The UNG Alumni Association sponsors the 1873 Alumni Speaker Series, and for the fifth presentation of the series, “double” PSIA graduate Ash Harris was the guest speaker. Ash graduated from UNG in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs, and in 2021 with a Master of Arts in International Affairs, and lives in Wilkesboro, NC with his wife.

Ash Harris currently works at Samaritan’s Purse International Relief. He works in Security Department for their international security where he oversees and teaches the best practices for overseas personnel, as they have presence in extreme risk countries. “The journey to end up here started about 10 years ago,” Ash said.

Ash originally was planning on enlisting in the Army instead of going to college. He ended up joining the Army Reserves in 2007 and enrolling at UNG, being part of Corps of Cadets. Ash deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. Following his tour of duty he returned to UNG to complete his undergrad studies, graduating in 2014. He married in 2015, worked construction management for a couple years, and then found a way his way to Samaritan’s Purse.

Ash reflected on his time at UNG, and remembered the organizations that he was a part of. He was involved in the PSIA Club for about one year. He was also a part of the Men’s Rugby Club which he joined in 2011 and was on the team for 3 years. During his 3 years on the team, Ash acted as the first the Treasurer, the Secretary, and eventually the Vice President of the Club. Ash also talked about some influential people in his life, and at UNG. He praised Dr. Cristian Harris for being “gracious” and for understanding what he needed and keeping him “on track.” He also thanked Dr. Armstrong-Williams for her knowledge and resourcefulness, as he had classes taught by her. Ash also talked about how important his mother is. “She is the one who instilled a work ethic in me, “ Ash said

Ash was asked what his career aspirations are and he explained how he got interested in his dream job. In his last semester at UNG, there was a Diplomat in Residence from the State Department that came and spoke about the life of a foreign service officer. That is when Ash realized that being a FSO is what he wanted to do. He has always had a desire to live and work overseas, specifically the Middle East or East Africa.

Ash ended up taking the Foreign Service Officer Test and failed by ½ point. He had to wait one. year to retake the test, and when he did, he passed but did not get through to the second phase. Ash said that he “realized that time and experience” is what he needed to get his dream job. He applied again in November 2019 and was brought to Washington DC one year later for a panel interview – afterwards, which he accepted an offer of employment to join the State Department.

To wrap up the interview, Ash was asked what piece of advice he would like to share with students, future students and alumni. “Learn the meaning of stewardship,” said Ash. “Take advantage of the opportunities and resources that are available to you.”

[Editor’s Note: This article is drawn from an interview with Ash by UNG’s Alumni Association. The interview was part of the Association’s 1873 Alumni Speaker’s Series. To see the entire interview visit our YouTube page at: The Political Science & International Affairs Department thanks the Alumni Association for making the original interview available to us so we can share it with you in this format here.]