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From Whitehead to the White House
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Damian BednarzFrom the time we are little we are told, "Do what makes you happy in life." We must then discover our unique interests, set goals and chart our own course. Sometimes, that course leads to an acceptance from a top tier college. Other times, it carries us across the ocean on the adventure of a lifetime. For Damian Bednarz, pursuit of his passion for government has led him to receive one of Poland's highest honors.

Bednarz was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit from the Republic of Poland last July. He received the award for his work in strengthening relations between the U.S. and Poland, and for improving energy cooperation between the two countries. His efforts included work on renewal energy, nuclear power cooperation, and overall energy security issues. When he was notified about the award, Bednarz was surprised. "I couldn't believe it," he said, "I was in shock for an entire day. My mom was just as excited and extremely proud of me."

Bednarz arrived in the United States at three months old when his parents were seeking political asylum after leaving Poland. He grew up in a Polish household in New Jersey, and from a young age, his culture was always very important to him. He knew the risk his parents had taken to start a new life in the U.S., and so, when he graduated high school, he seized the opportunity to attend Marist College in upstate New York. Upon the completion of his bachelor's degree in Political Science, Bednarz was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research on Polish political parties and promptly relocated to Warsaw, Poland.

During his time in Poland, Bednarz interviewed journalists, members of parliament and academia for his research. He gained hands-on professional experience by working with U.S. Embassy officials, and throughout the course of his Fulbright Scholarship, he developed a strong understanding of how government works, from the ground up. This experience inspired Bednarz to pursue a career in public service.

To help him further develop his skills and achieve his new professional goal, Bednarz turned to U.S. universities with well known graduate programs in diplomacy and international relations. He applied to Georgetown University, Tufts University, American University and Seton Hall University. Seton Hall quickly became a strong front runner because of its small classroom settings and close proximity to New York City, as well as Bednarz’s family and friends. So, in 2005, Bednarz enrolled in the Whitehead School and began pursuing his master's degree in Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University.

Seton Hall provided the ideal environment for Bednarz to think critically, write analytically and forge professional relationships. He recalls an international study seminar he took on Cyprus that culminated in a visit to the country for briefings with local officials and non-governmental organizations. Bednarz relished the opportunity, and reflects, "I learned through Seton Hall, that one of the greatest professional skills you can acquire is the ability to know when to talk and when to listen. Communication is one of the main pillars of diplomacy; it helps unite both people and nations."

Damian BednarzImmediately following his graduation from Seton Hall in May 2007, Bednarz joined Barack Obama's campaign staff. Little did he know that in May 2009, his work would ultimately earn him a role in the 44th President of the United States' administration. From that point on, Bednarz began applying the skills he developed through his experiences at Seton Hall and as a Fulbright Scholar to his work as Special Assistant in the Office of Policy and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. In this capacity, he focused on regional issues, trade and transportation policy. One year ago, Bednarz accepted a promotion to White House Liaison, which will allow him to focus on political appointees and organizational planning. "It's been an amazing experience," Bednarz comments, "and I continue to learn something new every day."

To learn more about the members of the Whitehead Alumni Association, and to request information on the Whitehead School's programs of study for graduate and undergraduate students, please contact diplomat@shu.edu or visit http://www.shu.edu/academics/diplomacy/.

For more information please contact:
Elizabeth Halpin
(973) 275-2560
elizabeth.halpin@shu.edu

 

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