By Lisa Conley-Kendzior
After finishing his undergraduate studies, Matthew Lieber, M.A. '04, knew that he wanted to further his education, and he knew that the George Washington University was the place for him.
Lieber, who received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke University, said he was drawn to GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs based on its location and reputation.
“The professors I had ranged from an ex-president of Costa Rica to [International Monetary Fund] economists, and I think that speaks to the caliber of GW,” said Lieber, who’s worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York City for nearly two decades and currently serves as its vice president. “The university attracts those types of professionals and instructors from the political and economic sphere from all parts of the world and learning from them was a highlight of my academic career.”
Lieber relied on student loans to pay for his first year of graduate school, but heading into his second year, he was one of a handful of students selected to receive a Wolcott Foundation Fellowship, which covered the remainder of his tuition.
“It was a tremendous relief and a huge burden lifted. It was also a validation of my accomplishments to date and my plans for the future,” Lieber said. “It further instilled in me an interest in public service.”
Wolcott Foundation Fellowships--which are sponsored by High Twelve International, an organization of Master Masons--are awarded to graduate students in GW’s School of Business, the Elliott School and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. The fellowship program is designed to encourage young scholars to pursue public service careers.
“George Washington University is perfectly suited as the foundation’s educational partner in providing fellowships to outstanding students seeking a career in public service,” said Michael Clark, the foundation’s chair. “Its location just a few blocks from the seat of government in the United States and its outstanding reputation as a premier educational institute enables our students to work in government positions while attending classes and putting their classroom education to practical application.”
The fellowship provided financial freedom, allowing Lieber to accept unpaid internships at world-renowned institutions, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Organization of American States.
It was through those internships that he had the opportunity to attend the Summit of the Americas, an annual conference that brings together leaders from across the Western hemisphere.
“I had won an essay contest and was invited to the summit to present my paper to the international press,” he recalled. “I was actually the only U.S. student representative there, and that was a direct result of the work I was doing both in the classroom and outside.”
After graduating from GW in 2004, Lieber experienced a full circle moment when ECLAC, one of his former internship providers, hired him as a project consultant.
“That was really fulfilling because it demonstrated that I could do more than just work for free for these types of organizations,” he said. “It showed that my work was valued and gave me confidence that I could succeed in the real world.”
Now Lieber, who also serves on the Elliott School’s Leadership, Ethics and Practice Student Advisory Council, looks to provide those types of opportunities to GW students and recent graduates and encourages those with an interest in the financial sector to reach out for mentorship or potential job openings.
“Connecting with the younger generation as they enter the workforce benefits everyone and allows for better integration and communication across generations,” he said. “Current students and new alumni are going to be the influencers and the leaders in the coming decades, so I feel an obligation to lift them up, support their job searches and give them as many opportunities as possible.”
Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about how GW is expanding opportunity for the next generation of leaders.