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Diplomacy Initiative Mentorship Program

The Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs is partnering with the American College of National Security Leaders (ACNSL) on a Spring 2022 pilot program to offer students access to a diverse group of senior-level foreign affairs practitioners. This pilot is designed to support UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in national security and related fields, especially those enrolled in related coursework or degree programs such as peace, war & defense; global studies; TransAtlantic Masters; and area and language studies. 

Over the course of the spring semester, students will have direct access to five senior career international affairs practitioners. Carolina students interested in exploring careers in diplomacy, intelligence, the military or related national security fields can talk with the experts to help determine whether their strengths and interests are a good fit for careers in international affairs.    

Mentors are available to meet with Carolina students during set office hours via Zoom to answer questions and chat about career preparation. There is no application process nor cost to students for participating in the mentorship program. 

This program will begin on January 27 and 28, 2022, with mentor introductions. Interested students may drop into available counseling sessions at any point in the semester. 

Meet the Mentors Sessions

Mentor Bios 

Donna Barbisch is the CEO of American College of National Security Leaders. Major General (Retired) Barbisch excels in resiliency and preparedness planning and mitigation across multiple sectors: public health (emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19) and healthcare, counter terrorism, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) and weapons of mass destruction-WMD), and cyber security. She brings more than 30 years of experience from her Army and civilian careers, balancing active and reserve command and staff positions at all levels with distinguished academic and private sector expertise. Barbisch earned a master’s of public health from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993 and a doctorate in health administration from the Medical University of South Carolina.   

Gerald Feierstein is senior vice president and a distinguished senior fellow on U.S. diplomacy at the Middle East Institute. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in May 2016 after a 41-year career with the personal rank of Career Minister. As a diplomat he served in nine overseas postings, including three tours of duty in Pakistan, as well as assignments in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Tunisia. In addition to his career-long focus on the Near East and South Asia, Feierstein also played a prominent role in developing and implementing State Department policies and programs to counter violent extremism. 

Karen Gibson is the sergeant at arms of the U.S. Senate, having recently completed a 33-year military career in which she attained the rank of lieutenant general in the U.S. Army. Gibson has performed numerous intelligence and cyberspace operations roles, culminating her military service as deputy director of National Intelligence for National Security Partnerships. 

Robert McBrien retired from the Senior Executive Service, U.S. Department of Treasury. He is an authority in the employment of U.S. economic sanctions programs and had a seminal role in the conception, design and development of the Specially Designated Nationals list and targeted sanctions against non-state foreign adversaries. His initiatives have been a key factor in the development of economic sanctions as a major instrument of national security policy. He has broad experience with national security and defense, foreign policy, intelligence, law enforcement and legal communities. He was a participant in the U.S. counter-terrorism program from its 1972 inception to his retirement and in counternarcotics programs since 1985. McBrien serves on the board of advisors of the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

Scott O’Meara is a senior associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and retired as a brigadier general in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2018. He has more than 39 years of demonstrated executive leadership experience within the Department of Defense. O’Meara is experienced in defense, management and leadership development consulting with a focus on meeting 21st century challenges. He has executive-level experience in international engagement and personal relationship development resulting in enhanced relations. O’Meara has a certificate in strategic thinking from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. 

The ACNSL mentorship program is a part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Diplomacy Initiative, organized by the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs in partnership with Carolina faculty. Funding for the program is provided through the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund.