Brian Hall: Boettcher Scholar, Diplomat

Brian Hall: Boettcher Scholar, Diplomat

Embracing adventure is a common theme of Brian Hall’s life and his career with the U.S. Department of State.

A 2004 Boettcher Scholar from Custer County High School, Brian attended Colorado College, where he majored in economics and was involved in track, student government and research. When plans to work at a financial planning nonprofit didn’t materialize after graduation, Brian took a mentor’s advice and moved to Nepal with only a 15-liter backpack and no guidebook.

“It was the best advice,” Brian said. “I was totally dependent on making connections with people.”

While teaching in a remote village, Brian started a recycling project, taught local students, and sponsored college scholarships for three aspiring Nepalese teachers. Grounded in serving others abroad, he successfully applied for the foreign service.

“I knew about economics and how to engage with people, and I was completely honest about who I was in my interview. Being authentic took me where I needed to go.”

Since entering the foreign service in 2009, Brian’s adventures have included living in Ecuador, Niger, Washington, D.C. and Kenya – all while starting a family. He currently works as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, but has worked on a range of projects from processing visa applications and advocating for U.S. businesses, to developing relationships with Kenyan academics and officials and helping with the recent high-level visit by the Secretary of State.

Brian’s favorite aspect of his work is connecting with people and partnering their aspirations and U.S. interests. One such example is a young leader from Niger, who with the help of the U.S. Department of State, attended Harvard and recently established the first liberal arts college in his country. These connections help Brian appreciate the differences and “amazing similarities” he encounters in his daily life. “Rural Africa is remarkably similar to the rural America I experienced as a kid. People are nice, welcoming and want to engage. But unlike the U.S., there’s no option for fast food.”

Outside of work, Brian is committed to living out his service ethic. Though he moves posts every few years, Brian volunteers with youth, hosts informational programs for rural American students interested in international careers and is a mentor with the Boettcher Foundation’s mentorship program. He also aims to recruit more talented students like Boettcher Scholars to careers in international relations and government service.

“Public service isn’t something that’s far away and only for a certain type of person. We need capable and service-minded Coloradans and people from all over the U.S. to serve.”

On balancing service work and life, Brian shared a lesson he learned in college: “Always seek out service opportunities. But be very specific about what you do, and don’t try to do too much. Focus in on the places you can make a deep impact and real connection.”

Brian’s career in the foreign service is extremely rewarding and full of connection, but also presents challenges. Brian and his wife are intentional about connecting their two children back to the U.S. and Colorado, as it can be challenging to develop a sense of home. His family is asked to uproot every few years, and they miss many weddings, funerals and holidays.

Yet in the face of such challenges, Brian’s optimism and service ethic keeps him and his family moving forward: “Always stay connected with the people you love and serve. They’ll remind you of the good that you’ve done and the positive experiences you’ve shared.”

Brian is surprised by his life’s adventurous path, and experiences he would have never imagined. He is grateful for the Boettcher Foundation’s initial investment in his education and is  motivated by knowing that even though he lives outside of Colorado, he is paying forward that investment by serving his country in a meaningful way.

“Be open to possibilities. Realize that Boettcher gave you the great gift of financial freedom. Look towards the world and see how your global connections can elevate those around you and even Colorado.”

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