Alison Germak was already working in the communications department at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) when she decided to pursue a master’s from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.
“I loved OPIC’s mission, but I wanted to be more involved in the action,” she says. “I was becoming less interested in writing speeches and editing press releases and more interested in going out and trying to explain to people how we can help them and work together to get things done.”
After doing some investigation into different graduate school programs, Alison discovered exactly what she was looking for in Mason’s Master's in International Commerce and Policy (ICP) program.
“I wasn’t really finding a lot that I liked,” she says of her research. “Most programs were either too narrowly focused on the corporate world or too broadly defined, like international affairs. Mason’s international commerce and policy program had a good balance between the corporate and policy worlds; it was also very accommodating to my full-time schedule.”
Alison calls her days as a Mason Patriot as a “great experience” and applauds the university for its part-time and evening classes, which afforded working students great flexibility. She also lauds her professors, whom she credits as being invaluable in working with students to balance the demands of the classroom with professional commitments.
With her master’s degree under her belt, Alison was able to accomplish her mission. Now the Director of Corporate Development in OPIC’s Small and Medium Enterprise Finance Department, she advises U.S. corporations seeking financing, assesses investment bids, and fosters relationships with businesses, guiding them through the OPIC process and working with them to get their projects over the finish line.
“The international commerce and policy master's program made it possible for me to build certain skill sets so I could angle myself to take a different position in my organization,” she notes. “Mason’s focus on skill development is important for people like me who aren’t just going for a piece of paper but who have identified a specific career path and want to be able to show employers new, concrete abilities.”
Alison’s positive experience with Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government didn’t end with her master’s. A few years after graduating, she took on the role of president of the Schar School Alumni Association in an effort to showcase the value of a Schar School degree and to get graduates involved with the school and with each other.
“Ours is a very active alumni chapter,” she states proudly. “We have a couple of committees where alumni can volunteer, be it ona a semi-permanent basis or event just an hour a week.”
Graduates who want to get involved in the alumni association can participate in many different capacities – from mentoring students and helping to put on events for alumni for continuing professional and personal development, to leading career services workshops, policy discussions, and more.
“We want to encourage alumni to get back in touch with us, talk to us about what they want to see out of their alumni chapter,” says Alison. “Hopefully we can come up with some great ways to do that.”