When Aubrey Dowd’s husband was given the opportunity to be the assistant Army attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the College of Education grad (BS `12) was hoping to teach at the International American School. But when that didn’t work out, she took a job as a community liaison office coordinator (CLO) and put her teaching degree to work helping the entire embassy community.
“It was basically a chance for me to give back to the American community in the embassy,” she says. “It was fantastic, and I loved it.”
As a CLO, Dowd was responsible for several important things, including helping families transition to post, advising on school issues, organizing community events and helping family members with personal or mental health issues involving the culture shock of being stationed in another country.
This role became particularly challenging halfway through her tour when a terrorist attack at a café less than a mile from her home killed 22, including one American.
Because of that, the embassy advised that accompanying family members be sent home.
“It happened in the summer, when people were taking their kids on vacation, so many weren’t in the country,” she says. “So I was having to reach out to these people and say, ‘this is what’s happening, where is your safe haven, where are you going to go?’”
Not only was it a logistical challenge, it was an emotional one as well. After six months, children were officially required to leave and only spouses who were working were allowed to stay.
“It was very challenging, but in my role as CLO, I got to be the one person in the community to make sure they had what they needed, and that was very fulfilling to me,” she says.
The job was made even more difficult because a worldwide shortage of social workers required Dowd to be the one working closely with the doctor assigned to her post.
Thanks to her education training, Dowd found she possessed many of the skills necessary for the role.
“My background at Augusta really helped me because the professors were so kind and compassionate,” she says. “I didn’t only learn how to teach, I also really learned how to listen to people and how we can work together to fix problems.”
Not only was Dowd awarded the M. Juanita Guess Award for Exemplary Performance by a Community Liaison Office Coordinator for her work in Bangladesh, the experience ignited a passion for helping military families. Now living in Alexandria, Virginia, she would like to start her master’s degree in social work.
Her biggest piece of advice?
“Just have an open mind and always manage your expectations,” she says. “As challenging as Bangladesh was, I have learned so much and I’ve gained so much life experience and professional experience. I was able to see that I love this work, which I never knew existed, and that I want to continue doing this kind of work.”
Read more about Dowd’s experience in Alexandria, Virginia.