The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 67 AFSA NEWS AFSA Welcomes New Comms Director AFSA is pleased to welcome Nikki Gamer to the team. Nikki joins AFSA as the director of communications and outreach, responsible for developing public relations strategies and engaging with various external audiences in support of AFSA’s mission and goals. Nikki comes to AFSA with more than 15 years of experience in public relations and journalism, most recently as senior public affairs manager and writer for the global aid agency Catholic Relief Services (CRS). During her nearly nine-year career at CRS, Nikki led the organization’s media relations efforts, which included working with the international press corps to cover humanitarian emergencies and stories tied to global poverty. Nikki’s job at CRS took her to more than 25 countries and allowed her to work closely with the organization’s Capitol Hill team on advocacy-driven communications. She won the 2022 award for excellence for op-eds/editorials from the Public Relations Society of America–Maryland Chapter. A journalist by trade, Nikki is a passionate storyteller who once produced a daily news and talk show on Baltimore’s NPR-affiliate station, WYPR-FM. She is an adjunct professor in communications at Towson University and a volunteer mentor with the Baltimorebased nonprofit Adelante Latina. Nikki holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brown University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. Initially from Danvers, Massachusetts—close enough to Salem to develop a fondness for early AmeriNikki Gamer Next Stage: Life After the FS So You Want to Be an REA? If you’re thinking about retiring in the next few years, you probably know what “REA” stands for. If not: You should. REAs—re-employed annuitants—are retirees who return to work for the State Department on a temporary, flexible basis. REA jobs, which used to be called WAEs for “while actually employed,” offer a terrific opportunity for retired officers and specialists who want to continue working in some capacity even after they step down from their current positions. The jobs range from serving as a temporary chief of mission at a post in need to reviewing FOIA requests. On Oct. 24, 2023, AFSA’s Retiree Counselor Dolores Brown invited Department of State Global Talent Management (GTM) Office of Talent Services Branch Chief Amy Merritt (who oversees the re-employed annuitant program) and REA Bureau Coordinators Sheila Hernandez and Dana Johnson to participate in an informational webinar for AFSA members who want to learn more about the inner workings of the REA program. More than 800 people registered for this first-of-akind collaboration between AFSA and GTM. As webinar participants learned, FS retirees from any agency can apply to be State Department REAs who assist with special projects and fill staffing gaps, both domestically and overseas. The positions are part-time; an REA cannot work more that 1,040 hours in an appointment year. REAs maintain their annuity payments while working. Employees who are 30 days away from retirement can request to be added to GTM’s REA registry. Hernandez and Johnson both emphasized the importance of approaching bureaus in which you are interested to determine if there are positions available that match your experience and interests. For a list of bureau coordinators, go to REA-coodinators. As with most things related to the Foreign Service hiring process, there’s some paperwork involved, so allow time to get processed. And make sure the contact information on your resume is up to date! For more tips on becoming an REA, listen to the full talk at REA-webinar-Oct23. n can history—she lives in Baltimore with her husband, Marc, and their two dogs. When not working, Nikki plays pickleball and tries (often unsuccessfully) to garden. n