Frank Leija, a 2006 graduate of the Master of Arts in Diplomacy program shares his career experiences, including being a White House Fellow.
The best choice I made was deciding to join the Norwich family. My Norwich education and experience was instrumental in maximizing my White House service, my military career as a field-grade officer, and I am certain it will do the same for my future goals.
I had the opportunity to interact with several Norwich alumni as a captain in my Army career, which helped me to understand how close the Norwich alum family is. Joining the military as a private and completing my undergraduate degree during the evenings at Kansas State University, while on active-duty, gave me a unique perspective as a commissioned officer. My first lesson as new second lieutenant was on the value of belonging to military academy alumni family. I appreciated the depth and commitment that fellow officers had for one another when they belonged to same alum family. Regrettably, my most impactful lesson on this topic came in November of 2004. A helicopter crash killed Colonel James M. Moore, Norwich class of 1980. At the time I was a young captain. My brigade commander was assigned as the Casualty Assistance Officer, and he shared with me the strong respect and admiration he gained for the Norwich alum family. My commander belonged to the West Point alum family, yet he was shocked to learn that another military academy’s alum family could be so strong.
My conclusion from that experience was that when it mattered most, the Norwich family was truly there for you and your family. At my first opportunity I selected Norwich for my graduate studies in diplomacy.
I selected the diplomacy field of study at Norwich because of its relevance to post-conflict military operations and foundation in international law, politics, and economics. This decision led me to an incredible number of opportunities. I became a military strategist, a School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) graduate, a member of the Chairman’s Joint Staff (consulting for the Pacific Command’s global response simulation exercises), an Assistant Professor at West Point, and a Special Advisor (as a White House Fellow) to the Secretary of Homeland Security—all stemming from the decision to attend Norwich. The quality in education, the ability to learn from student peers that are full-time professionals, and the alumni support all contributed to a level of strategic ability that took me from one opportunity to the next. Either by direct contact with alums throughout government or by the academic foundation that Norwich provided me, each step of my career benefited from my Norwich experience.
During my tenure at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), I was able to connect the needs of our country with graduates of Norwich’s Homeland Security program. DHS does not have military academies to pull young talent into career fields throughout the department. Seeing the Department’s Chief Learning Officer’s eyes light up, as he made the conclusion about Norwich’s homeland security major, was a yet another reminder on how Norwich’s forward thinking approach to their academic programs. By anticipating the future needs in homeland security, Norwich placed its graduates in the most competitive position possible.
It is this approach to forward-thinking that I hope to take with me in my future goals. Due to the incredible education and professional contacts the Norwich family has provided me, I have been able to understand the landscape of each career opportunity thus far. It was reassuring to join a class of fifteen White House Fellows, from all major career sectors, from famed academic institutions, at the highest level of national public service, and have the confidence required to excel. I have no doubt that the intellectual foundation provided by Norwich and the active alumni support network were the primary reasons I was able to succeed in this capacity. I look forward to my next decade of public service, during which I intend on once again maximizing the investment Norwich has made in me, by running for elected office or leading our soldiers for our nation.
Written by Frank Leija, M'06