Sunday, November 4, 2018

Announcing the Winners of the 2018 Lois Roth Endowment Awards for Excellence in Cultural Diplomacy

via LJB by email

The Lois Roth Endowment logo

The Lois Roth Endowment, in partnership with the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), announced the winners of its 2018 awards for excellence in cultural and educational diplomacy, which were presented by ECA Assistant Secretary Marie Royce and Lois Roth Endowment Board Chair Dr. Skyler Arndt-Briggs on August 6, 2018 in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State.

The response to this year's call for nominations again showed the depth and breadth of excellence in cultural diplomacy with nominations from all corners of the globe.  Every one of the nominees was clearly an outstanding individual who demonstrated that the legacy of Lois Roth lives on today.  With so many praise-worthy nominees, the selection committee had an extremely difficult job and wishes to thank the nominating officers and all the candidates for their outstanding work.

The Lois Roth Award recognizes a Department of State Foreign Service Officer who has made significant contributions in the field of cultural and educational diplomacy while providing leadership and mentoring to others in an overseas context.  The Lois Roth Award was established in memory of Lois Wersba Roth (1931-86), who joined the Foreign Service in January 1967 after a Fulbright year at Sweden's Uppsala University and service with the American Scandinavian Foundation. In the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), she served with distinction in Tehran, Rome and Paris as well as in two postings in Washington, her last as director of Arts America. Her work with USIA earned Meritorious, Superior, and Equal Opportunity Awards and she was rewarded by posthumous promotion to the rank of Minister-Counselor in the Senior Foreign Service. She also made significant contributions to Foreign Service professional organizations as Secretary of the American Foreign Service Association (1972-74) and President of the Women's Action Organization for USIA (1982-86).  This year there was a winner and two Honorable Mentions, listed in alphabetical order, for this award.

The 2018 Lois Roth Award for excellence in cultural diplomacy went to Margot Carrington, Country Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Tokyo.  Her exceptional Japanese language skills enabled major accomplishments promoting equality for women, trafficked women’s rights and even a turn in the (usually male) lead role of a Kabuki theater performance. To track outcomes of huge funding resources she innovated a PD evaluation system with potential for adoption worldwide. Margot’s twenty-three-year career exemplified groundbreaking programming paired with mentoring and service to the profession.

Monica Davis, Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, received an Honorable Mention for the Lois Roth Award. Monica Davis has engaged Cambodia’s majority-youth population on educational and cultural themes they cared about and admired about the US.  Contacts’ and colleagues’ admiration for her dedication and kindness boosted the impact of the cultural preservation projects, exhibits on shared US-Cambodia history, inauguration of the New American Center, college fairs and a regional youth alumni conference, all notable successes in a time of political crisis. 

Robin Solomon, Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, received an Honorable Mention for the Lois Roth Award. Robin Solomon’s ingenious approaches to using art and culture to reach Palestinian youth and women’s groups helped them help themselves using programs such as arts management courses, research on social challenges and developing cultural tourism. With delicate cultural sensitivity Robin mentored staff, grantees and alumni to build interacting layers of human resources and a strategic framework that will benefit post programs for years to come.

Monica and Robin, who are both travelling between new assignments,  were unable to be present at the event so EAP/PD Office Director Lisa Heller and NEA Cultural Coordinator Pen Agnew accepted the respective awards on their behalf.

The Gill Jacot Guillarmod Award recognizes a long-serving Locally Engaged Staff member in cultural and/or educational diplomacy who has made outstanding contributions to the most important objectives between the U.S. and the host country.  The selection committee was pleased to receive excellent nominations for this award, showing both the depth of talent among our FSN colleagues, and a strong desire by supervisors to honor their work.  Ms. Jacot-Guillarmod served for 35 years at the U.S. Mission in South Africa, first in Cape Town and then as Senior Cultural Assistant at the Embassy in Pretoria for more than 30 years.  From the very beginning of her career, Gill was recognized for her deep commitment to the idea of cultural exchange. She went on to set the standard for professionals in her field. Her career spanned the era of change in South Africa from apartheid in the late 1960s and 1970s, and into the 1980s and the peaceful emergence of democracy.  Through her work, she made enormous contributions to the achievement of the U.S. government's primary objective in South Africa: the transition from apartheid to democracy. The United States and South Africa could not have been more fortunate than to have had Ms. Jacot-Guillarmod, a consummate cross-cultural communicator and bridge builder, serving de-facto on behalf of both sides, as mentor, counselor, and committed senior colleague during one of the 20th Century's most successful political transitions.

For 2018 there are two Co-Winners and two Honorable Mentions for the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award, listed in alphabetical order.

