The MPD delegation in DC had a busy day on Wednesday, attending multiple meetings at the U.S. Department of State and speaking with Ambassador Capricia Marshall at the Atlantic Council.
At the State Department, the students met first with Judith Snyderman and Lindsey Spector from the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), as well as a student group from Syracuse University, with whom they discussed the increasing use of social media and other digital tools for global engagement.
Next, they met with Mark Taplin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and Alyson Grunder, Director of the Office of Policy and Evaluation at ECA. Mr. Taplin and Ms. Grunder talked with the MPD students about what has and has not changed in ECA over the past twenty years and answered questions on evaluation, alumni management, and the relationship between ECA programs and foreign policy objectives.
Afterwards, the students met with Robert Hilton, Director of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and Caroline Nohr, an MPD alumna and Country Coordinator for Australia, New Zealand, & the Pacific Islands in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). Discussion focused on programming strategies and sensitivities in these regions, the Obama administration’s “rebalance” towards the Asia Pacific region and its effect on public diplomacy, and the importance of giving public diplomacy specialists input into policymaking and policy implementation.
The visiting students were excited to have lunch with a few MPD alumni who work at the State Department. Melanie Ciolek is a Policy Officer with IIP. Martha Adams is a Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Strategic Planning in the Bureau of Public Affairs (PA). Henrietta Levin is a Presidential Management Fellow with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, currently detailed to the State Department. These alumni shared work experiences and helpful advice on careers and internships.
In the afternoon, the students were thrilled to attend a Press Briefing at the State Department. After a preliminary statement about the Obama administration missing a congressional deadline on responding to ISIS atrocities, condemning the bombing of a mosque in Nigeria by Boko Haram, and strongly suggesting Americans restrict all travel to North Korea after that island nation sentenced 21-year-old U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor for stealing a banner from a hotel, the Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner fielded questions from the press on the possibility of the U.S. recognizing the violence against religious and ethnic minorities in Syria by the Islamic State as genocide, the Russian exit from Syria, press freedom in Turkey, and other current issues.
After the Press Briefing, the students met with Xander Vagg, Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Diplomacy Center, which is a museum and educational center for American diplomacy scheduled to open in late 2017 or early 2018 that will include several interactive exhibits.
The meetings at the State Department were made possible by Elena Kovalchuk, Sanaa Anwar, and James Dewey.
Following the State Department visit, the students met with Capricia Marshall, Ambassador-in-Residence with the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank that brings together leaders in international politics, business, and academia to study security and economic issues. Previously, she was Chief of Protocol of the United States, Special Assistant to Hillary Rodham Clinton during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, Special Assistant to the First Lady, and White House Social Secretary during the Clinton administration.
Ambassador Marshall and the students discussed her career in public service, programs she started involving ambassadors and gastrodiplomacy, careers at think tanks, the economic and security benefits of investing in programs that promote mutual understanding, and maintaining a work-life balance.
The students continued their conversation with Ryan McElveen, Assistant Director of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center, over dinner.
Stay tuned for more updates!