This spring, the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) welcomed a new category of Rising Professional members into its ranks. Last week, Wes Davison reflected on his experiences as a citizen diplomat in Poland, Ukraine, and Colombia. With this third installment of my Q&A series, I hope to further reveal the breadth of PDC members’ expertise.
I was inspired by Olivia Chavez’s interview with Dr. Sherry Mueller (“Wanted: Young Professionals with a Passion for Public Diplomacy”). As the Public Diplomacy Council pursues its mission of establishing understanding between nations via individuals, these introductions of Rising Professional members should serve to enhance our understanding of one another within the PDC community.
This week, please welcome Shannon McNaught.
(Betsy) Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Southern California and went to undergrad at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, before moving overseas to complete an MA in London. I’ve just finished a second MA at American University and am hoping to pursue a career in cultural policy and diplomacy, though I am currently bidding my time until COVID restrictions are lifted.
How did you learn about the Public Diplomacy Council?
As a graduate student at American University, I was advised by my professor, Rob Kelley, to sign up for the Public Diplomacy Council’s mailing list and participate in First Monday Forums in order to stay up-to-date on the most pressing public diplomacy issues.
Describe a time that you have acted as a citizen diplomat.
I had the immense fortune of working in a hostel in Kyoto, Japan, during my time as a graduate exchange student. Though I was technically employed as a volunteer cleaner, I lived on-site in one of the hostel’s dormitories, and was able to meet guests from all over the world as they passed through Japan’s former capital. It remains the most rewarding job I have ever had, both personally and professionally.
Describe a time that you have encountered a citizen diplomat, whether abroad or in the United States.
While living in London, I had the pleasure of attending a career seminar led by a Foreign Service Officer and fellow Notre Dame alumna. She was my first introduction to the Foreign Service and public diplomacy as a career path, and she left a lasting impression on me. Nearly a decade later, I still keep in touch with her periodically and hear about the incredible work she is conducting at different embassies and consulates worldwide.
What was your favorite book that you read during quarantine or this summer? What did you like about it?
I absolutely loved Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Not only is it beautifully written and a quick, easy read, but the protagonist travels around the world, from New York to Mexico onto Europe, Morocco, India, and Japan. Greer’s writing is so immersive, it was the perfect escape from the repetition of quarantine life.
If the PDC had a talent show, what would your act be?
As an overhanded leftie, I can write upside-down! It’s proven to be quite useful for group projects and tutoring, however it also makes writing on chalkboard and whiteboards almost impossible.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Cornelius is pursuing her M.A. in International Affairs Policy and Analysis at American University’s School of International Service. There, she applies her experience in Germany and Austria in her research assistantship with the Transatlantic Policy Center.