Informed Empathy

Ted Dressel '14, an international-studies major with a concentration in Middle East studies, took part in a study-abroad program in Aman, Jordan, during his junior year.

Ted Dressel '14, an international-studies major with a concentration in Middle East studies, took part in a study-abroad program in Aman, Jordan, during his junior year. Photo courtesy of Ted Dressel.

Ted Dressel ‘14

An effective global leader must have a deep understanding of U.S. and world cultures and governments, tempered by a grasp of the nuts-and-bolts ways in which military and civilian leaders around the world interact, think and communicate. As international-studies major Ted Dressel ’14 aptly points out, it’s a matter of informed empathy—a concept the Greek philosopher Thucydides taught at about 400 B.C. Below Dressel describes the ways his classes and internships—on and off campus, domestically and abroad—helped him develop the skills he needs to pursue a career in foreign policy. Not long before his graduation from Dickinson, he accepted a job in Saudi Arabia.


International studies (Middle East concentration).

Clubs and organizations:

Delta Sigma Phi, service trips, The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and Cub Scouts.


I learned creative- and strategic-thinking skills through internships with the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, the Jordanian Institute of Diplomacy and the IS/INBM department.


I love camping and backpacking. I backpacked for two weeks in New Mexico the summer before coming to Dickinson and walked within 20 feet of an eight-foot brown bear.

On choosing a major:

I decided to major in international studies because of the marriage of politics, economics and area studies in the curriculum. I believe this interdisciplinary approach and skill set is necessary for making decisions in a globalized age.

Favorite book:

One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick

Favorite movies:

Thirteen Days and The Dictator.

Favorite learning experience:

My participation in the Dickinson civil-military relations project, headed by Professor [of Political Science and International Studies] Doug Stuart. I participated in a workshop to create grand-strategy syllabi for courses at the participating institutions; took part in a class on U.S. grand strategy that included joint sessions at the U.S. Army War College; and participated in an interagency-crisis simulation hosted at the War College. These experiences have helped me enhance my strategic-thinking skills while giving me insight into the “real world” of strategy by bringing me in contact with professionals who have decades of experience in foreign policy.

Favorite place on campus:

The Office of Community Service, not for the space but for the people.

On studying abroad:

I studied in Amman, Jordan, during the 2012-13 academic year. The highlight was when I stopped for lunch with friends while traveling through the countryside. A shopkeeper started to play "Nassam Alyna el Hawa" on the oud while we sang along (very poorly).

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Mesquite turkey sandwiches from the Hot n’ Shaved.

In a perfect world ... 

... people would be free to live their lives and improve their lives without fearing for their physical, economic, or social safety.


If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be ... 

... Thucydides .

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

Empathy. I learned this through my leadership and study-abroad experiences, which gave me a chance to work with and understand other personalities and perspectives. Empathy is especially important for my ideal career in U.S. strategy-making, because it enhances one’s ability to understand others and predict their responses.

Post-graduation plans:

I intend to pursue a career in U.S. foreign policymaking. Specifically, I hope to be in a position to shape U.S. global security strategy. I want to work for the US government or private consulting in the Middle East following graduation.

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Published April 10, 2014