“I first became interested in foreign cultures because they fascinated my mother. Every year, she spent months researching the holiday and Christmas traditions of a culture or country. Each Christmas Eve, our family celebrated the holiday using the traditions of that year’s country. As I got older, my father began teaching me about different economic systems and how each system impacted every aspect of life. With all this going on, it is not surprising that by the time I was about fourteen—and with not a clue how to do it—I had decided that I wanted to work in embassies,” recalled Seneca E. Johnson, foreign service officer (FSO), currently stationed in the Department of State, Economic and Business Bureau, covering energy issues in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China.
“In hot, if somewhat uninformed, pursuit of my goal, I enrolled as an international relations major my freshman year at BYU. The first semester of my sophomore year, on the first day of PlSc 200, Dr. Stan Taylor said we should all take the Foreign Service exam. I remember thinking, with all the confidence of the young and idiotic, ‘Ok, so THAT’S how I do it.’ I took the test as soon as I was old enough, and I was hired the February after I graduated,” Johnson said.
She joined the Foreign Service in March 1991, served her first tour in London as a consular officer (1991–93), and then served in Tunis, Tunisia (1994–95), as an economic reporting officer, after French language training at the Foreign Service Institute. From 1996 to 1998, she served as the Iran desk officer for sanctions, nonproliferation, human rights, and energy. Husband, Eric Gaudiosi, participated with Johnson for a one-year Bosnian language training course (1998–99), followed by a two-year assignment in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. “In Bosnia, I covered political affairs in the federation, one of the two entities comprising Bosnia and Herzegovina,” she explained.
“I believe my education, both before and during my time at the Kennedy Center, was crucial. I use what I learned at the Kennedy Center literally every day, and my experiences there provided an excellent foundation for all that I have learned since. In particular, the emphasis on clear, concise writing and logical reasoning has been invaluable. Anything remotely resembling an academic or a highly-embellished ‘purple prose’ style is savagely ridiculed by most FSOs. I am grateful that the Kennedy Center offered practical education in foreign affairs—not something everyone receives! In retrospect, I doubt I could have had any better preparation for my career,” Johnson concluded.