UCF Grad Uses Degree for Career in Diplomatic Relations

stephanie_parentiThe journey to UCF and beyond has had many twists and turns for Stephanie Parenti Giordano, ’11. Following high school, she almost joined her family tradition to serve her country by entering the military. However, she decided to be the first woman in her family to attend college instead. Starting at Pasco-Hernando Community College, she transferred to Valencia Community College and ultimately enrolled at UCF. During her time at UCF, Parenti completed her Honors in the Major thesis on neocolonialism as well as a separate research project about how ideas affect history. Her involvement with her community never ceased as she was the event coordinator for the Student Undergraduate Research Council, President of Amnesty International, a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, and an intern at U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s office throughout her time at UCF. In addition, she was accepted into the McNair Scholar Program. Her active engagement with McNair led her to go abroad with a small group of ‘McNairians’ to Croatia for a research exchange, which shifted her focus from Africa to Eastern Europe. She graduated with honors and credits her passion for international relations to her professors at UCF.

While a McNair Scholar, she attended an event hosted by the Burnett Honors College’s Director of Prestigious Awards, Nicole Gelfert. At this event, Gelfert shared with the group the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. This fellowship allows students to continue their education in a master’s program with financial assistance in exchange for three years of service with the Foreign Service at the Department of State. With her long-time passion for the Foreign Service and foreign policy, she worked closely with Gelfert to obtain the fellowship while also applying to graduate schools in the East Coast. Through her hard work, Parenti received the award shortly before graduation and accepted an offer to attend Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

After her first year of graduate school, Parenti accepted the offer to learn in the Office of Central Europe at Main State in Washington, D.C. She quickly became an acting desk officer to Poland as there was high turn-over in the office due to officers going to their next posts. In her position, she conducted a plethora of activities such as writing papers for the newly appointed Ambassador to Poland, clearing the Q&A paperwork for his Congressional Hearing, scheduling appointments for the new Deputy Chief of Mission, and assisting in the renegotiation of a Protecting Power in Syria when Poland closed their embassy. During her second year in graduate school, she wrote, defended, and published her research on Alliance Politics in the Former Soviet Union. She also married her ‘grad school sweetheart’, Matthew Giordano. Upon graduating in May 2013, Parenti accepted a position as assistant cultural Attaché in Vilnius, Lithuania as her second training post. Here, she assisted in activities such as speaking with local business people, bringing Americans over to share their culture with Lithuanians, helped build dialogue through an English discussion group, helped with LGBT week planning, and managed a project that would help bring professional development culture to Lithuanian businesses.

Parenti began her A-100 training and Orientation as a Public Diplomacy Officer on Sept. 9, 2013. She has taken and passed the FSOT and FSOA, which makes her eligible for tenure after her three years of service, allowing her to stay in the Foreign Service indefinitely.  Her future ambitions are to continue serving her country and to help other students recognize their dreams by taking advantage of all available opportunities. She has since started a scholarship at the UCF Burnett Honors College for students interning in foreign affairs fields to assist in travel and other expenses, named after her grandmother, Kathryn Busch.

Her advice to current students is to seek out opportunities and TAKE THEM!

“College is just a blip on the radar of life and what you do there, the relationships you build with your professors, will have a large impact on everything that comes after. Professors very often have experiences they can share that you won’t get from a textbook. Study hard, but take time to get involved with your student organizations and community, because meeting others can open doors you never saw before,” said Parenti.



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