All About the SAR
Shabnam: Welcome to the Boren Around the World podcast, a podcast by the National Security Education Program for Boren awardees, language lovers and public service enthusiasts. For those of you listening who are Boren awardees and have returned from your adventures abroad, you're going to start hearing three words a lot more now that you're on the other side of your Boren award. These words are Service Agreement Report or SAR. We’ll be using them both interchangeably. NSEP’s upmost requirement is that you submit SARs in a timely manner it because they are what we use to keep track of how close you are to fulfilling your service requirement. my name is Shabnam and I’m here with my colleague Eva to discuss everything you need to know about the SAR. Eva manages many of our service committee meetings where SAR’s are adjudicated for service and she's the go to expert on SAR submissions for our team. Thank you so much for joining us today Eva
Eva: Happy to be here Shabnam.
Shabnam: So Eva can you explain what a service agreement report is?
Eva: Yes, a service agreement report is a digital document that each NSEP awardee is required to submit annually through NSEPnet.org. NSEP’s upmost requirement is that awardees submit SARs in a timely manner. The purpose behind submitting a SAR is that so we, the NSEP service team, know how close you are to fulfilling your service requirement and keeping with our legislation and the terms and conditions in which you agreed upon when accepting the Boren award. Each awardee must submit a SAR every year, however there are few types of SAR’s that you can submit. An awardee can submit a SAR indicating that they have not yet begun their service, so that's a SAR for no service. This means NSEP stays informed that you are still in the job search process. An awardee can submit a SAR for service, reporting the work they request to be reviewed for credit towards their service requirement. An awardee can also submit a SAR for an academic deferral if you decide after your Boren experience to pursue higher education. During the time you are pursuing higher education degree, your service clock will pause. Many Borens after graduating go on to do a Fulbright. A Fulbright experience would count as an academic deferral.
Shabnam: Thanks for clarifying that, Eva. How are service deadlines calculated exactly? so for example I was a born scholar in 2017 and if I add three years to that does that mean I have until 2020 to start my service requirement?
Eva: Shabnam that's a great question. Boren Scholars must begin their service 3 years after their graduation date, whereas Boren fellow must begin their service 2 years after their graduation date. Ensure your graduation date is correct in NSEPnet, because this directly impacts your service requirement deadline. Now suppose you begin in May 2017 and you're a Boren scholar, you are correct, you have until May 2020 to begin your service. You don't necessarily have to finish your service by then, you just have to start. The minimum amount of service you can submit to show that you've begun is 40 hours or one full-time work week. So, here's a scenario Shabnam, suppose graduated in May 30th 2017 and you're a Boren scholar, so you have until May 30th 2020 to begin your service. If you were a fellow you have until May 30th, 2019, to begin your service. This is your service deadline, in other words your deadline to begin service. The factors that would contribute to your service deadline moving would be a graduation date change from your degree under which you received your NSEP award, the approval of a deferral SAR if you decide to pursue further education. Now your NSEPnet account will always display the most accurate service deadline, and the team here is here for you and ready to help you throughout your job search. Once you start fulfilling your service requirement, you have five years to complete it.
Shabnam: I see, so like for example if my deadline to begin service is May 30th 2020 and I did a State Department internship for a month between January February 2020 full time, suppose I submit a SAR and my service is approved, does that mean that since I started in January my new deadline to complete my service is going to be January 2025 since I have add five years from the date I started?
Eva: That's correct.
Shabnam: What if I decide to go to graduate school after my one-month internship can I still opt for an academic deferral after I've started my service? will I still get more time?
Eva: Yes you can. Submit a SAR for service that's so that we can credit you for your one-month internship with the state department, then also submit a SAR for an academic deferral with proper documentation such as a transcript. NSEP will review your SAR for service and your deferral request to add the time to your service deadline corresponding to the amount of time in your program. For example, if you are in a six-year PhD program, if you provide the required documentation and submit a SAR for an academic deferral, NSEP can pause your service requirement deadline while you were in your PhD program.
Shabnam: Thanks for clarifying that, Eva. So just to provide a little bit more context, can we use an example of two Boren and Scholars for example, let's just say Alex and Sam. So, Alex graduates with their bachelor's in May 2017, and their deadline to begin service is three years from May 2017 so May 2020. They begin their job close to the end of their deadline in April 2020 and report their service then. So, their new service deadline to complete their service requirement of one year is April 2025, which is taking into account their start date of April 2020 plus five years. They pretty much waited till the end of the three-year time period to start their service, and then after getting approved for their service, they have five years to complete it. Then we have Sam. Sam also graduates with their bachelor's in May 2017 and their deadline to begin service is also May 2020 but they find a job later that year in December 2017, submit SAR for service that month, their service is approved, and their new deadline to complete their service is there start date December 2017 plus five years, so December 2022. Alex and Sam are both partials now, but Alex has until April 2025 to finish their service and Sam who started right away now has until December 2022 to finish their service?
Eva: You're right Shabnam, their deadlines will be different, but they are both eligible for academic deferrals at any time. At the end of the day, all NSEP awardees have at least a 12-month service requirement and depending on when you start your service or whether you obtain an academic deferral, your service deadline will be calculated accordingly to accommodate the choices that you've made to further your career.
