Jackson MA student Will Wright is spending the summer in D.C. as a Harold W. Rosenthal Fellows in International Relations. The highly competitive award is given to only 30 students nationwide, based on their dedication to public service, excellence in the field of international relations, and commitment to the values and professional standards set by Harold Rosenthal and past recipients of the fellowship. Rosenthal was a Senate staff member when he was killed in a terrorist attack in 1976 at the age of 29.
Wright, a Major in the U.S. Army, is spending the summer in a directorate at the Pentagon that provides advice on special operations and counterterrorism to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I’ve never worked in D.C. before, and this is giving me remarkable insight into the interagency and policymaking processes,” he says.
Wright will return to the U.S. Army after he completes his master’s degree and hopes this fellowship will “broaden his understanding of how the government develops national security and foreign relations policy.”
Born in Germany to American parents, one from Georgia, the other from Illinois, Wright calls himself an “Army brat. I bounced around a fair bit growing up, but my most formative years were in Cambridge, England, and Charlottesville, Virginia,” he says. He majored in English at Duke University where he also studied Arabic. “I loved going to school, but my grades reflect that my real focus was on karaoke, dance parties, and goofing off with my friends.” After college, he was based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for the next 10 years, deploying to Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Wright’s interest in global affairs initially arose from living abroad and having many family members in the military — his father and brother, both grandfathers, and two uncles. That combination of circumstances “inculcated an interest in foreign policy and an appreciation of foreign cultures,” he says.
Wright hopes to have a career “that pays forward the enormous gratitude I have to the Jackson Institute and the Downing Scholarship,” which is funding his Yale studies. The General Wayne A. Downing Scholarship is run by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and funded by Vinnie and Teresa Viola. Only a handful of Army officers are selected for this scholarship each year.
He adds, “Like anybody, my primary goal is to make my friends, family, and my mentors proud. Yale students are living proof that there are innumerable ways to serve the community, country, and globe. I aspire to stay in public service for the rest of my life, hopefully in a leadership capacity.”
Wright and his wife, Dickie, have a baby son, Flynn, born in March. When not tending to family and academic obligations, Wright tutors at New Haven Reads and during the school year helps teach a weekly civics class to aspiring U.S. citizens at the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven. He founded the Yale Special Operations/Interagency Symposium and is an Associate World Fellow. Wright is also working to establish a mentorship program for children of incarcerated parents, with assistance from the Jackson Institute, Governor’s Prevention Partnership, and Children’s Community Programs of Connecticut.