A Full Circle Career

Hiroki Tanaka

Hiroki Tanaka

Ask Foreign Service Officer Hiroki Tanaka about a defining experience at The Fletcher School and he doesn’t hesitate with a response.

Topping the short list is his two-year involvement with Fletcher’s Student Council. His contributions earned him recognition with both the Presidential Award for Civic Life, which honors outstanding achievement in community service and community leadership, as well as Honos Civicus, which celebrates graduating students who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to community service and civic engagement.

Student Council was a natural fit for Tanaka from the moment he stepped on campus. The self-described social butterfly saw a place for himself among like-minded colleagues who wanted to support fellow students and promote diversity and inclusivity on campus. When the pandemic struck during Tanaka’s final semester, he and his fellow Student Council members were called upon to serve in unprecedented ways. Tanaka worked closely with students and school administrators to devise satisfactory solutions to the multitude of pandemic-related challenges facing the international student body.

Dialogue—the Core of Diplomacy

This experience brought to light the importance of “dialogue as the essence and core of diplomacy,” according to Tanaka. In his work today in the foreign service, Tanaka leans into what he learned about dialogue at Fletcher.

When meeting someone for the first time in a professional capacity, for example, he begins by asking himself, “What is important to this person, and what is at stake for their work?”

In his Tokyo-based position with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanaka leads Japan’s support to Pacific Island countries as well as the country’s participation in the Japan-United States-Australia trilateral consultation. “When Japan offers assistance to Pacific Island countries, of course it’s a country-to-country relationship,” he said. “But in the end, this is human connection, and all discussions are going to happen on a human basis.”

“When it comes to diplomacy, we can’t necessarily analyze one aspect of an issue,” he explained. “Fletcher taught me how to think multidimensionally and synthesize various inputs.”

This signature training has been instrumental to Tanaka’s career. It provided him with important guidance during his post at the Embassy of Japan in Washington D.C., where he promoted the friendship between Japan and the U.S., and in his role in the Japanese government, where he works on Japan’s support of island nations facing challenges related to the climate crisis and other issues.

While concentrating his studies at Fletcher on law and diplomacy, Tanaka decided to take coursework in data science and econometrics simply to challenge himself and gain new skills. “I don’t necessarily use analytics in my work, but I like to learn new things and the motivation to do so really shapes my career right now,” he said.

“Every single moment as a diplomat, I’m utilizing what I learned at Fletcher.”

Keeping the Spirit Alive

Although Fletcher’s focus has changed over time, its spirit hasn’t, according to Tanaka – and that’s a great thing. “I believe Fletcher has a special school spirit going back to its founding in 1933, when it was a circle of people who wanted to contribute to international peace.”

“Everyone who has come to Fletcher has a similar spirit: to tackle global challenges and contribute to world peace and security.”