On Tuesday, April 14, Northwestern alumna Sara Veldhuizen Stealy visited campus to educate staff and students about her career with the Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington D.C.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs is a division of the U.S. State Department. Stealy works for the Foreign Service within the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Stealy’s path to her current job was anything but predictable. An Iowa native, Stealy attended NW and graduated in 1998 with majors in both theatre speech and communications. Post graduation she worked for minor league baseball leagues in Montana and Iowa before spending a year as a catering manager at a Holiday Inn. Stealy settled down for the next seven years at an accounting firm where she worked in communications.
Her settled life took a startling turn one day when she picked up a magazine at a Borders bookstore. In the magazine, she saw an advertisement for the Foreign Service. After researching the opportunity, she decided to apply for a job as a Foreign Service diplomat.
Although Stealy enjoyed her job at the accounting office, she said she wanted a job where she was making more of a direct difference in people’s lives.
“I wanted to do something more with my life, and this sounded like an incredibly worthwhile way to serve my country,” Stealy said.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s website, the purpose of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to “promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.”
Foreign Service officers accomplish these objectives by processing visas, passports, immigration documents and international adoption documents. They also alert traveling U.S. citizens to anything that might endanger them while they are abroad and help U.S. citizens with travel questions and difficult situations that may arise while they are out of the country.
Stealy said she enjoys her work because she gets to help people in a personal way.
“You feel like you’re making a difference,” Stealy said. “(The Foreign Service officers) are helping U.S. citizens sometimes at their most vulnerable moments.”
During her visit to NW, Stealy had the chance to visit with students about the benefits of working as a Foreign Affairs diplomat.
“The benefits of working with Foreign Affairs are to serve your country and to feel like everyday you are making a difference and to see the world while you do it,” Stealy said.
Stealy has spent two years in Zambia and two years in Latvia working at the American embassy in both countries. Currently, she is working for the Foreign Service office in Washington, D.C., but in August, Stealy will leave for three years to work at the American embassy in Ghana.
Stealy said the purpose of her visit to NW was to inform students of the amazing opportunities that the Foreign Service provides because she wished she would have known about the Foreign Service earlier.
“I didn’t learn about the Foreign Service until I was 29,” Stealy said. “I want people to know about this opportunity earlier.”
Stealy credited her liberal arts education with providing her the breadth of knowledge necessary to effectively communicate U.S. policies to both American citizens and foreigners.
Any students who are interested in learning more about the Foreign Service are encouraged to contact Stealy at email@example.com or visit careers.state.gov.