Life is a journey, not a destination.
It all started in the small village of Orefield, Pennsylvania, where I spent my childhood. The son of a used car salesman and homemaker, and the youngest of three, I had a happy childhood. But as health problems prevented my father from continuing in his business by the time I came of age, my mother pushed me to attend college, the first in my family to do so.
College opened my eyes to the world beyond my small town and introduced me to the world of critical thinking and analysis. I quickly learned that not everything that I read or that was said was accurate. I left my university with a degree in Philosophy and a desire to deepen my studies.
Before pursuing graduate school, I decided to experience a larger city by moving to Washington, D.C., where I worked in the non-profit sector. Being in a global city opened my eyes to the world not just beyond my small town but beyond my own country. I Immediately decided that I had to learn more about my world, so I enrolled in a graduate program in International Relations, focused on Peace & Conflict Resolution. As part of that program, I received a grant to travel abroad (my first time) for a conference. My trip to the Netherlands was a life-changing experience for me and one that I recommend to my students today.
During my graduate studies, I was lucky enough to study abroad for a summer in Oxford in a program on international human rights law. Living abroad, even for this short period, deepened my spirit of adventure and thirst for more global experiences. I decided during that time that my career would be international in nature. When I returned home, I took an internship that led to a job at a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development focused on education for girls in developing countries. What an amazing experience!
It was during this time that a colleague of mine with similar interests suggested that I consider applying to law school to enhance my critical analysis skills. I was lucky enough to be offered a place at American University to pursue my JD degree. The intensity and depth of law school study was unexpected, yet welcome. I focused all of my attention on my studies and involvement in law-related activities, so long as they had an international component. I graduated with excellent job prospects, a profound critical analysis lens with which to view the world, and the best thing of all, my wife, who I met in law school and married two days after graduation.
I began my career in federal service immediately after law school as part of a Presidential Management Fellowship that placed my with U.S. Customs as an International Trade Specialist. From there, I rotated to different agencies to diversify my skills, all of which related to international trade or immigration. And while I loved my work, I found myself questioning concepts and theories that I worked with and I spent my free time researching them and writing articles that I ultimately published in law journals. I could not help myself. I also began taking on adjunct teaching positions at a variety of universities and I found that I not only loved researching, I loved teaching as well.
I decided that I should complement my day job with a more extensive study of international trade focused on a possible career in academia. I enrolled in a doctoral program at George Mason University in Public Policy while continuing to advance rapidly in my government career. However, once I was awarded a Fulbright grant in 2006 to live and teach in Colombia or a year, I decided to leave the government.
In Colombia, I taught international law at the prestigious Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, enhanced my fluency in Spanish, and truly experienced living abroad in a developing country. At the end of the wonderful experience that it gave me, I re-applied to the federal government and was offered an attorney position in the Department of Homeland Security, which I promptly accepted. Our first daughter was born in Colombia and I needed a stable career.
After six more wonderful years in government service that allowed me to advance to positions such as Counsel to the Assistant Secretary and Chief of Staff, all the while researching, publishing, and adjunct teaching on the side, I received an offer to teach full-time at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was a difficult decision to leave my government career, but teaching had become my dream and this opportunity came knocking at the right time.
Now, after several years at Temple University, I am a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Global Strategy, as well as the Director of our Immersion Programs, which means that I spend a large portion of my time traveling the world and the remainder teaching and researching, fulfilling the dreams that sprouted many years ago in college.
What I have learned from this experience is that you must approach life with an open mind and an adventurous heart. Life is too short to settle for second best--follow your dreams, and don't be afraid if you don't know what your dreams mean for your career. Take chances, take risks, but think carefully about every decision that you make. Every experience, positive and negative, builds who you are.