February 12, 2015

Foreign Service Officer Teaches Course Based on Experience in Energy Diplomacy

Mordica Simpson, deputy economic counselor at the U.S. embassy in Bogota, Colombia, joins Georgetown as a Rusk Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

At the embassy in Bogota, Simpson assisted the Colombian government with its new efforts to produce shale oil and gas with the goal of improving the country’s energy landscape. She met with public and private sector leaders and coordinated with American businesses that operated in Colombia.

In spring 2015, Simpson will share her experiences in Colombia with undergraduates in her course “Energy Diplomacy, Latin America, and the United States: A Changing Dynamic.”

Rusk Fellowship

Each year, the Dean and Virginia Rusk Fellowship enables two mid-level diplomats in the Foreign Service to spend a sabbatical year at Georgetown. Since 1985, Rusk Fellows have conducted research, written on topics of interest, and taught undergraduate or graduate courses during their tenure. Along with Simpson, Miriam Awad (MSB’97) is also serving as a Rusk Fellow in 2014-2015.

According to the director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD), Ambassador Barbara Bodine, the purpose of the fellowship is two-fold. On one hand, the Department of State and military officers are able to reflect on their experiences and conduct research that will help further their careers. On the other hand, the Georgetown community has the opportunity to learn firsthand from key members of the Foreign Service.

“It’s a win-win, the essence of diplomacy,” Bodine said.

Building on Experience

In order to make the most out of the experience, the ISD and the State Department often select fellows who are on the cusp of transitioning to the most senior levels of the Foreign Service.

Simpson fits this description. Over her 10 years in the Foreign Service as a political officer, she has served in Guatemala and twice in Colombia. In Washington, she has had assignments as the Brazil desk officer and as the special assistant to the undersecretary for political affairs.

Simpson hopes to use her experience as a Rusk Fellow to bring a wider perspective on energy resources to the Department of State.

Connecting Practitioners with Students

Connecting diplomatic practitioners with the academic community is the mission of Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, established in 1978 as part of the School of Foreign Service.

Simpson helps to achieve that through her spring course, which requires students to write independent research papers and collaborate as a whole class to develop a policy document on how the United States could or should change its energy policy with Latin America.

“I hope they get a taste of how challenging it is to deal with these issues on a day-to-day basis,” Simpson said. “Sometimes it’s easy to think you have the perfect solution, but I want to convey how difficult it can be to implement those policies and navigate the interagency process."

Simpson says she has enjoyed her time at Georgetown, and one of the best parts of her sabbatical is interacting with students.

“Because so many students at Georgetown are interested in a career in the Foreign Service, they want to engage with practitioners who have recent, real-world experiences," said Simpson.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.