APSIA Diversity Forum Inspires and Educates

APSIA Diversity Forum Inspires and Educates

On Saturday, July 15, 2017, 41 students and young professionals joined APSIA for a workshop designed to inspire them to seek out the field of international affairs. Coming from diverse backgrounds, attendees well reflected the ages, races, backgrounds, and geography of the United States.

Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Resident Senior State Department Fellow at the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, opened the day with a powerful keynote address. She described her path from growing up poor in Louisiana to becoming an Assistant Secretary of State.

Amb. Thomas-Greenfield used her story to explain how the first chapter of one’s life does not define the rest of the book. Despite pressures from family and society, she used her background as a stepping stone. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” she stressed to students. “Failure is practice for success.”

Reuben Brigety, Dean of The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, moderated the session and shared his own insights on working with Amb. Thomas-Greenfield and in the field.

Next, Sara Dushey, Global Recruitment Partner at the Open Society Foundations, oversaw a discussion about international careers among three APSIA alumnae.

Desirée Cormier, Director of the Africa Practice at the Albright Stonebridge Group, Nikki Duncan, Director of Strategic Partnerships-Africa at Global Communities, and Fatema Sumar, Regional Deputy Vice President for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, articulated the skills and experiences that help candidates stand out in the field.

All three speakers discussed the need to take risks, to build personal relationships, and to follow good mentors. Their personal stories also underscored the need to be content doing the work that’s asked of you - and do it well - while always pushing to take on more.

“You have to fight for what you want and then create space for those who come next,” they agreed.

Attendees then split into tailored sessions.

Matt Clemons, Director of Admissions at the Harvard Kennedy School, Grace Han, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and Beth Soboleski, Associate Director of Student and Academic Services at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy offered sophomores and juniors tips to prepare for graduate school.

Francisco Bencosme, Legislative Research Assistant for the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jorhena Thomas, Principal at Wright Thomas International, led seniors and recent graduates through an exercise in finding mentors and allies.

Attendees all reconvened for lunch with graduates from nine APSIA member schools. Alumni working on refugee issues, government relations, security analysis, public communication, and other sectors shared their stories and answered questions.

After lunch, sophomores and juniors learned more about how to prepare for an international career during a discussion moderated by Dan Birdsall, Associate Director of the Office of Admissions & Financial Aid at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  Bunmi Akinnusotu, Former Special Assistant in the Office of Land and Emergency Management at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Ruth Conkling, Program Officer at Cultural Vistas, and Nicole Rumeau, Assistant Director of Programs at the National Foreign Language Center emphasized the importance of learning new languages, studying abroad, and persevering against adversity while offering tips on how to make these opportunities possible.

Meanwhile, seniors and recent graduates picked up some best practices in applying to graduate school from Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Professor in the Practice of International Affairs at Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service, Dan Cheng, Associate Director of Admissions for the University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Sidney Jackson, Assistant Dean of Global Enrollment and Recruitment at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. When moderator Kathryn Meyer, Director of Admissions and Recruitment at the Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service, asked advice for students, a common theme was “be open and flexible, but have direction” in your approach to graduate school.

For the last session of the day, sophomores and juniors worked with Jonathan Santeliz, Executive Director of the HACU National Internship Program, and Grace Choi, Associate Director for Global Gender Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children, to think about building a network of mentors and allies.

At the same time, Courtney Ball, Associate Director of Human Resources and Administration at the Eurasia Group, Rana Dotson, International Relations Officer for the US Department of Labor, Dwayne Matthews, a Diversity Recruiter with Peace Corps, and Eric Medina, Senior Consultant in the National Security Sector at Deloitte Consulting, talked with students about the need to get international experience and overcome fear.

To close out the day, Carmen Mezzera, APSIA Executive Director, thanked attendees, sponsors, and speakers. She encouraged students to think about what's next for them and offered APSIA's assistance in the future.


APSIA’s Diversity Forum series is made possible by many generous investors.




D3 Systems

Open Society Foundations

Penn State University School of International Affairs

Texas A&M University Bush School of Government and Public Service

University of Southern California Master of Public Diplomacy Program




The participation of an attendee was made possible through the patronage of