Former ambassador visits UNI



Former ambassador to Mongolia and UNI alumnus John Dinger visited UNI last week.

JOSHUA DAUSENER, Copy Editor | [email protected]

UNI’s political science department welcomed former diplomat John Dinger to campus on Monday, Feb. 19, for the lecture “What’s Happening at the State Department.” Dinger spoke to students regarding the condition of the State Department and potential career opportunities students can pursue after graduation.

Roughly three dozen students and faculty, predominantly within the political science department, crowded into the Plaehn Seminar Room in Sabin 201 to listen to Dinger speak.

Dinger was born and raised in Iowa and graduated from UNI in 1974. After his time at UNI, Dinger went on to enjoy a lengthy career in the State Department. Dinger worked for 35 years as an active duty Foreign Service Officer, during which he served a three-year tenure as the United States Ambassador to Mongolia from 2000 to 2003.

Following three and half decades of active duty work, Dinger worked another five years inspecting embassies overseas. Dinger has just recently retired from the State Department.

Dinger was frank when giving his take on today’s condition of the State Department.

“What’s happening is, Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobile, is destroying the State Department,” said Dinger, referring to Tillerson’s policy of pushing out career diplomats, slowing down hiring and leaving many State Department positions unfilled.

“The State Department is a huge bureaucracy […] Every Secretary of State has tried to decrease inefficiencies, make it work better around the edges,” Dinger said. “That’s not what Tillerson’s doing. He’s basically attacking it and trying to dismantle it, as far as I can tell. I was on the State Department for 35 years. [There has never been] anything like Tillerson is doing. Nothing. Not even close.”

Dinger told students that despite the condition of the State Department, today may still be a favorable time to apply. He cited a decrease in applicants to the State Department and a 50 percent decrease in college students taking the Foreign Service Exam, a test used by the State Department to screen applicants.

Senior political science major Josh Gulick attended the lecture because he is interested in joining the State Department after he graduates.

“I heard about it from Dr. [Evan] Renfro. It seemed really interesting. It might be something I pursue in the future,” Gulick said.

Senior political science major Ashley Madsen attended the event to get more involved with UNI’s political science department.

“I’ve been trying to get a little more involved in the political science department this year,” Madsen said. “It’s always interesting to have someone that comes from Washington D.C. to come and talk.” 

According to political science professor Evan Renfro, Dinger spoke at UNI to try and give back to his alma mater. Rather than UNI trying to get Dinger to speak on campus, Dinger reached out to UNI.

“He reaches out to the [political science] department,” Renfro said. “He was a student at UNI, and he tries to give back.”