Shabnam: I feel like if you aren't certain about whether your service will be approved, for example if you are requesting service in tier-2 and tier-3 and you have to make either a national security or educational argument, it may be worthwhile to submit your service early just so you know quickly whether your work will count, but at the end of the day depending on when someone begins their service that will determine how much time they have to complete it.
Eva: That is correct. The two-year time period for Fellows and the three-year time period for Scholars is to give awardees the opportunity to start their service. Once they begin, depending on when they begin, that will factor into their service completion deadline.
Shabnam: I will say hi Eva I began working at a tier-1 organization, and it was a crazy four months, so I actually hadn't submitted my service agreement report for service until like four months in. My service deadline to begin my service isn't until May 2020, but regardless of whether I report my service the moment I started working there, four months after working there, or even now, my deadline to complete my service will still be the day I started working plus five years given that my work is approved for service credit, correct?
Eva: Yep that is correct. The other thing I wanted to point out is if you are submitting a SAR for service, your SAR still needs to be verified by your supervisor for it to be considered a valid SAR. The NSEP service committee can only review SARs for service that are submitted, and supervisor verified, which is why it's important for you to follow up with your supervisor and ensure they received the verification link in their email. Sometimes awardees submit a SAR and because it’s never supervisor verified, it doesn't show up in our queue, therefore it can't be reviewed by the service committee.
Shabnam: That's true that you wouldn't want to think “I'm good to go, I submitted my SAR before my service deadline” but if I find out my supervisor didn’t verify the SAR before my deadline, it's not technically a valid SAR, and I'm actually not good to go.
Eva: Yeah once you submit a SAR for service its best practice to follow up with your supervisor to make sure they receive the automatic link in their email and verify your work to avoid that misunderstanding.
Shabnam: Okay will do, but what if I have like three different job or internships in the course of that time? Can I report service for all of them? For example, I had the virtual Federal service state department internship, and then I volunteered for the Department of Veterans Affairs, but I also was a teaching assistant for a regional studies course in my University.
Eva: Boy Shabnam, you've been busy. You could certainly submit a SAR for service for all of them, but your explanation for each will have to be different. For example, you said that you did a Department of State internship even though it was an unpaid internship you work directly with a tier-1 federal organization. Tier-1 agencies, as a reminder, are the Department of Defense including all elements of the Armed Forces, the Department of State including USAID, the Department of Homeland Security and the Intelligence Community and tier-1 agencies are the priority agencies so if you submit a SAR for tier-2 which is service for federal positions outside of Tier 1, you have to show good faith effort in applying to tier 1 agencies.
Shabnam: So my second job as a volunteer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, how would submitting a SAR for service be different than my work as a state department intern?
Eva: Great question. If you submit a SAR for your work at the apartment of Veterans Affairs you would need to submit a SAR for tier 2 service since it's a federal agency outside of the four priority agencies, but the NSEPnet system will not allow you to submit a SAR for service until you've shown good faith effort in securing a position in tier one. Even though you had an internship in a tier-one agency, the Department of State, you will still need to show NSEP that you made a good-faith effort to complete your whole service requirement in tier 1 before considering tier 2 service. You would need to show that you've applied to a significant number of positions in tier 1 via the job search history log on NSEPnet before submitting the SAR. It's important to note that positions outside of Tier 1 are granted on a case-by-case basis. So particularly for tier 2 positions, you would need to include in your description how your position relates to National Security, that connection needs to be clear.
Shabnam: Okay so applying to tier 2, I'd have to show good faith effort by applying for positions into tier 1, and then explain how my position relates to National Security?
Eva: Yes. For your third position as a teaching assistant in a regional studies course, in order for you to submit a SAR for a tier 3 position, you not only need to show that you've shown good faith effort in applying to positions in tier 1, but also tier 2. This means logging all the positions you applied for at a tier-1 and tier-2 agency on NSEPnets job search history log. Now your description in the SAR needs to explain how your work is educational in nature and how it relates to your NSEP funded study. That could be your language, country, region and/or your major of the degree program that you pursued while you're on your NSEP funded study.
Shabnam: Thanks for clarifying all that Eva. So even when we submit a SAR for service and depending on which tier of service we are reporting, our descriptions and explanations will need to be crafted based on separate criteria.
Eva: Yes. If you are requesting service for work outside of tier-1, tier-2 positions need to have clear National Security responsibilities and tier-3 positions need to demonstrate how the work is educational in nature and related to your NSEP funded study.
Shabnam: That's really good to know. I hope this clarifies much of the SAR submission process, are there any other points you think would be helpful for our listeners to keep in mind?
Eva: Well the NSEP service team is comprised entirely of Borens. We have all gone through the process, and we are here to assist you. I would say to the listeners to please use as a resource to ask any questions related to the service requirement or about the SAR submission process in particular.
Shabnam: Thanks so much Eva!
Eva: No problem Shabnam happy help. There's more information about this process on nsepnet.org in the frequently asked questions section, as well as for those who may want more detailed written guidance as well.
Shabnam: We hope this clears up some questions about the process for listeners. Thank you for joining us today.
Shabnam: You’ve been listening to the Boren around the world podcast. If you haven't yet, go to Spotify to subscribe, rate and view this podcast. If you're interested in participating in the podcast, email [email protected] with “Boren Podcast” in your subject line. Join me soon for another episode. Thank you for listening!
Returned from your experience abroad? Need to fill out your Service Agreement Report? Don't know where to start? Look no further! In this episode the NSEP Service Team will go over everything you need to know about the SAR.