Standing at a bulletin board at the La Follette School of Public Affairs in 1982, Daniel Speckhard ’80, MA’82, MS’83 spotted a flyer that helped change his life.
The posting sought applicants to become Presidential Management Fellows, providing hands-on training in federal policy. He applied and became the first UW–Madison graduate to become a part of the then-new program.
The experience, powered by Speckhard’s UW–Madison education, unlocked what became a distinguished diplomatic and policy career. He eventually went on to serve as ambassador to Greece and Belarus, deputy assistant secretary general at NATO, and deputy chief of mission in Iraq.
“Yes, we have great research professors. Yes, it’s about finding new frontiers. But there is also a very practical side to education that comes through at the University of Wisconsin.”
Speckhard, who was born in Clintonville, today serves as president and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, a nongovernmental organization that works with sustainable agricultural development and disaster relief globally.
Speckhard says that his education in Madison — which yielded a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1980 and master’s degrees in public policy and administration in 1982 and in economics in 1983 — provided real-world experiences that were a foundation for his success.
“Yes, we have great research professors. Yes, it’s about finding new frontiers. But there is also a very practical side to education that comes through at the University of Wisconsin,” he says. “You are training people to be successful in their careers outside of the academic environment. This education is for the world.”
Speckhard’s education opened new windows from which to view the world.
“UW–Madison offered a great opportunity to see and understand how diverse the world is and begin to understand the world from different perspectives,” he says. “Learning at a world-class university was critical for my development.”
That experience, Speckhard says, helped to make him a better diplomat — to be able to understand problems and issues from multiple angles.
“There is not just one answer to these challenges. What’s important is optimizing a solution not just for efficiency, but for sustainability,” he says.