The next alumna in our Global Citizenship spotlight is Tara Maloney ’13, a rising junior at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, where she majors in International Politics with a concentration in security studies and a minor in Arabic. Tara is also completing a certificate in Jewish Civilization Studies, which focuses on Middle Eastern diplomacy.
Tara with former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
We caught up with Tara this week to hear what she’s been up to since we last saw her. For starters, she has spent the summer at a national security think tank in Washington, D.C., working in their Counterterrrorism portfolio, where she focuses on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In the fall, she will head to Amman, Jordan, for a term abroad program centering on politics and foreign affairs in the Middle East.
During the last school year, she served as a teaching assistant for a course on music, politics, and international affairs. She also worked as a research assistant for two different Georgetown professors, one of whom specializes in security studies and counterterrorism (Tara worked on her forthcoming book on leadership in terrorist groups), while the other is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist. Tara did research for her book about women and music in Hasidic Jewish communities.
Last summer, for the second summer in a row, Tara volunteered with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, helping newly arrived refugee families settle in to life in Connecticut. Liz Lightfoot ’77 P ’05, ’07, ’08, ’12, the Country School’s Alumni Relations director, was happy to run into her there on an afternoon when they were both watching young children while the children's mothers participated in a sewing class. (Also interning at IRIS last summer was Ben Ballard ’08, now studying for his Masters at The Fletcher School – more to come on Ben. This summer, Tara’s TCS classmate, Gabby LaTorre, is interning at IRIS – more to come on Gabby as well.)
Although we haven’t seen her on campus recently, we remember when Tara returned to campus a few years back to deliver an inspiring Elmore Leadership Talk about her experiences at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C. Tara had been selected to spend the fall term of her junior year of high school at the D.C. school, and she was invited back the following year to moderate a special panel with then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. (The photo above is of Tara with Secretary Johnson.)
Coincidentally, this spring Liz Lightfoot met one of Tara’s former School for Ethics and Global Leadership teachers at a global studies professional development workshop in New York City. She wasn’t surprised to hear him describe Tara as one of the most thoughtful, articulate, mature students he has ever come across.
That was pretty much the point of the article about Tara that ran in Country Connections, our school alumni magazine, a few years ago. As one teacher said, if ever a student was born to be a diplomat, it’s Tara. Or, as a reporter from The Source newspaper wrote in a 2016 article about Tara when she was named Person of the Week, “If you were speaking to Tara Maloney over the phone instead of in person, you’d likely think someone much older than 17 were at the other end of the line. When she shares her goals, beliefs, and recent experiences, you might, like Tara herself, bemoan the fact that she isn’t even old enough to vote.” Read the full article here. Our Country Connections profile from 2017 appears below.
From Country Connections:
You wouldn’t know it to speak with her — or more accurately to hear her speak — but Tara Maloney ’13 used to get nervous speaking in public. Not so any more. When we spoke with her a few months ago, Tara had just moderated a session with then-U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson at the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, D.C. She had been asked to moderate by the school’s director, because he knew her to be fearless in front of a crowd, excellent at speaking off the cuff, and always able to respond effectively and calmly in the face of something unexpected. Plus, she has a great command of the issues.
How did Tara gain those infallible public speaking/thinking-on-your-feet skills? And what made a 17-year-old high school student confident enough to lead a discussion with a sitting cabinet member in front of a packed audience? Tara’s answer: her many years participating in the Lois MacLane Poetry Recitation, The Country School’s oldest and most revered tradition. “Nothing in my life has ever been as scary for me as that poetry recitation was,” she said, recalling how she felt during that first recitation at The Country School, “standing up there, seeing a sea of people, with no microphone and knowing that if I mess up, it’s just me.”
Although that first recitation was tough, it grew easier with practice. During her 6th Grade year, Tara was awarded the top medal in the finals, beating out much older students with her unforgettable rendition of “I Chop Some Carrots While Listening to Art Blakeley’s Version of Three Blind Mice” by Billy Collins. In addition to being a finalist in every Country School recitation (Grades 5-8), Tara went on to embrace public speaking and performance at other venues as well. She has been involved in theater (who can forget her Lucy in the TCS version of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown?) and recently participated in Princeton’s Model Congress in Washington, D.C. She is also on the debate team at Hopkins.
Tara with her first place medal at the MacLane Recitation.
Last spring, Country School students had an opportunity to witness Tara’s public speaking skills in person when she visited campus as part of the Elmore Leadership Speaker Series. During her talk, she described what she learned about leadership during her fall term in Washington, D.C.
Tara speaking at The Country School
Tara has also chosen to expand her speaking horizons to include other languages. Last summer, she was selected to participate in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, receiving a merit-based scholarship to learn Arabic in Morocco. Tara plans to study international relations in college and ultimately hopes to work as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department, where she intends to use her skills to advance American interests abroad while helping people in other countries at the same time.
Asked how her interest in international relations — and specifically Arabic speaking countries — developed, Tara pointed to another pivotal Country School experience. “It’s hard to come up with the beginning for anything in life, but I think most directly I can trace it back to Mrs. Kelly’s 5th Grade history class, where, in my recollection, we spent almost the entire year on ancient Egypt mythology,” she said. “In retrospect it was crazy how much I knew about ancient Egypt. I really loved it. I remember thinking, ‘I want to go to ancient Egypt, but since I can’t go there, maybe I’ll go to modern Egypt.’”
Tara said there was one other Country School experience that may have impacted the person she is today, giving her the confidence and desire to embrace new situations and people: Outdoor Education. Recalling her 8th Grade trip to the mountains, canyonlands, and deserts in and around Moab, Utah, Tara says the week spent camping, hiking, rock climbing, river rafting, and exploring was absolutely transformational. “It was so much fun and so important on so many levels,” she said. “Tolerating discomfort and being so far away from home, the food is not what you’re used to, the climate is not what you’re used to, not sleeping in your own bed — those were some of the things I had to deal with in Morocco.”
In short, Tara said, The Country School helped her learn to embrace new challenges and enjoy being outside her comfort zone. We expect Tara will be doing much more of that in the future as she heads off to Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. And if and when she runs into an obstacle, we’re confident she will be able to handle it. After all, she has a pretty nifty trick up her sleeve. “Now I know I can recite a Billy Collins poem if worse comes to worst,” she says.
Reciting Billy Collins.
Tara in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown