#WeAreElliott: Matt Skros

#WeAreElliott: Matt Skros

Matt Skros in front of a blooming cherry blossom tree, Matt Skros, M.A. International Affairs, 2023, #WeAreElliott
Matt Skros is a second-year International Affairs student concentrating in International Security. Matt graduated from The Catholic University of America in 2018 with a B.A. in International Politics and dual minors in Islamic World Studies and Intelligence Studies. Following graduation, Matt served in AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps before departing for Albania to serve with the Peace Corps. Following his evacuation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he completed another year of service in Philadelphia with AmeriCorps where he focused on alleviating homelessness and poverty. During his time at the Elliott School, Matt has interned for the Institute for the Study of War’s Afghanistan portfolio doing open-source intelligence analysis. He currently works for an international law firm called Dentons in their Intelligence & Strategic Services group. This fall, he looks forward to pursuing his capstone project while interning for the Portman Square Group, a corporate intelligence and risk analysis firm.

What path led you to apply to graduate school? Why did you choose the Elliott School?

From my undergraduate studies, I knew I wanted to work in public service, specifically focusing on foreign policy. I graduated from Catholic University (shoutout to NE DC) in 2018 with a B.A. in International Politics along with minors in Islamic World Studies and Intelligence Studies. Following undergrad, I served in AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, but I knew it was important to further enhance my academic credentials if I wanted to achieve my desired career. I ended up choosing GW because of three main reasons. First, the Elliott School has an excellent reputation among foreign policy-focused graduate school programs. Second, the location (right in the heart of DC) was unmatched. Third, all the professors have strong academic and professional credentials. All of these factors influenced my decision to choose the Elliott School, and it was a great choice!  

Where do you currently work and how does it fit in with your career goals?

I currently work in corporate intelligence for Dentons, an international law firm. My team covers the Middle East and we spend much of our time tracking and analyzing events in the region along with changes in U.S. policy towards that area of the world. Turkey, Syria, and Africa are my portfolios, and I frequently contribute analysis to Dentons’ daily risk publication called Flashpoint (shameless plug for my latest piece on strategic competition in Africa, which can be found here). As someone who is really interested in working in the Middle East and Africa one day, this internship has been a perfect opportunity to learn!

What tools or strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?

In graduate school, your time is your most valuable commodity, and you need to make sure you spend it wisely and complete all your responsibilities. Equally important to this, though, is finding the right balance between academics, work, and social life. Sometimes, you may need to prioritize staying in and studying rather than attending a baseball game or eating nachos at Tonic. Other times, it is best to put down that paper you have been working on and go have a fun evening on U Street. Achieving that balance takes time (it took me a few weeks), but it is important for ensuring that your experience at the Elliott School is both academically challenging and personally fulfilling!

What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?

I think that goal setting is a very important tool for staying motivated. It is essential for you to know why you are getting your masters and specifically how it will fit into your career. Tying that in with a goal you really want and are working hard to achieve will always ensure there is a well of motivation to keep you going when the semester is stressful or feels interminable.

What has been your most memorable experience while studying at the Elliott School?

I took Insurgency & Counterinsurgency with Professor Iris Malone during the spring of 2022. As a part of that class, we did a virtual “staff ride” where the professor walked us through the Battle of Kamdesh, which occurred in Afghanistan in October 2009. Each of us in the class assumed the role of the American soldiers who fought in the battle and as we worked our way through the timeline of the battle, each of us would stand up when our individual was mentioned and explain a little about them and why they took the actions they did that day. A few weeks after the class, Professor Malone took us to Arlington to visit the graves of some of the men who were killed at Kamdesh. It was a very moving experience, and it reminded me that the decisions some of us will make in our future careers will affect real people, and we should never forget that when we are developing policy.

What is one book you think everyone should read and why?

“A Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl might be one of the most impactful books I have ever read. I re-read it at least once a year. It has a very powerful message about purpose in life, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it!

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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.