Richard Damstra graduated in 1996 with a B.A. in Political Science. He was recognized by GVSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) through the 2015 CLAS Distinguished Alumni-in-Residence program.
I recently completed my 10th year as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. I'm currently serving a tour at "Main State" in Washington, DC, working on the team that coordinates U.S. foreign assistance to Ukraine. Previously, I served as a cultural affairs officer in Sofia, Bulgaria, overseeing our many exchange programs, public diplomacy outreach, and cultural engagement with the Bulgarian public; as a consular officer in Kyiv, Ukraine, interviewing visa applicants and leading the fraud prevention team; and as a political officer in Astana, Kazakhstan, reporting on human rights and religious freedom issues. Prior to the State Department, I worked in Michigan politics, primarily for State Representative Ken Sikkema; received my law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law; and practiced law for four years at Warner Norcross and Judd in Grand Rapids.
I was born and raised in Grand Rapids and graduated from GVSU in 1996 with a B.A. in political science. I give great credit to fantastic professors like Forrest Armstrong, William Baum, and Erika King for energizing my interest in politics and world affairs and helping me sharpen my writing and analytical skills. I was also an early participant in the Honors Program (predecessor to the current Honors College), and I continue to draw on the diverse subject matter knowledge and creative thinking skills that I developed thanks to the many demanding professors that taught in the program. Finally, my "GVSU resume" wouldn't be complete without mentioning the summer study abroad program in Kingston, England. I participated in 1995, my first trip overseas, and I've been hooked ever since.