Alumnus serves as U.S. diplomat in Japan

By HANNAH POORE, Student Writer


Neil Gibson (2005) is the United States Diplomat of Economics in Japan. He, his wife Momo, and his three sons, Troy, 7, Truman, 3, and Owen, 6 months, live in Tokyo, where he researches trade issues and international investments, analyzing what’s happening in Japan and reporting back to policymakers in Washington, D.C.

A Smittcamp Family Honors Scholar at Fresno State and Associated Students, Inc. president, Gibson majored in agricultural business and minored in classical studies. After graduation, he attended Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., earning his master’s degree in international relations with a focus in China studies. He studied Chinese at both schools.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins, he decided to apply to become a U.S. diplomat. The application process to become a U.S. diplomat is a long one — it usually takes over a year of essays, resumes, SAT-type exams, full-day interviews, health checks, language checks and background checks.

His first assignment was in the Philippines, then he worked in Taiwan and today, he works in Japan. Gibson said that there is no “typical day” in his job, but a “snapshot” of things he does throughout the day includes: meeting with government officials and local businessmen to get their opinions, collect ideas and see what people are thinking; collecting and analyzing the things he learns; and reporting the information back to policymakers in Washington, D.C. policymakers.

Many meetings with Japan’s local leaders happen over shared meals, which help to create a more cordial environment.

“It’s very, very important, because these opportunities are where people are more relaxed and you can make friendships, build new relationships that are beneficial for the United States,” Gibson said.

Along with other diplomats, Gibson serves as a host when United States leaders visit Japan.

“When we have VIPs come out to Tokyo, for example, congressmen or senators, or secretary of state, even the president,” Gibson says, “It’s my job and the job of other colleagues — we’re their host. So we have to help set up their meetings and pick them up at the airport and make sure they get fed and are going to the right hotel, because you know, it’s scary if you’ve never been to the country and you can’t speak the language — so our job is to make sure that they have a successful visit so that they can push forward their policy agenda while they’re here.”

Gibson’s favorite part about his job is “making relationships with new people, and just meeting new folks and making new friends from around the world, and just seeing how people view the world, understanding new ways of thinking.”

When asked about how valuable his time at Fresno State was, Gibson replied, “Immensely. Absolutely. It’s huge. I’m very grateful for the education I received at Fresno State, it was outstanding. It was world class.

“And to be frank, the international relations program at Johns Hopkins … was ranked top, number one in the world, and I would say that compared to some of my Fresno State Smittcamp Honors College classes, that some of those were harder than what I was doing at my grad school, at the top international relations program in the world.

“And so, yes, it set me up for success, the whole Fresno State experience. Quite honestly, the agricultural program and the Smittcamp Honors College program, all the amazing extracurricular activities that are offered there, the service leadership, it’s what helped me bring me where I am today.”

Gibson’s favorite part about his time at Fresno State was the friendships he made — friendships that continue today, even across continents. He remembers all of the fun they had and the random things they did, from inner tube water polo to turning his dorm room into “campaign central” when he ran for ASI president, to playing little pranks around campus.

“I just did all kinds of random things, and it all gives you great experience and ideas and ways of thinking and it all builds to what you’ll be,” Gibson said. “And so just try everything, and who knows what you’re going to love. Because there’s no risk with trying, so that’s my advice … There’s so many cool things to do at Fresno State. Just try everything!”

After he’s done with his three years in Tokyo, Gibson said he’s looking to come to back the U.S. and work at the U.S. Department of State headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“And then after that, who knows where’s next!” Gibson said. “And that’s what makes the job exciting, and it’s fun, and it’s interesting, and you get to learn new skills and new things along the way.”

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