In 2019, Niels Marquardt ’75 was appointed as Lewis & Clark’s first Diplomat in Residence, a volunteer position intended to provide resources and support to students interested in pursuing careers abroad. Marquardt’s career as a diplomat and ambassador of the U.S. State Department has allowed him to work in many different countries around the world, including Thailand, Australia, the Congo and Madagascar, among others. Prior to becoming a diplomat, he volunteered with the Peace Corps in Zaire and Rwanda.
Before embarking on his travels abroad, Marquardt was a student here at LC who was primarily interested in foreign languages and cultures.
“I had never even heard of a career as a diplomat,” Marquardt said. “But at LC I met my first real life American diplomat who came and gave a talk during the International Affairs Symposium. That was when I first started thinking about the possibility of a career abroad.”
As a German major, Marquardt was able to study abroad in Munich as part of a full-year program.
“I found (the program) extremely interesting and stimulating … and I would recommend it to everyone,” Marquardt said.
It was during this overseas program that he saw the consulate in Munich and spoke with multiple American diplomats who worked there, fueling his budding passion for political interest abroad.
LC’s study abroad program is unrivaled for a college of this size, with almost 60% of students choosing to take a semester or more abroad, according to the Office of Overseas and Off-Campus Programs. Not only are study abroad experiences valuable for expanding one’s global perspective, but they also help students develop foreign language skills.
Marquardt fell in love with the German language in college and, over the course of his career, learned French, German, Thai and Spanish. He believes that the language departments at LC are particularly strong and encourages students to take advantage of the language requirement.
“Having a foreign language-mindset when you’re living overseas and not reverting to English, even though it can be challenging at times, is invaluable,” Marquardt said. “Fluency in foreign languages opens doors — in any profession — that would remain closed if you approached the world solely as an English speaker.”
Marquardt has come full circle back to LC, where he first began his journey.
“I think LC is a great school on a hill, but you have to work hard to maintain the link between the hill and the world,” Marquardt said. “Pursuing opportunities studying abroad or studying foreign languages can help connect students to the rest of the world.”
As LC’s Diplomat in Residence, Marquardt has two main goals: mentoring students and bringing resources to the school. He helps students open their eyes to overseas careers such as teaching or working with Non-Governmental Organizations, and helps them meet their long-term goals step by step while fulfilling education requirements. Marquardt continues mentoring students post-graduation to help connect them with internships and job opportunities.
Marquardt also brings guest speakers to campus, seeing himself as a “middleman between LC and real practitioners of diplomacy.”
This October, Marquardt hosted an informational session and Q&A panel. He also helps to organize the Ambassador Perkins Distinguished Speaker Series. This event brings a different speaker to campus each year to deliver an address and do workshops with students. This spring, the speaker series will feature Ambassador Joseph Yun, a senior advisor to the Asia program in the U.S. Institute of Peace. Marquardt encourages students to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.