From driving Madeleine Albright in a golf cart around the University of Denver campus, to escorting Condoleezza Rice to the NCAA Women's Final Four game in downtown Denver, MA Candidate Clifton Martin has had an exciting journey while at the Josef Korbel School completing his degree in International Studies.
Cliff is more commonly seen working in the Dean's Office where he assists former Ambassador Christopher Hill in his whirlwind of day-to-day activities, or wandering Ben Cherrington Hall overseeing events for the Middle East Discussion Group, which he presides over. Still, one constant remains: his red Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. Always atop his head, Cliff's Ray-Bans have become his signature item, and something of a fashion trend – the Daniels College of Business just gave out red Ray-Bans to its graduates. While Daniels will probably never admit where the graduation gift idea came from, I'm attributing it to Cliff, who took a course there and always donned his shades.
Tell me about yourself:
I'm from Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. I went to William & Mary where I was an International Relations major and that segued to Middle Eastern studies. I fell in love with Arabic. I also knew early on in undergrad that I wanted to pursue a Master's degree.
What brought you to the Josef Korbel School?
I almost went into paleontology so that's one reason I'm in Denver – there's a lot of dinosaur fossils here. Apart from being a dinosaur nut, I'm also a Broncos fan. When I came out to visit I just had a gut feeling. Also, the Josef Korbel School was the only place offering me any money. And it's different. I'm not a superstitious person, but I definitely feel like it happened for a reason. I think fate worked in my favor.
Tell me about your work-study positions:
I had worked at a university before coming here. I was the campus director so I coordinated everything. It was a small school – Shenandoah University – so the budget was much smaller. Then I came here and worked for Brad and Nicole [in the Office of Graduate Admissions]. It was interesting to see the development aspect – just to see how the admissions process worked. I then switched to the Dean's office. An opportunity came up on how to get diplomacy to be more of a focus at Korbel. Since this is an interest of mine, the Dean talked to me about doing a speaker series. With his connections, I knew we could do this and it worked out awesomely. [The Public Diplomacy Speaker Series welcomed Gen. George Casey, Mike Chinoy, Andrew Koss, Condoleezza Rice, and Madeleine Albright in the 2011-2012 school year]. What's been great about this program is that we can see tangible results. After events, the amount of visitors to our website increases, as do donations. This changes the way you look at your education. Just being able to work with these people and ask them directly why they made the decisions they made. It's been fascinating.
What is your thesis topic and what was it like interviewing Condoleezza Rice for it?
It's on public diplomacy programs in the Middle East from the 20th century to the present. It's an historical analysis of the policies that guide these programs. It all goes back to how do you sell your message without sounding like an advertisement. Condi Rice and the Bush administration were very reactive. In the months leading up to the Iraq War they did preemptive damage control. I asked her about missed opportunities in Iraq and one that she mentioned concerned the capture of Saddam Hussein. When Bremer announced Hussein's capture there were no Iraqis on site. It was very U.S. centric. Condi was the National Security Advisor at the time and said that we should have had Iyad Allawi there to make the announcement. It became an American moment instead of an Iraqi moment.
The most interesting takeaway from speaking with Condi was in regards to Nye's notion of soft power. I think it actually hurts the cause of public diplomacy. It's artificial terminology. The reality is that both hard and soft power are tools of power, and power is power no matter what the means are. As far as instruments of power go, public diplomacy has seen a post-9/11 resurgence. Diplomats are driving it, as well as high-tech globalization. There's now an ability to communicate faster and more directly with a larger audience. Public diplomacy is all about informing and influencing. With the Arab Spring we saw interests change in the region. The United States will have to adjust its policies as the states in this region become more representative of their populations and their interests.
What are your career goals?
I'm moving to Michigan to be with my soon-to-be wife, Meghan, who will be starting her PhD program in nutritional science. I contemplated a PhD, as well. My long-term career plan is definitely the Foreign Service. I would love to work in the communications aspect of foreign policy.
What have you enjoyed most about the Josef Korbel School?
I love Korbel. It's been such a great experience. But I think you make your own experience. I was lucky to have Meghan here with me. Lucky to have the job I have and good friends. Denver has been great all around. There are four professors that I love here. Nader Hashemi, who is so good at getting you to think critically. Lewis Griffith, who is all around engaging--which is tough with some of the subjects he teaches. On top of that, he is just a fun guy. Lynn Holland is a saint. I think she brought light to what I was studying here and how to do comparative analysis properly. Also, Suki Hoagland is awesome and passionate about the material and her students’ success. And everyone should take a class with Alan Moorer.
Tell me about those red Ray-Ban sunglasses.
I had specifically said one day that a pair of red Ray-Bans would be badass. Meghan bought them for me at a bluegrass festival in Bristol, Virginia about two years ago and they haven't left my head since. When I don't have them people ask why, so I have to live up to those expectations. It would be better if I had a crazy story like Kim Jong Il gave them to me. I lost them for a few days and it was a travesty. Meghan found me an orange pair but it wasn't the same – red is red. I've always had a good luck thing with red.