January 06, 2015

Exceeding expectations

My freshman year was educational, exhilarating and pretty exhausting overall. I am glad to say that I will be moving forward into my sophomore year as a Mason Patriot who is on the academic Dean’s List!

My trip to the Pentagon and refining my career goals are just some of the experiences I had in year one at George Mason University. Read my reflection below:

Meeting Marcel Lettre

Marcel Lettre is the current U.S. Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (his official title is a mouthful). I am completely thankful to the Tiger Woods Foundation staff, especially Dr. Kathy Bihr, for connecting Mr. Lettre and me.

He was gracious enough to allocate some of his delicate time to meet with me in his office at the Pentagon, and I couldn’t have been more amazed. I had been around the outside of the Pentagon before, but this was my first time actually entering the maze of a building. I felt like a little kid on a field trip, and I was in awe of everything around. I had the opportunity to peek inside the Secretary of Defense’s office, I walked past the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and I observed the intricate structure of the building itself.

Mr. Lettre was charismatic and informative. He sat me down in his office and asked me what I wanted to pursue, I told him, and he told me the steps I needed to take to achieve my career goals. He gave me the “BLUF” (bottom line up front), and I liked that about him. I left the Pentagon with more fuel to add to my goal-oriented fire due to Mr. Lettre’s encouragement, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!

My mentor: Gregg VanOrden

The Tiger Woods Foundation staff did an amazing job of finding a mentor to help me along with my career-seeking goals and aspirations. Gregg VanOrden is a US Army (ret) Lt. Col who currently works at the National Guard headquarters managing military intelligence equipment. Throughout the year, he helped me network with individuals from the worlds of military intelligence, civilian intelligence and the State Department.

Gregg met with me on several occasions this year to offer guidance on a range of subjects — from academics to future career possibilities. Gregg is an awesome individual with a wealth of knowledge. He always has good advice, and at times I feel like he knows or can connect me with anyone in the U.S. Government for guidance. I am honored to have a great mentor, and I can feel that this is the beginning of a great mentor/mentee relationship!

Narrowing my career goals

I always had a pretty general idea of what I wanted to do in the future — either serve in the U.S. military, or as a civil servant in the U.S. Government. What I didn’t expect in my freshman year was to narrow my choices as far as I have. For example, before researching the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, I thought satellite imagery would interest me. After speaking to an individual who had worked at the NGA, I was able to determine that field wasn’t for me. I found I am much more into human interaction than I am into technology. I will never completely close a door on a field, because I have also learned that you may find something that jumps out at you that you hadn’t previously imagined yourself doing!

To learn more about James and other scholars in the Earl Woods Scholarship Program, visit our program website