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Graphic image showing alumnus Keome Rowe

Compass Award Honoree ‘Embodies the Maxwell Spirit’

March 11, 2022

First in a series of profiles of Awards of Excellence recipients is Keome Rowe ’16 M.P.A./M.A. (IR), who is currently serving as deputy cultural affairs officer for the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.

In May 2020, Keome Rowe ’16 was in Washington preparing for a U.S. Foreign Service assignment in Islamabad, Pakistan. His training was several months from completion, but the situation in Islamabad was dire.

“The number of COVID cases in Islamabad was exponentially high and a lot of my colleagues were evacuated, but they still needed people to support the mission on the ground,” he recalls. On a Friday he got a call from the State Department asking if he’d be willing to start his post early to help relieve embassy staff who hadn’t seen their families in months; and just a week and a half later, he was on a charter plane to Islamabad. Rowe had joined the foreign service in 2016, after completing a master of public administration (M.P.A.) and an M.A. in international relations at the Maxwell School, and he’d spent two years as a staff assistant and consular officer in Beijing.

Due to all the personnel changes in Islamabad, though, Rowe needed to step right into a leadership position. In addition to his work as an information officer, he served for six months as deputy spokesperson—leading a team of 12 and preparing briefings that were reviewed daily by the National Security Agency, White House and Secretary of State. 

For a full year, Rowe was unable to leave the Islamabad compound because of security concerns. “I really had to prepare myself mentally to be isolated from friends, family, and the outside world,” he reflects. “But I knew that I was doing important work for our government and for our people.” 

Rowe’s dedication to rise to these challenges is the reason why he is the recipient of the inaugural Maxwell Compass Award, which recognizes an early-career alumnus for exceptional accomplishments and professional or community impact. The classmate who nominated Rowe noted that he “embodies the Maxwell spirit of being a conscientious individual with a high sense of duty to serve the public.” The awards will be presented in Washington, D.C., on April 7.

A Texas native, Rowe worked in city government in Fort Worth and as a foreign policy fellow in Congress before coming to Maxwell. A college program in Japan stoked his interest in world cultures and languages, and he’s now fluent in Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi and Urdu. 

Rowe is currently in Karachi, Pakistan, serving as deputy cultural affairs officer for the U.S. Consulate and leading a variety of projects relating to higher education, climate change, sports and the arts. He also co-chairs a Mission Pakistan group focused on professional development and mentorship for early-career officers, and shared the group’s findings and advice this spring in The Foreign Service Journal.

“Despite being in a country in which we have limitations due to security, we’re really out there doing good, meaningful work,” he says. “I signed up in the foreign service to be worldwide available. I’ve always committed myself to public service, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”

By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Click here to learn more about the Awards of Excellence and to RSVP for the celebration that will be held on Thursday, April 7, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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