BA in Global Affairs

David Pfohl, 2011

David Pfohl

What work are you doing now?

I work at Gensler, the world's largest architecture firm, as a Public Relations Specialist in the firm’s Shanghai office. Working in a diverse office environment in a foreign country inspires me to look at the world through a multifaceted lens, and challenges me to think of my role in terms of global citizenship. My ability to speak Mandarin and my understanding of the local culture gives me a unique edge as an American expat bridging the cultural gap. 

What do you like about it?

I particularly enjoy the fast pace of operating in the China market, while working at an American firm that promotes and maintains international business standards. Overall, I value the responsibility I have as the only person handling the firm’s public relations in the Asia-Pacific region – an opportunity that few Americans have several years after graduating. In China, there are often unique and interesting business situations that require flexibility, patience, due diligence and quick decision-making ability. Successfully handling these situations and navigating the business environment here is rewarding both personally and professionally, and helps to make every day an appreciated learning experience.   

How did your degree in college prepare you to do this work?

As a global affairs major at Mason, I was exposed to a wide range of internationally focused coursework that enabled me to think beyond American borders and feel at ease with living and working abroad. My Chinese language courses and scholarship through the Confucius Institute helped broaden my understanding of China’s role in the twenty-first century and realize the increasing importance of US-China relations. Together my global affairs major and Chinese language track have opened doors to countless opportunities that have helped lead me to where I am today. 

What advice would you give current students about developing their careers?

If I could give any advice, it would be to learn as much as you can while in school, and apply it as quickly as you can – experiential knowledge is key. I would also suggest supplementing your global affairs major with business courses so you can offer an even more competitive package to potential employers. Employers want to see how capable you are to get work done efficiently and how hungry you are to take on greater responsibility. I would strongly recommend developing a personal portfolio that highlights your strengths and accomplishments. Networking is also crucial. In my spare time, I focus on running the Shanghai chapter of Mason’s Alumni Club of China (MACC) and act as a freelance consultant and writer to put myself in front of as many opportunities as possible. In the end, don’t limit yourself by going in one direction unless you are 100% certain it’s what you want to do. Keep doors open and irons hot.