Tulsa native speaks at TCC about foreign service work
BY SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 07, 2013
2/07/13 at 6:20 AM
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Getting to meet actors such as Martin Sheen and Reese Witherspoon and four-star generals such as Wes Clark, or getting to sit in on meetings with the secretary of state doesn't happen every day.
Foreign service officer James Kuykendall said those are some of the perks of his job with the State Department.
Kuykendall, a 2004 Wright Christian Academy graduate, spent Wednesday morning telling stories, some fun and others not, to students at Tulsa Community College's Southeast Campus.
Kuykendall, who just finished a two-year tour in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, has spent part of his time at home between assignments talking with area college students about working for the State Department and his international experience as part of the Hometown Diplomats Program.
"I learned about the foreign service in college," he said. "I hope to plant the seed and get the word out there."
Rebecca Major, who served in the Air Force, is attending TCC to finish her sociology degree and wants eventually to work in emergency disaster crisis management.
She attended Kuykendall's talk Wednesday to see whether the foreign service could be a good fit for her and her family. Major has two daughters, ages 11 and 5.
Kuykendall told her that most people in the foreign service come to it as a second or third career and that the State Department encourages its officers to take their families with them and offers education allowances.
"I'm much closer to 40 than 30," Major said. "I wasn't discouraged when he talked about second careers and being able to bring your family."
Kuykendall explained the process for people interested in foreign service. It all starts with a written exam.
"There's no requirements for specific majors, specific degrees," he said. "Take the written exam. You have nothing to lose."
After the written test, there are additional essay questions, an oral exam and an optional language test if the applicant speaks a foreign language.
Perseverance, Kuykendall noted, is a necessity. The entire process can take two years.
"Most people don't pass it (the test) the first time, including me," he said.
The State Department operates 256 posts in 180 countries in addition to its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Bonnie Paige is an adjunct professor of American history and government at TCC, but before she started teaching, she worked for the State Department as a foreign service officer for 27 years, working in Scotland, Venezuela, Colombia, Greece, Panama and England.
"I wanted to see the world and have adventures," Paige said. "I did that in spades. But there were very rough times."
Despite the recent violence at U.S. embassies overseas, Kuykendall said the number of people interested in foreign service hasn't seemed to drop, and neither has the demand.
"It's not a risk-free business," he said. "They tell you right up front. That's something everyone knows going in."
Even with those risks, Kuykendall said there's nothing else he wants to do.
"I do this job because I enjoy the day-to-day work," he said. "For me, I'd like to stay in foreign service as long as I can."
Original Print Headline: Foreign service officer speaks at TCC about job
Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
James Kuykendall: He graduated from Wright Christian Academy in 2004