How This Columbia Summer Student (and CEO) Puts His International Relations CPA to Work

April 09, 2020

How This Columbia Summer Student (and CEO) Puts His International Relations CPA to Work

Although he began his professional life as an industrial engineer, Dr. Wayne R. Wesley has devoted himself to building bridges through sustainable development in the Caribbean region. As the registrar and CEO of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), he oversees the administration of educational and professional syllabuses and examinations across the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM.

He is currently enrolled in the non-degree Certification of Professional Achievement in Critical Issues in International Relations at Columbia, where he is focused on honing his leadership skills in international relations and diplomacy.

We recently reached him in Barbados to speak with him about his experience in the program.

What were you doing before you started the International Relations CPA program?

I was Director of Operations at the Caribbean Examination Council, with portfolio responsibility for the development and delivery of regional examination services across all 16 member states of CARICOM. After applying to become the registrar and chief executive officer of CXC and becoming the CEO-designate, I recognized that I needed to have greater exposure to diplomacy and understanding of how international relationships are managed.

What specifically attracted you to Columbia’s program?

Two things mainly: the recognition of the program and the quality of the program. Recognition, in terms of being a certification program that is accepted internationally. Among all of the people in the international relations and diplomacy space, the Columbia Certification of Professional Achievement program came up very often, and I recognized that this is something that could boost my career in international relations. The title of the program attracted me, as well: I wanted to make sure I was grounded in the principles and concepts — the critical issues — of such a career. In terms of quality, the breadth and depth of the material that the program covers are very relevant and current.

I recognized the need to develop these foreign policy skills and understanding how international organizations operate, and so far, this program has not let me down. It has already prepared me to confidently walk into any diplomatic arena, any foreign policy arena, any international relations arena, and be able to hold my own in responding and understanding the issues at play.

— Wayne R. Wesley, Ph.D., '20SPS, Critical Issues in International Relations CPA

What courses have you taken that you found especially engaging and instructive?

While I was there last summer, I had the privilege of taking two foreign policy courses: Comparative Foreign Policy and U.S. Foreign Policy. The Comparative Foreign Policy was very critical for me because it really gave me an understanding of the framework for describing how international relations operate, so we talk about realism, liberalism, conservatism, neorealism, and all those sort of concepts that help us to understand and appreciate why countries behave the way they do depending on their national interests and how those interests play out within a region, as well as internationally.

The U.S. Foreign Policy course gave me an appreciation and understanding for how the U.S. interacts with the rest of the world regionally, sub-regionally, and internationally, and the influence that has on organizations like the UN and NATO. Once I understood those concepts about how states behave, I was able to position my own region within that context.

Can you share any particularly memorable experiences you’ve had?

In the U.S. Foreign Policy class, we did a decision-making exercise dealing with relations between the U.S. and Iran. We simulated a National Security Council, and I had the privilege of being the National Security Advisor, who chairs the NSC. The task was to come to a resolution to the impasse over Iran’s desire to develop a nuclear weapon. We looked at the entire situation surrounding economic sanctions and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to stop Iran from pursuing their nuclear enrichment program. As the National Security Advisor, I have to listen to the U.S. Secretary of State, the Army generals, the Vice President, and I have to take all of that information and synthesize it so that I can present a position for the president to make a determination.  

Anybody in international relations would have loved to experience a situation that brings to life what really happens in the world. So, you can imagine my excitement, having just played this out during the summer, when things began to escalate between the U.S. and Iran, and we saw the need to use diplomacy to avoid a war!

[The program] is very applicable, especially now that I am the CEO and interacting with governments across the region, speaking with prime ministers, international partners and organizations that operate within the region on sustainable development issues.

— Wayne R. Wesley, Ph.D., '20SPS, Critical Issues in International Relations CPA

Have you been able to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your work?

It is very applicable, especially now that I am the CEO and interacting with governments across the region, speaking with prime ministers, international partners and organizations that operate within the region on sustainable development issues.

Prior to this, I was the head of a national organization in Jamaica. Operating now within the Caribbean region requires a different type of skill and diplomatic dynamic. I mentioned that I recognized the need to develop these foreign policy skills and understanding how international organizations operate, and so far, this program has not let me down. It has already prepared me to confidently walk into any diplomatic arena, any foreign policy arena, any international relations arena, and be able to hold my own in responding and understanding the issues at play and how to arrive at a consensus for us to move forward, as a region, achieving sustainable development.

Having been exposed to this program, I am now positioned to move into other areas of leadership at other agencies within CARICOM. I could move to the Caribbean Development Bank or the CARICOM Secretariat, which is the chief regional organizing body. Someday I might head one of these organizations, just as I am heading this organization right now. So, the future is bright with this kind of qualification.

Learn more about the Critical Issues in International Relations Certificate of Professional Achievement at Columbia Summer.