An International Trade Journey Leads from Rural Alabama to Washington, D.C.

March 2022
Bridgette Clark
MITRE employee Bridgette Clark

As a youngster, Bridgette Clark saw how the rural Alabama area where she grew up found creative ways to adapt to the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement. That fueled her fascination with economics and business, and a career in international trade. Here, Clark shares her journey from working on regional economic development in Alabama to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), and now to MITRE, where she manages our Commerce team.


I grew up in rural Alabama about 30 miles outside of Mobile. And because we were local to the Port of Mobile, I developed an interest in international trade. The idea that nearly 80 percent of worldwide goods traveled by water fascinated me. In college, my adviser recognized my aptitude for business and my interest in foreign markets and steered me toward international trade as a field of study.

One of my early positions was with a regional economic development operation chartered to teach companies in the Southeast how to export. You could say we were early adopters of the “whole-of-nation” approach; we just didn’t know it!

A Regional Focus on Global Competitiveness

In partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama governor’s office, the Port of Mobile, universities, and a small international business community, my organization began conducting statewide seminars on various aspects of successful international trade transactions: finding an international partner, international shipping, avoiding overseas corruption and IP theft, etc. 

Once companies were export ready, we facilitated their collaboration with DOC to participate in international trade missions.

This was my first entrée into seeing how the DOC operates and supports U.S. companies in international markets. Nearly a decade later, I joined DOC’s International Trade Administration’s [ITA] diplomatic corps as a foreign commercial service officer. My first assignment was Moscow, a world away from Mobile. 

I had seen firsthand the challenges local communities face in creating a sustainable industrial base, and later—working with DOC and as a foreign commercial officer—the challenges U.S. companies face in international markets.

Applying MITRE’s Systems Approach to Secure American Interests

At MITRE, I see an opportunity to continue my public service in a new way, by collaborating with our experts to help Commerce solve the most pressing issues facing the American economy.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen the great work Commerce does to secure American economic interests and promote U.S. global competitiveness. But identifying and coordinating the right combination of policies and investments to promote U.S. industry and create growth can be extremely difficult. That’s where MITRE can help.

MITRE is a strategic partner, not a consultant, especially with our ability to collect and analyze data. We can use that data to provide insights that may not be readily apparent. This evidence-based approach is something our sponsor relies on MITRE for.

With our whole-of-nation approach and understanding of the interplay among economic, commercial, national security, and diplomatic factors, we work across government to recommend solutions that protect U.S. interests and increase U.S. competitiveness.

Since joining MITRE about a year-and-a half ago, I have worked through my existing network to elevate the role MITRE and federally funded R&D centers can provide to the Department of Commerce.

Supporting U.S. Government Efforts to Grow the Economy

One of my biggest accomplishments to-date has been leading an initiative to introduce MITRE and our analytic and evidence-based data capabilities to U.S. trade officials all over the world.

As a result of these meetings, we were able to glean critical insights into the challenges facing government stakeholders and U.S. companies when conducting business abroad.

The work is just the beginning. As part of MITRE’s Treasury, Economics, and Commerce (TEC) division within the Center for Enterprise Modernization, I collaborate with a talented, multidisciplinary team of systems engineers, economists, policy experts, climate scientists, and more from across the organization. We support the government in not only meeting but exceeding ambitious goals that will grow our economy at home and abroad.

Increasing broadband access, combatting climate change, securing the blue economy—I love it here because I get to help drive solutions that advance both the DOC’s mission of helping the American economy grow and MITRE’s mission of solving problems for a safer world.

—As told to Laura Marie Genova 

Join our community of innovators, learners, knowledge-sharers, and risk takers. View our Job Openings.

Recent Conversations