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SJU alum finds his seat in U.S. Department of the Treasury

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February 19, 2016

By Annie Dittberner '17

Sean Suter '10 poses for a picture with his wife, CSB alumna Kelsey Gustafson Suter '10.

A lot of people might find the legislative process in the U.S. Senate mundane — perhaps even boring. But Sean Suter '10 was invigorated by it.

In 2008, Suter spent his summer listening to a group of senators discuss the details of public policy on Capitol Hill. He served as an intern in then Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's office while part of the CSB/SJU Washington, D.C., Summer Study program.

Those days provided Suter with insight on the legislative process and Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

"We can listen to speeches and read about a candidate in the news, but it was eye-opening to see," Suter said. "This is where a lot of the real change comes about."

Two years later, the Rochester, Minnesota, native graduated from SJU with a degree in political science — and a promising list of opportunities ahead of him.

Now, his latest opportunity has taken Suter to the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he works as an international economist.

Beyond his education

After graduation, Suter began his work in the Minnesota State Senate in 2010 and later worked for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid from 2011-13.

Suter attended graduate school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he studied international affairs and development and earned a Master of Science in Foreign Service.

While in graduate school, Suter interned for the Inter-American Development Bank and the U.S. State Department. He also worked as a teaching assistant at Georgetown for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"It was a fascinating opportunity," Suter said. "She thinks of problems in international affairs not only in a very dynamic and nuanced manner, but also with a great sense of empathy. It is her ability to understand the viewpoints of others that have allowed her to be such a successful diplomat - and a notoriously tough negotiator."

During that time, Suter and two other graduate students helped Albright prepare for her lecture course on U.S. national security every week, researching topics, drafting background memos and assisting Albright with the class syllabus.

"She is incredibly generous with her time," Suter said of the first female Secretary of State. "And frankly, it was the best class I never got a grade for during my two years at Georgetown."

Opportunity awaits

After graduating from Georgetown in the fall of 2015, Suter began work as an international economist in the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

"While I only just started my position, a typical day might include me analyzing a World Bank development project, receiving economic updates about one of my countries or collaborating with the State Department and USAID on a country's development strategy," he said.

Suter's office advises the U.S. representatives at each of the multilateral development banks. Suter is responsible for countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Central America.

Suter says he became interested in this type of work after a semester studying in South Africa through CSB and SJU's Study Abroad program.

"Seeing firsthand the consequences of poverty and lack of access to basic public services really got me interested in development economics," he said. "The U.S. has a lot of influence around the world despite the fact that our official assistance is less than one percent of the total federal budget. Contrary to what you may hear in the news, this investment allows us to be a leader on the international stage."

According to Suter, the education at CSB and SJU enabled him to explore those critical, in depth issues.

"My professors and friends at the schools pushed me to think in different ways," he said. "And that has made all the difference."