This spring, the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) welcomed a new category of Rising Professional members into its ranks. Over the past three weeks, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Rangel Fellow Mojib Ziarmal Ghaznawi, Wes Davison, and Shannon McNaught. This fourth installment of my Q&A series features yet another multifaceted Rising Professional member who is committed to the integrity of public diplomacy.
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 Oumama Kabli.
(Betsy) Tell us about yourself.
My name is Oumama Kabli and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. I attended George Mason University and graduated with a B.A in Global Affairs and a dual concentration in the Middle East and North Africa and Global Governance. While I was in school, I took a break, joined the Virginia Army National Guard and served for six years before completing my service as a Sergeant.
After university, I worked in proposal management and recruiting. A couple of months later, I was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Morocco, where I taught as a stand-alone instructor at a university.
I am currently employed by AMIDEAST as a Contracts and Grants Officer. l really enjoy working for an organization that promotes international education in the MENA region. I am also a 2020 Pickering Fellow and will be attending Johns Hopkins University- School of Advanced International Studies this fall to pursue a Master’s degree in Conflict Management and International Economics. Once I complete my degree, I will join the Foreign Service!
How did you learn about the Public Diplomacy Council?
I learned about the Public Diplomacy Council through another Pickering Fellow in my cohort. I’m so glad I joined because I love meeting other likeminded individuals that are interested in foreign affairs, can talk about public diplomacy topics, and recommend good books and podcasts!
How would you define public diplomacy to a friend who was unfamiliar with the concept?
When I think of the formal definition of public diplomacy, I think of an individual’s ability to directly or indirectly sway the decisions of another government through various public opinions and cultural influences. However, public diplomacy is so much more than government officials meeting to talk about pressing issues — it’s about creating meaningful change and relationships in the communities we serve. I think it’s a bottom-up approach that places importance on engaging with people on a personal level, making a genuine effort to understand their culture and customs, and using language skills as means for open and honest communication.
What was your favorite book that you read during quarantine or this summer? What did you like about it?
My favorite book that I have read during quarantine is The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power. I really enjoyed Ambassador Power’s honest account of her life as an Irish immigrant to the United States and her non-traditional work experiences which led her to become UN Ambassador. It was intriguing to see how her views on changing the world evolved over time and the important role she played as an advocate by bringing awareness to mass atrocities in the world.
Which experience listed on your resume is your favorite?
My favorite experience on my resume is when I was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Morocco. It was one of the most transformative years of my life because it taught me to be resilient and adaptable in a new environment. I also developed a respect for the hard work and preparation educators put towards their lessons and students. As person of Moroccan descent, it also allowed me to gain a deep appreciation of my roots. I was supposed to visit Morocco again in June but those plans were sadly cancelled due to the current pandemic. I’m hopeful I will be able to visit again soon!
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.