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ASU global studies alum aspires to cultivate change

Portrait of ASU alum Alex Thien.

ASU alum Alex Thien.

April 18, 2022

While reflecting on his time at Arizona State University, Alex Thien says earning his bachelor’s degree from the School of Politics and Global Studies helped prepare him for his future endeavors.

“Do everything that you can while you’re in college, because there are many opportunities that are only open to students,” said Thien, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in global studies from ASU in 2017.

In 2014, after serving time with the U.S. Navy, Thien decided to pursue global studies due to his interest in international affairs and the degree’s language and study abroad requirements.

Referring to his time spent abroad as an “investment,” Thien chose to go to Russia, where he would broaden his knowledge about international affairs and the language itself. 

“When students come to me for mentoring, I tell them to go abroad,” Thien said. “Don't go to the U.K. or Australia. Go somewhere where they don't speak your language, they don't look like you and somewhere that's uncomfortable if you want to work in this field.”

Thien was always interested in studying in Russia because they have “more nuclear weapons than we do and are always going to be a major actor in world affairs.” His time abroad aided his understanding of government and foreign policy, which encouraged him as he continued his studies back in Tempe. 

Upon his graduation, Thien realized that he “wanted to be a part of a community that is on the edge of global change, global affairs and making decisions that shape events around the world.”

Thien is fulfilling those aspirations while in Washington, D.C., through his current position in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Science and Technology Cooperation.

His time spent studying abroad inspired his current role, which Thien says has allowed him the opportunity to work with a diverse set of countries. 

“It is key to be able to communicate with other cultures, understand the nuances, be patient and acknowledge that the American way is not the only way,” Thien said.

His main role in the U.S. Department of State is to facilitate conversations and conferences for technology agreements between U.S. science agencies and other countries. His main ambition is to cultivate change in relations and agreements with foreign countries.

“If I can help facilitate that and get them open to adopt these principles and understand the best practices when it comes to artificial intelligence and not be influenced by oppressive regimes, then I’ve made a change,” Thien said.

He currently is a part of the School of Politics and Global Studies Council of Friends, where he is a resource for ASU students seeking advice and opportunities. Thien says he enjoys participating because he wants more ways to contribute to the school that provided his education and possibilities.

“I was stuck in front of a computer during COVID, and I just wanted to do more. I wanted to network and see other ways to contribute,” Thien said. The SPGS Council of Friends gives him the chance to stay connected to ASU and share opportunities that he may be aware of.  

Thien’s advice for ASU students is to “do as much as you can,” because “the more you can have on your resume, the more opportunities that open up.”

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