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Diplomacy Initiative Mentorship Program

The Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs partnered with the American College of National Security Leaders (ACNSL) on a pilot program to offer students access to a diverse group of senior-level foreign affairs practitioners. This pilot was 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. 

Students gained 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 talked with the experts to help determine whether their strengths and interests are a good fit for careers in international affairs.

The mentorship program is currently on pause.

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.  

Areas of expertise: Homeland and International Security, Building Resiliency to Reduce Threats

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 primarily focused in the Middle East and South Asia, including service as ambassador to Yemen. Ambassador Feierstein looks forward to talking to students about careers in the Foreign Service or the Middle East.

Areas of expertise: U.S. Middle East policy, U.S. Security Policy, Counter-Terrorism 

Karen Gibson is the sergeant at arms of the U.S. Senate, having recently concluded a 33-year military career in which she attained the rank of lieutenant general in the U.S. Army. Gibson completed a number of deployments in the Middle East, Afghanistan, East Africa and Korea, where she performed in a variety of intelligence and cyberspace operations roles She culminated her military service as a deputy director of National Intelligence.

Areas of expertise: Intelligence, Military Operations, Cybersecurity and Cyberspace Operations 

Robert McBrien is retired from the Senior Executive Service, U.S. Department of the TreasuryHaving worked closely with many government agencies, he hopes to provide students with a sense of the breadth of opportunities in national security and foreign affairs. An attorney, he began his long government career as an organized crime prosecutor in the U.S. Justice Department. Moving to Treasury, he worked closely with the Secret Service, Customs Service, ATF and the broader interagency community. McBrien became an authority in the use of U.S. economic sanctions programs, and his initiatives have been a key factor in the development of economic sanctions as a major instrument of national security and foreign policy. He has broad experience with national security, defense, foreign policy, intelligence, law enforcement and legal communities. He participated in the U.S. counter-terrorism program from its 1972 inception to his retirement and in counternarcotics programs from 1985-2012. McBrien serves on the board of advisors of the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is treasurer of ACNSL and assists a consortium of organizations working to evacuate U.S. comrades and families from Afghanistan.

Areas of expertise: Economic Sanctions, Law Enforcement, Counter-Terrorism

Scott O’Meara served over 35 years in the U.S. Marine Corps retiring at the rank of brigadier general in 2018. At senior levels within the Department of Defense, he has twice serviced within the Pentagon as a general officer along with multiple joint and Service component assignments. A naval aviator, he flew combat flight operations during Desert Shield/Storm and multiple Iraqi Freedom tours. Twice commanding in combat, he has commanded at the squadron, aircraft group and Service Component levels. Now retired, he joined Booz Allen Hamilton in March 2019 and advises on joint operations, all-domain operations and information warfare. An avid reader, he enjoys professionally engaging in discussions relating to leadership development, policy and strategy formulation, along with national security. He has a master of science in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, a master of business administration in aviation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and a bachelor of arts in sociology from Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Areas of expertise: National Security Strategy, Department of Defense, Consulting and Leadership Development 

The 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.