Strengthening Transatlantic Relations: Christopher Hundley’s Take on the Marshall Memorial Fellowship

Jun 06, 2024
Marshall Memorial Fellowship winner, Christopher Hundley, standing in the center among several other fellow, dressed in business attire, smiling at the camera.
Christopher Hundley, center back with his Marshall Memorial Fellowship cohort in Summer 2022.

The Marshall Memorial Fellowship, by the German Marshall Fund of the United States or GMF, is a program for transatlantic leadership development. Established in 1982 to nurture a new generation of European leaders familiar with the United States, the initiative fosters cross-Atlantic relationships. Including 6 months of remote learning and an in-person component, it provides leaders from various sectors with essential knowledge and networks for transatlantic engagement. GMF selects 75 Marshall Memorial Fellows annually from fields like business, government, and civil society, requiring at least 6 years of leadership experience.

Meet Christopher Hundley, a seasoned professional with a diverse background. Initially, he aspired to be a novelist before finding his public relations and communications niche. His academic journey continued with him earning a dual master’s in marketing and computer information systems. He currently serves as a labor union’s public and government relations director. We talked with Christopher to learn more about his academic journey and how the Marshall Memorial Fellowship helped him grow his leadership skills.

Can you tell us about your educational background? What inspired you to get your bachelor’s in English and then dual master’s, an MSc and MBA, in Marketing and Computer Information Systems?

When I first attended Howard University as an undergraduate, I wanted to be a novelist. While I did not pursue that as a career, I did find an outlet for my love of storytelling in public relations and communications work. When I started working at Medgar Evers College, Baruch’s Marketing program appealed to me as a way to supplement the on-the-job training I was receiving. I’m naturally a curious person, and while graduate school appealed to me as a way to dive deeply into specific topics, I also appreciated the fact that I could learn at night and test and implement what I learned the next day.

After graduating, I found myself wanting a better understanding of how marketing work could be better integrated throughout an organization, as well as how specific business/organizational functions worked. At that time, I’d also been promoted to a management position and sought a better understanding of management as well. So, after a year, I returned to graduate school. Some of my work at Medgar Evers College intersected with its technology department, which is why I chose Computer Information Systems for my MBA concentration.

A large glass building, the NATO headquarters with small but lush green trees lining the entrance. Marshall Memorial Fellowship winners walk towards the entrance.
Visiting NATO headquarters in Belgium, Brussels where Christopher and other fellows spoke with NATO officials about present and future security concerns.

How did you come across the Marshall Memorial Fellowship, and what motivated you to apply?

In 2019, I was looking for ways to broaden my professional experience. I came across the Marshall Memorial Fellowship program online and thought it might be a good fit for my interests. I was interested in studying worker issues and how labor unions operate outside of the U.S. From what I learned before applying, the fellowship provided a good grounding in transatlantic relations and provided flexibility for fellows to pursue their own professional interests.

Because I knew relatively little about the program and had to interview online rather than in person due to personal circumstances, I was a bit nervous about my chances of acceptance. Fortunately, I received an acceptance letter stating I was due to travel, ironically, in May 2020.

The pandemic put the Fellowship on hold for the next couple of years. In truth, with the turmoil of the pandemic, there were times over the next two years when, if it were not for GMF’s periodic updates, I almost forgot about the program. But the excitement and anticipation certainly flourished as we got closer to the new travel date in 2022.

What was your experience like during the fellowship? And what was the biggest takeaway from the program?

The Fellowship was an incredible experience. In 2022, all of the Fellows met and spent a few days in Washington, DC, with the American Fellows departing together and traveling to Brussels for a few days. Afterward, we split up into smaller groups and traveled in cohorts to three different countries. I traveled to Ireland, Sweden, and Kosovo over the next few weeks while other Fellows visited Greece, the United Kingdom, and Spain, among other places. In each country, we visited roughly two cities a piece while we were there. Towards the end of the program, we all reunited in Poland for about four days before returning home.

In each city, city coordinators set up meetings for us to visit with various leaders and experts in fields that intersected with our own work. We had rich conversations with them during the day and were able to visit and explore the cities we stayed in at night. We also set up meetings with experts in our field on our own or with the help of the city coordinators.

I found not only the conversations with other leaders and experts incredibly illuminating but also the conversations and camaraderie with the other Fellows even more rewarding. GMF selected some incredibly accomplished and talented individuals with whom it was an absolute joy and pleasure to travel, get to know, and become friends.

A large cardboard cutout of James Connolly at a visitor center in Northern Ireland. Many books are filled on shelves behind the cutout.
The Áras Uí Chonghaile James Connolly Visitor Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

How did the Marshall Memorial Fellowship impact your career and professional growth?

The Fellowship broadened my perspective on my field, transatlantic relations, and democracy, which I think has enriched my current work to a degree. I’ve certainly been more aware of the global implications of developing events in parts of the world I’d never visited. And, of course, my professional network has grown from the experience.

On a more personal note, while delayed by the pandemic, the Fellowship came at just the right time for me. Being thrust into multiple new environments over a nearly 30-day period not only provided me with rich new experiences but also pushed me and gave me the space to explore and re-examine my professional career and consider new options I did not have time to before.

Although the Fellowship did not lead to any career jumps at my work, it made me more aware of the resources, both organizations and individuals, that have been helpful. It inspired me to pursue new opportunities that would not have occurred to me to seek otherwise.

Large brick monastery with stone path, large white fluffy clouds behind it and dark, bright green grass surrounding the building.
Christopher visited one of many historical cultural sites during the Fellowship: Gračanica Monastery in Gračanica, Kosovo.

And finally, can you share some advice with our readers?

In terms of the fellowship, I’d recommend applying early, talking to program alumni about their experiences, and painting a comprehensive picture of yourself professionally and personally through your application materials. If you’re accepted, I’d also suggest getting to know other Fellows as much as you can in the lead-up to the travel component. And I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with the cultural and social environment of the places you visit beforehand if you’ve never been to those places before.

In general, I’d encourage professionals to find a fellowship that fits their experience and interests and apply for it. Fellowships can be tremendously rewarding from a professional standpoint and quite a lot of fun.

Interested in applying for the Marshall Memorial Fellowship yourself? Be sure to bookmark it to your free ProFellow account.

headshot image of Christopher Hundley wearing a business suite.Christopher Hundley works as the Public and Government Relations Director for SEIU Local 668, a local union headquartered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that represents 19,000 employees of public and private organizations throughout the state. The son of two Howard University alumni, he also attended Howard and earned a BA in English. Upon graduation, he began working at Medgar Evers College and eventually became their Director of Communications. While working there, he attended Baruch College, where he earned an MS in Marketing and an MBA in Computer Information Systems. He began working at SEIU Local 668 shortly after finishing graduate school.

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