickoff meeting. A TFAS mentor since 2009, Hackett believes that both mentees and mentors gain valuable professional development skills through the TFAS Mentor Program.

Brittany Hackett ’07, PPF ’15, meets her two mentees during the 2018 TFAS Mentor Breakfast. Hackett addressed the mentor and student pairs at the Virtual Mentor Program kickoff meeting on June 17.

“Over the years I’ve met some amazing students and amazing individuals, and the thing that I love the most about this program is that I get as much out of it as the students do,” Hackett said. “It’s been a really great pipeline for both personal connections and professional experience.”

More than 100 D.C.-area professionals have volunteered for this year’s virtual mentorship program, many of whom signed up to mentor more than one student. This summer’s mentors also include 74 TFAS alumni, and all are returning mentors who have volunteered previously for the TFAS Mentor Program.

Over the course of the summer, students will virtually meet with their mentors for weekly professional development sessions, covering topics like resumes, cover letters and networking tips and more.

Despite the program being held remotely this year, Pagovski knows the TFAS Mentor Program will still provide students with the unique opportunity to build a strong connection with their mentors, setting them up for future success.

“My advice to mentees this summer is to really take this opportunity and be proactive with your mentors in asking for advice and support,” Pagovski said. “Try to build a very strong relationship with your mentors so that they can help you grow in your career and academic field.”

For more information on the TFAS Mentor Program, visit TFAS.org/Mentor.


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