Recent graduate Daniel Ledin’s passion for international and domestic policy has led him everywhere from the Wisconsin Capitol to the office of former Ambassador to Guatemala Donald Planty and now to Washington, D.C.. One thread tying it all together—a global outlook and the means to realize it during his time at UW–Madison.
Ledin began his international focus during his freshman year by joining the Wisconsin International Scholars (WISc) Program. Scholars in WISc join the program as prospective first-year students and commit to a common core of courses and seminars that build on shared interest in global competency and perspective. An initiative of the International Division, WISc Scholars are expected to take four semesters of foreign language study. They can also receive exclusive study abroad grants to take their international studies beyond the Madison campus. The WISc program accepts students from all majors and disciplines who want to build an international aspect to their main studies.
“Speaking with people and developing relationships with different students that aren’t just in my major or field of study is really cool,” Ledin said. “I have friends that were in my cohort that were pursuing education, marketing, neurobiology — the idea of an international focus really drove all of our interests.”
Ledin’s interests during his undergraduate years at UW–Madison were not just limited to international affairs. During his freshman year, Ledin interned with the state legislature in Wisconsin at the Constituent Service Center, which allowed him to get exposure into how local government and services provide for their citizens. This led to his future work as a policy fellow in the state legislature in the fall of his sophomore year, where he worked on mental health and suicide prevention policy.
Besides his experiences in WISc, Ledin was inspired by a class on genocide taught by former UW professor Scott Strauss to work in international conflict and atrocity prevention. He took this experience to the Wisconsin in Washington program in spring 2021, where he interned with Amb. Donald Planty as an executive assistant at the ambassador’s consulting firm, Planty & Associates, LLC.
The Wisconsin in Washington program is a domestic study abroad program that allows undergraduate students to intern in Washington, D.C. during the summer or the fall/spring semesters. Beyond the required internship, students complete coursework transferable back to UW–Madison and attend lectures from experts, explore D.C., and build networks with professionals across various sectors.
After returning from Wisconsin in Washington, Ledin was selected as UW–Madison’s first Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program Scholar. He was one of 20 students selected from more than 1,200 applicants to join the six-week intensive program, which aims to train and prepare undergraduate students for a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
“Developing relationships out in D.C. was really important to me,” Ledin said. “Both the Rangel Scholars program and Wisconsin in Washington were gateways to developing those groups and connections.”
Returning to his background in conflict prevention, Ledin interned in the Africa Team at the Center for Civilians in Conflict during his last semester in fall 2021, after which he graduated from UW–Madison with a BA in political science and international studies (global security).
Ledin currently lives in Washington, D.C., where he works as a program associate in IREX, a government contractor that specializes in international development and civil society. At IREX, Ledin works in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, part of the Young African Leaders Initiative sponsored by the State Department to give young African leaders the opportunity to live and study in the United States for six weeks. In his work as a program associate, Ledin’s task is twofold — he plays a crucial part in the everyday operations of the program (preparing paperwork, planning itineraries), but he also does communications work in interviewing alumni fellows and advertising their accomplishments and achievements.
Ledin looks forward to taking the next steps towards a career in the Foreign Service. Since a prospective Foreign Service Officer undergoes examinations and interviews that can take upwards of a year to complete, Ledin plans on staying in D.C. and gaining valuable professional experience until then.
“The Rangel Program really opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a U.S. diplomat. I am glad to have had the opportunity to get my foot in the door here in D.C. and would be thrilled to be a Foreign Service officer.”
Story written by Aleks Cwalina