Justin Prairie '05: A Commitment to Service

Although half a world away in Pakistan, Justin Prairie ’05 is never far from Emmanuel and Boston. A foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department, Justin currently works on political and military affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. His job, he explains, is to promote peace, support prosperity, protect Americans and strengthen relations between the United States and Pakistan.

Prairie, who was part of the College’s first coeducational class and served as class president, often thinks of how his time at Emmanuel expanded his worldview and pushed him toward his career in diplomacy. He says that Emmanuel’s “service-focused curriculum and community really inspired me to think about my place in the world, how my actions relate to other people and what any of us can do, given the opportunity, to make things better for others.”

For Prairie, the journey to the U.S. diplomatic corps began almost immediately after he arrived on campus from his hometown of Springfield, MA. Just weeks into his college experience, the attacks of 9/11 took place. “I remember all of us huddled around the TV in my dorm room,” he says. “I remember that moment so vividly and thinking that everything had changed for my generation.” That experience prompted him “to be more conscientious of the world around me and to think about what I could contribute.”

From that moment on, a number of factors shaped his view of the world and sharpened his understanding of how he could make an impact. His off-campus internships with the offices of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Governor Mitt Romney gave him a deeper understanding of politics and community involvement. At the same time, Prairie says, his coursework in the College’s Political Science Department “exposed me to political theories and topics that I hadn’t considered.”

The city itself had an enormous impact. “The whole idea of Boston as a global classroom is very powerful,” he says. “You can just pop over to the Museum of Fine Arts or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or go to foreign policy forums at Harvard.” These opportunities, he explains, “were just incredible, and they completely reshaped my view that there is a world outside of New England.”

In addition, Prairie found Boston to be a vibrant, multicultural melting pot. “I met people from places I had never even heard of, and interacted with people whose experiences and perspectives were new to me,” he recalls. Another import influence on Prairie was the College’s tradition of service to others. “Emmanuel’s message of spirituality and generosity and giving has been incredibly important to me,” he says. “I’ve tried to carry that message with me throughout my career.”

That career started right after Prairie graduated from Emmanuel. Initially, he worked in state government, taking a fellowship at the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget in Illinois. From there, he worked in international business development at BAE Systems and Energia Growth Strategies, where he had many opportunities to travel over-seas. These roles, he says, broadened his experience and put him in a position to pass the foreign service exam. Soon after passing the test, he was hired by the U.S. State Department.

Before taking his current foreign service assignment in Pakistan, Justin was posted to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Soon, he will leave Pakistan for another role in another country. But no matter where Prairie goes, he will bring along his Emmanuel experience. “My time in Boston inspired me to serve, to make some kind of contribution to the world,” he says. “I think that will always be with me.” –Scott Howe