Alumni Profile: Jayson William Browder (WAG '15)
October 15, 2020
Jayson William Browder (WAG ’15), Assistant Dean of Administration at NYU Abu Dhabi, decorated U.S. Air Force and Iraq War veteran, and former U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Turkey understands the importance of including diverse voices in areas such as national security and foreign policy.
He draws his deep experience in global affairs and policy issues as the founder and chairman of the non-profit, Veterans in Global Leadership, and from his former role as a Presidential Management Fellow at the White House, Office of Management and Budget. During his tenure, Jayson oversaw a $250 million portfolio under the White House’s international affairs division. His industry insights have also been featured in major media outlets, including Asia Times, Carnegie Council, Foreign Policy Journal, and NPR.
Most recently, Jayson was named one of the top 40 Latinos in National Security and Foreign Policy in 2020 by Diversity in National Security Network and New America. In 2016, he was recognized in Huffpost’s select list of “40 Under 40: Latinos in Foreign Policy.”
We spoke with Jayson about his remarkable personal and professional journey—from a rural town in South Carolina to NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi, where he provides leadership coordination and oversight of the Dean of Students Office.
In your bio, you mention that you’re a former high school dropout turned U.S. Fulbright Scholar. Can you talk about the influences that drove you to pursue your career path—from serving in the U.S. military to being a Presidential Management Fellow at the White House and now as Assistant Dean of Administration at NYU Abu Dhabi?
Service, family, and prayer. In particular, my white paternal grandparents, who at the ages of 59 and 57, decided to raise their mixed Latinx grandson in a rural and very conservative town in South Carolina.
Their faith and prayers got me through very difficult times in my youth. Back then, I constantly struggled with and had difficulties understanding not only my differences, but also my uniqueness.
My grandparents never gave up on me. In return, I kept the faith and never gave up on myself. I also come from a strong and proud tradition of military service dating as far back as the French and Indian War. A sense of service was instilled in me early in life and grew exponentially with my family’s mentorship.
How did your education at NYU influence your path today?
Attending NYU was one of the best decisions of my life. I decided to join a graduate program at a time when I was trying to better understand myself and my ideas about the world.
Following my Fulbright Scholarship in Turkey, I was a member of the inaugural class that enrolled in NYU Wagner and University College London’s School of Public Policy joint degree program in 2014. The level of attention and mentorship I received from the program helped me recognize my passions and taught me how to channel my energy into projects that provide the most impact.
The lessons I gleaned during my time at NYU—and from professors such as Paul Smoke and John Gershman—resulted in some of my proudest accomplishments in recent years. Among those achievements include working as a Presidential Management Fellow at the White House, and seeing my Capstone Project materialize into Veterans in Global Leadership (VGL), a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides leadership development to student veterans across the United States.
Your work has been published in major media outlets, and most recently, you were named a leading Latino voice in national security and foreign policy. In an age where dialogue around diversity, equity, and inclusion is front and center, why is it imperative to include the voices of Latinx and other people of color in policymaking?
Open and inclusive policymaking cannot be effectively developed and implemented without drawing on and including the voices of all the people it’s designed to serve. Latinx and other people of color have a unique story to share; our different upbringing and backgrounds directly impact the communities we are from or have served in.
Now is the time to leverage the wealth of diverse talents—this country’s extraordinary array of cultures and perspectives are what make the fabric of America so vibrant and special.
The world looks much different for today’s college students versus just a year ago. If you could give one piece of advice to NYU students, what would it be?
As my grandmother always says, change is the only constant in life. And as a Millennial, I can attest to this—by the time I was 13, I watched the Twin Towers in New York City fall. When I was 18, my peers were being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight endless wars. And at 21 years old, I experienced the “once in a lifetime” economic crisis of 2008.
Fast forward a little over a decade—as Millennials enter and progress through our 30s, we are experiencing another financial crash brought on by a once-in-a-century global pandemic. My advice: Read proverbs, pray, and be tenacious with your faith.
One of my favorite quotes, and something that I live by, is from the late U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. He said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Share your most memorable moments at NYU.
One of my most memorable moments was the night I met NYU President Emeritus John Sexton. I was one of a handful of students invited to join Sexton at an intimate dinner, where we discussed our NYU experience.
That night changed my life. My relationship with Sexton grew into something I truly cherish. When I wrote my Capstone Project, Sexton served as an advisor. And when I left the White House to run VGL, he joined our Advisory Board.
He was also one of the first people I spoke to after deciding to transition out of the non-profit sector—he mentioned NYU Abu Dhabi as a great choice for my career. Once again, NYU became my second home when I accepted a leadership role with NYU Abu Dhabi in January 2020.
What’s your favorite part about living in Abu Dhabi?
My favorite part about living in Abu Dhabi is the NYU community. I’d been in Abu Dhabi only two months before the pandemic hit and changed our lives. As stores, restaurants, and schools began to shut down, I was moving into my apartment with only a bed and kitchen table.
Prior to arriving at NYU, I heard it was a remarkable place with a strong community. But seeing it firsthand during a crisis of this magnitude was nothing short of inspiring. The support of my colleagues, who are now close friends, is something I’ll always be grateful for.
Even now, my coworkers will call to check in, or drive by and pick me up at my apartment for dinner. These experiences are what make living and working abroad so memorable and are memories I’ll always cherish.