By American University Tuch Fellow Marcela Falck-Bados
On December 14, I attended the American Women for International Understanding (AWIU) luncheon program, Career Opportunities in International Relations (COIR) at the historic DACOR Bacon House. The keynote speaker, Dr. Clare Lockhart, is a preeminent expert on Afghanistan and founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness. She served in Afghanistan as an adviser to the UN during the Bonn Process and to the Afghan government from 2001 to 2005, and has worked in several countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. She is the co-author of Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World.
The AWIU hosts included Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller, President and co-chair of COIR, new PDC member Pooja Chandra Pama, Vice President Special Operations and co-chair of the D.C. chapter and COIR, Ambassador Eunice Reddick, co-chair of the D.C. chapter and COIR AWIU D.C. chapter members. Each of these brilliant women embodies the mission of AWIU, which promotes “woman-to-woman interaction and understanding through meaningful visits, and support”. As we sat around the table, I could definitely feel the support and mentorship.
Dr. Lockhart shared many valuable lessons, including when given an opportunity, be courageous and take it because you never know when the opportunity will arise again. She described five attributes we as rising professionals must learn to be successful in our future careers:
- Listening and empathy
- Interdisciplinary work
- Openness and adaptability
- Bridging various perspectives
- The necessity of role models
These attributes connect to one another and I am sure I could write an article for each one, but the first seemed most important: listening and empathy. Dr. Sherry Mueller, President of the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) and my own role-model, professor, and mentor recently wrote something similar within the PDC Weekly Updates, a lesson she teaches to her graduate students. This is the lesson of the “Three Rs of Public Diplomacy”. They are Reciprocity, Relationship-building, and Relentless search for common ground.
We as Americans must become good active listeners. It is how we can develop empathy and create better understanding in our world. How can we expect people from other cultures to listen to us, if we do not listen to them? That is why there is a critical need for intercultural communication and intercultural exchange. We can build enduring relationships through international exchange.
An American or even a Western approach to the military, economics, health, or education may work here in the United States. But do these same practices and approaches translate across borders and cultures? Is this sustainable over time? These were questions we pondered during our networking lunch. I believe oftentimes the answer is no. This is not sustainable and they will not always translate. We need to be able to listen to what people from other cultures need, and then adapt our approaches to fit those needs. Dr. Lockhart and Ms. Pama stated that active listening must start at the grassroots level through community development. We must involve grassroots partners in the decision-making processes, and treat them as full stakeholders, instead of looking at them as victims. Reciprocity and win-win collaborations become key.
Listening connects closely with cultural exchanges and education because it helps us to broaden our horizons and learn new things. We cannot continue solely with an American approach to education, we must diversify and gain intercultural skills by actively listening to the world around us. There may never come a time when all American students will be given the opportunity and access to go abroad, but if students can at least start by going outside of their state, then it’s a start. I look forward to listening and learning more from the women of AWUI and from everyone I hope to meet within the field of international affairs and public diplomacy.
Marci has been living in the Washington, DC, area since about 2004. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a double minor in Mandarin and Psychology. She returned to the DC area to pursue a Master’s in Teaching and earned her degree in 2020. During this time period, Marci worked as a teacher specializing in Early Childhood Education and Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (ESOL). She is currently a Graduate Student at American University where she is earning a Master’s degree in International and Intercultural Communication. She is also the PDC Fellow for the 2021-2022 school year, renamed Hans “Tom” Tuch PDC Fellow. Her interests lie in understanding the connection between international education, exchange, and public diplomacy which she believes is important to develop to be able to create peace and understanding in our world.