Written by Chris Farlow
The Master of Social Science program was an ideal fit for me personally and professionally. While I was serving on active duty, a traditional full residency graduate program was unmanageable due to frequent deployments and a hectic work schedule that involved unusual shifts and being on-call. The MSSc program at Syracuse offered many of the benefits of a traditional graduate school experience blended with the flexibility of distance learning and, of course, I was able to take off an occasional semester due to a deployment. After I attended the first residency, I established relationships with other students and faculty that I still maintain ten years later, and those interactions made the distance coursework much more rewarding.
As I transitioned from active duty into the reserves, the MSSc was an enormous help to me in being selected to become a U.S. diplomat. Of the 22 people who competed on my interview day with the State Department in 2010, only two of us were selected, and coincidentally (or not?), both of us were military veterans who had attended the Maxwell School. The program still continues to benefit my reserve career, and was a necessary part of being selected to the Foreign Area Officer program, which required an advanced degree in international or regional studies, and my MSSc degree was accredited. I now serve as a reserve defense attaché, representing the U.S. military in U.S. Embassies in Africa and the Middle East.
One thing I would like to emphasize to veterans is the advantage of a blended program like the MSSc program. If you’re simply pursuing your graduate degree purely by distance learning, you don’t often have the opportunity to socialize and trade ideas with high-caliber graduate students in professions far different than your own. At Syracuse, I remember some of my fellow students were college admissions officers, regional managers of non-profit charities, political strategists, and high School history teachers. They all had different perspectives on international affairs than I did, and I think that they gained perspective through academic exchange with a veteran.
Chris Farlow is currently the Vice Consul of the United States in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and previously served as a diplomat in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Washington, D.C. Prior to becoming a diplomat, he served eight years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He completed the MSSc program at Syracuse in 2009 and graduated from the University of South Florida in 2000. He continues to serve in the Air Force Reserve, as does his wife, Anne. He is originally from Bishopville, Maryland, and speaks English, French, and Russian.