Felix Mbatalbaye, Cultural Affairs Specialist, U.S. Embassy N’Djamena, is a Co-Winner of the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award. Over 29 years, Felix Mbatalbaye built a powerful network of contacts through judicious recruitment, providing resources and his expertise, and made the US Embassy the partner of choice for Chadians.  Always a steadfast and trusted leader, Felix kept programs going during the evacuation of American staff in 2008, and even drafted the Post’s first Public Diplomacy Implementation Plan during a gap between Public Affairs Officers.  Felix, approaching mandatory retirement, leaves a profound legacy.

Louiza (Nadia) Ouhenia, Cultural Affairs Specialist, U.S. Embassy Algiers, is a Co-Winner of the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award. After 25 years, Nadia Ouhenia is the master of her portfolio covering the gamut of cultural and educational engagement with Algeria.  Even during the “Dark Decade," when she faced real danger just coming to work, Nadia has been a trusted barometer for new initiatives. Her institutional memory and attention to each grantee and program partner have built the bridges between embassy officials and program alumni who have opened doors and multiplied the entire Embassy’s effectiveness.

Marketa Kolarova, Cultural Affairs Assistant, U.S. Embassy Praguereceived an Honorable Mention for the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award.  An invaluable advisor to PAOs and Ambassadors for 28 years, Marketa Kolarova revitalized US-Czech cultural relations after the Velvet Revolution.  Using her profound insights and managerial savvy, she mid-wifed the Fulbright Commission, right-sized American Spaces, led nationwide teacher tech-training, literature engagement and English language programming, all resulting in a relationship that is closer, and will stay that way, for decades to come.

Carmen Urcuyo, Cultural Affairs Assistant, U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, received an Honorable Mention for the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award. In her 43 years of service to the US Embassy, Carmen Urcuyo has trained some 14 CAO‘s, most entry-level officers, some reaching back from other countries to request Carmen’s program and mentoring help. Her legendary networks and extensive program files ensured the right local partners to make every program a success.  Carmen‘s ability and willingness to adapt in the face of countless challenges have made her one of the Mission’s most valued and effective employees.

The Ilchman-Richardson Award recognizes a Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs employee who has made significant contributions in the domestic management of educational and cultural diplomacy while leading and mentoring others.  The Ilchman-Richardson Award, given for the first time in 2007, is named in appreciation of two former ECA Assistant Secretaries.  Alice Stone Ilchman, former Dean of Wellesley College, was Assistant Secretary for ECA and then Associate Director of USICA and USIA from 1979 to 1981, after which she headed Sarah Lawrence University, then chaired the board of the Rockefeller Foundation. She headed the Jeanette Watson Fellowships until her death in 2006.  John Richardson, after years in corporate law, investment banking, and Radio Free Europe, was Assistant Secretary for State/ECA (CU) from 1968 until 1977, then headed Youth For Understanding and chaired the boards of the U.S. Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

The 2018 Ilchman-Richardson award winner is Sana Abed-Kotob, Chief, International Visitor Leadership Program Division, Office of International Visitors. With her cultural insights, inspiring leadership and human compassion, Sana Abed-Kotob has significantly and substantially advanced US cultural diplomacy, guiding and mentoring ECA staff, leadership and partners.  Through her work Sana has made operations more efficient, improved inter-agency cooperation, and expanded public-private contributions to advancing cultural and educational exchanges.  It is no exaggeration to say that every U.S. diplomatic post in the world has benefited from Sana’s expertise in cultural diplomacy programming.

Mark Taplin, retired Foreign Service Officer and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for ECA, is receiving a special Lois Roth Emeritus Award from the Board of the Lois Roth Endowment for his career of service in cultural and educational diplomacy abroad and his tours as a principled and courageous policy leader in the ECA Bureau.  Mark’s willingness to listen, his work ethic, elegant writing and editing, sense of humor and fundamentally, his belief in the power and criticality of exchanges enabled ECA to weather existential budget threats and continue to thrive.

The Lois Roth Endowment salutes all the nominees and their nominators for participating in this competition.  All of the nominations demonstrated great talent and dedication.  Lois Roth would have been proud to serve with all of them.

L-R: Pen Agnew, Lisa Heller (accepting awards for Robin Solomon and Monica Davis), Mark Taplin, Margot Carrington, A/S Royce, Felix Mbatalbaye; Sana Abed-Kotob, Louisa Nadia Ouhenia, Carmen Urcuyo, Marketa Kolarova, Sky Arndt-Briggs

The Lois Roth Endowment Celebrating 30 Years of
Fostering International Cultural Dialogue

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