Business dean hosts fireside chat with Navy Assistant Secretary Alaleh Jenkins

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Alaleh Jenkins, BS Accounting ’97, acting assistant secretary for the United States Navy for financial management and comptroller (FM&C), attributes her career successes to the rigorous education she received at George Mason University.

jenkins at fireside chat
Aleleh Jenkins, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Navy. Photo by Joshua Reed

The impact of her Mason experience led her back to campus to share her keys for success at a fireside chat with School of Business Dean Ajay Vinzé on November 16. Students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in Merten Hall on the Fairfax Campus for a lively discussion about Jenkins’ career.

Jenkins detailed her journey from non-English speaking immigrant to enrolling at Mason, working in the private sector, and now to her current position with the Navy. She also offered advice, both on what she did and what she wishes she had done, to those in attendance.

As a student, Jenkins took advantage of Mason’s job fairs, which led to two internships and a job at a major CPA firm after graduation. “I got a lot of tough love at my first job and I will be forever grateful to my employer for pushing me out of my comfort zone,” Jenkins said in an interview before the event.

Prior to her 16 years in the federal government, Jenkins worked extensively in the private sector, and said there were valuable lessons to learn at each step in her career.

jenkins and dean vinze
School of Business Dean Ajay Vinzé. Photo by Joshua Reed

Jenkins oversees the Navy’s annual budget of $200 billion and spearheads their Financial Management Transformation (FMT) project. She said she was motivated to join the Navy because of her commitment to serve those who defend the nation’s freedom. She said no two days are the same, as she and her team navigate around shifting world events and crises to make decisions that impact the welfare of servicemembers. Her number one priority is the Navy’s workforce.

“As I tell the FM&C workforce, if you don’t change, you don’t grow,” she said. “It’s very important that everybody learns to work in different environments, how to work with different cultures, how to be more inclusive, how to work in a very diverse organization, and how to communicate and move forward.”

The Navy puts its members through continuous education and training courses to ensure their level of expertise is where it needs to be, she said.

Mason is an ideal pipeline of workforce talent for the armed forces, Jenkins said, because of its strong programs in policy, government and international security.

Advising students in the room, she said, “This is a time to take care of yourself and to grow you. Always be in learning mode.”

She also encouraged students to embrace teamwork, take on leadership roles, and engage in new learning experiences—all of which they can do at Mason through its experiential learning and research opportunities as well as study abroad or internship opportunities.