Mitchell Collins, F22

School: The Fletcher School 

Degree: Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy 

Home: I’m from Kentucky, and I love the community I have there—but as long as you can find a sense of belonging, home can be anywhere. 

How did you find your way to Fletcher? 

In undergrad, I participated in a federal Foreign Service internship program that had me working in Washington, D.C., during the summer before my senior year and then, after I graduated, sent me to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I worked in the political office of the U.S. embassy. Afterward, I went to Paraguay as a recipient of an English Teaching Assistant Fulbright Award. Both of those experiences were formative for me. I became interested in working with marginalized populations and looking at human rights in both countries, with a close eye on how identity intersects with politics and social realities. My interest inspired me to explore those topics in a classroom setting. I wanted to think through the ideas critically and orient myself toward a career in those fields. Fletcher just seemed like the right place for all of that.  

I was selected my junior year of college for the U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program, which is a cohort of 25 paid interns. The summer between my junior and senior year, I interned in D.C. in the office of Haitian Affairs, and I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina immediately after I graduated from Centre College in 2019. 

What most surprised you about yourself during your time at Fletcher? 

Finding out that I’m really into legal studies! The program requires that you take at least one international law class, and I was dreading that. I thought the subject wouldn’t interest me at all—that the material would be too complex and that I just didn’t have the background for it. I chose to take International Humanitarian Law, and it turned out to be one of the most challenging and rewarding classes I’ve ever taken, with one of the best professors I’ve ever had: Tom Dannenbaum. He empowered me to think through meaty topics and dense legal case studies. It made me realize that I can be passionate about something that feels daunting at first; I just have to persevere through the material. I ended up taking four classes in the International Law and Organizations department. 

"In 10 years I will be… "

Well, I would have had a much clearer answer coming into the program than I do going out of the program—but I don’t think that’s a bad thing! When I started, I would have said that I’m going to be in the State Department, hopefully in a more senior role, on some sort of promotional track that would take me to different posts around the world. That’s not necessarily off the table.  

But now, partly because of the times we’re living in, my thinking about the future is more malleable. I know that I want to be in as impactful a position as I can be, working in a policymaking and advocacy capacity in humanitarian and post-conflict transitional settings, with a focus on sexual and gender minorities, women and children, and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. I’m still interested in pursuing those topical passions of mine through a career in the diplomatic corps. But my time at Fletcher has opened my eyes to the number of different ways I can do so.  

This profile originally appeared as part of the series “Profiles in Inspiration: Commencement 2022 Spotlights."

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