Life Beyond Chatteris: Working in the US Government
Chatteris’ own Jack Salmon sat down with ex-Chatteris tutor Mariel Murray to discuss her career path through the White House, the US Department of Agriculture and more.
Life after graduation can be tough. Newly qualified, fresh-faced and wide-eyed, you are suddenly catapulted into a world of different opportunities and potential career paths. For many, getting a degree marks the end of a long and all-consuming journey through education, and leaves a ubiquitous question sitting uneasily on the lips of gown-donned graduates: “what next?”
If you are anything like me (having studied more theoretical subjects at university), you will undoubtedly have grown tired of light-hearted jests that the only suitable post-graduation career for you is in teaching. Yet, with graduates increasingly embarking on several different careers in their lifetime, and given the range of professional and personal development opportunities offered by a role of this nature, perhaps a graduate programme in the NGO and Educational sector is precisely what you need to remedy the uncertainty of the post-university era.
Chatteris International Graduate Programme serves as a springboard for a plethora of different career pathways. In order to exemplify this, we have spoken to several of our previous tutors to find out what they’ve done since, and how their experiences in Hong Kong helped them to get there.
Mariel Murray was a Chatteris Tutor on the Primary Programme from 2007-08. After leaving the organisation she returned to the United States to attend graduate law school. Her interest in the legal profession was initially motivated by her work with Mayan people in Belize, and indeed her graduate studies facilitated further opportunities to live and work abroad in Madrid and Geneva.
Once completing her studies, Mariel successfully landed a job in the US Department of Agriculture’s Office of Tribal Relations, where she was responsible for liaising between the federal government and indigenous Native American populations. In this role, Mariel provided training and tools to department staff about the collective legal and moral obligations to Tribes whilst also working with Tribes to show them how a partnership with the federal government could benefit them. She highlighted how the confidence and public speaking skills she developed during her time with Chatteris were instrumental in shaping how she navigated the educational element of her new role.
Furthermore, facilitating communication between her placement school and Chatteris-based staff gave Mariel invaluable practice liaising with different colleagues, a skill she would go on to hone leading the National Drought Resilience Partnership, a White House-based post that involved resource coordination across government to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters.
Yet, in addition to the host of transferable skills she gained, Mariel hails one aspect in particular which was emblematic of her time in Hong Kong – the opportunity to push boundaries. Moving halfway across the world and diving into a job where she had no prior experience proved that however daunting a challenge may be in the beginning, you can rise to meet it. Once this resilience is tried and tested, it serves to inspire future professional endeavours by unshackling your ambition from any internal sentiment of self-doubt. In this sense, Chatteris gave Mariel the opportunity early on in her career to set a precedent for transcending the comfort zone which so often threatens to inhibit one’s potential – a case of “why not” rather than “what if”.
Looking retrospectively at Mariel’s impressive career progression thus far, it would be difficult to argue that at any point she lost that sense of adventure that was in part cultivated during her time in Hong Kong. Her interaction with the local community not only afforded her friends and invaluable experiences, but it also enriched her cultural understanding and provided meaningful exchange – even if doing so sometimes required overcoming linguistic barriers! She believes that these values pertaining to the appreciation of culture and diversity are of paramount significance to maintain and uphold, regardless of the professional parameters within which one may find themselves.
I would like to sincerely thank Mariel for her graciousness in dedicating the time to speak to me about her time with Chatteris, and her subsequent career.
Other Chatteris Tutors have gone on to work for the U.S Department of Justice, continue teaching in the UK, and Hong Kong, and much more.
Chatteris offers extensive opportunities for personal and professional development. If you are interested in joining for the 23-24 academic year, apply now!