Sequim grad takes aim at world peace

Casey Gayman at the White House
Casey Gayman has a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and is working on conventional arms nonproliferation issues for the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C.

The most impressive part? He's only 24.

Gayman, son of Sequim residents John and Lori Gayman and a 2004 Sequim High School graduate, is part of the Presidential Management Fellows Program, a two-year program for future leaders in which participants rotate through different governmental offices.

"They are grooming the future managers and leaders," Gayman said. "It's nice to see that the government is doing that and it's equally nice to be a part of it."

Gayman wasn't always sure he wanted to work in the government, but he always had an interest in international relations. He had his first major international experience in high school when he spent a summer in Austria. When the time came to go away to college, he chose Franklin College, an American accredited liberal arts college in Switzerland.

In addition to Franklin College's prime central European location, Gayman was interested in attending because every major had an international focus. Also, professors take students on international trips twice a year. Some of the trips Gayman took include Russia and the Ukraine, Morocco to study Arab, Berger and French cultures and a six-day Venezuelan wilderness trek.

Adapting to college life in a foreign country took time, but Gayman already spoke German and picked up some Italian while there. In other ways it seemed like the normal college experience.

"It was the typical college versus town," Gayman said of the town, Lugano, which has 40,000 people. "We were noisy college kids and Switzerland is strict about rules."

Gayman went on to say that Switzerland has national quiet hours between 10:30 p.m. and 8 a.m. During his third and final year at Franklin, Gayman was a residential assistant so he was able to see firsthand the difficulty of managing 18-year-old students, for whom it was legal to drink alcohol for the first time.

"I was the one responsible for making sure everyone was respectful to the community," he said.

An international education

During the summers between school, Gayman attended the University of Washington to get ahead and to study Russian. This enabled him to graduate in three years and added to his growing interest in Russia.

He graduated from Franklin College in 2007 with a degree in international relations and emphases in political science, economics, language and culture. He knew he wanted to further these studies in graduate school so the following fall he started at the Monterey Institute in California.

The Monterey Institute was similar to Franklin

College in its international focus.

"I was interested in stabilities studies and security issues," Gayman said.

The graduate school offers nonproliferation studies, the area of study that focuses on combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Gayman's graduate work was in nonproliferation studies as well as Russian, a language and culture that had interested him for years.

"I had a friend in high school whose family immigrated from Russia," Gayman said. "I was enamored by the whole culture and the differences between the U.S. and her cultural background."

Gayman said that he was a student who always liked politics. At the Monterey Institute he took not only Russian language classes, but also functional classes in Russian.

"I took classes on policy in Russian," he said. "I think it helped with getting this job because I was able to write that I have a certain degree of professional literacy."

Gayman at the Iraqi border
Casey Gayman is pictured here at the Iraq border on a trip to Jordan in 2007.
Submitted photo

Travel abroad

In the summer of 2008, between his two years of graduate work, Gayman traveled to Siberia, Russia, on a critical language scholarship and lived with a host family. He lived downstream from where Russia made its nuclear weapons and he could see the factory towers from the town.

In other ways, though, the area reminded him of Washington."It's so lush and green in the summers," he said. "After living in California for a year, I loved it."

During his time at the Monterey Institute, Gayman was hired as a contractor to work on a homeland security project for the Navy. It gave him a taste for what it would be like working for the government or Navy. "It inspired me to look further for federal jobs," he said.

Becoming a 'fellow'

Gayman realized that, with his degrees, his options for a career were the government or to get his Ph.D. and teach. Knowing he didn't want to teach, he applied for the Presidential Management Fellows Program.

The program is extremely competitive and open only to candidates who have already completed a master's or doctorate degree. Applicants must be nominated by the dean of their school or by a chairman of their department.

The next step was taking an assessment, which Gayman has heard is similar to the LSAT, the exam required to get into law school. He says he must have done well on the exam because he was notified that he was a finalist for the program. The next step was attending a job fair in Washington, D.C.

"The job fair was different agencies conducting five-minute interviews," he said. "I was offered a position through the State Department."

Fewer than 10 percent of the roughly 9,000 applicants are admitted to the program. The State Department is the most in demand, with only 39 positions in Gayman's applicant year. He started there in November and has another year and a half of rotations within the department before completion of the program.

It's classified

He can't go into detail about his current work because most of it is classified, but he did say that the rotations are personal and worthwhile. During the two years, Gayman will do two rotations away from his home office to learn about other agencies.

"I look back and it's like every step in my academic life has led me here," Gayman said, "so it's satisfying knowing that I am moderately successful in what I set out to do."

He said it's hard to know exactly what he'll be doing several years from now because he changes his mind daily. One thing he always has wanted to do, though, is be an ambassador.

Gayman says he misses the West Coast and in particular some small-town aspects of Sequim.
"I always remember waving to people that you pass driving down the street," he said. "That doesn't happen here. That renews my faith in why I'm working for the government."

He also is grateful to Sequim for the many scholarships that made it possible for him to attend Franklin College. "Without Sequim's help, I would not be where I am now," he said.

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