Former U.S. Ambassador Provides Students Tools to Build a Career in International Relations

February 4, 2020

Hillary Hempstead

U.S. Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley.
U.S. Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley speaks on campus.
Photo credit: Pang Fei Chiang '19

Co-instructed by diplomat in residence and former U.S. Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the course features lectures from practitioners in a range of roles on the international stage.

Students in the seven-week course Practicing International Affairs will receive a first-hand look at the breadth of available careers in international relations while also gaining practical knowledge about what it’s like to work in those fields.

The practicum exposes students to international careers in organizations including the United Nations and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), along with the foreign service, refugee agencies, international economic development, international media/journalism, cybersecurity, and other areas.

Jointly instructed by diplomat in residence and former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman diplomat to lead a U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia and former U.S. ambassador to Malta, Associate Professor of Politics Kristina Mani, Associate Professor of History Zeinab Abul-Magd, and Professor of Politics Eve Sandberg, the course will not only provide students with insight into the skills they need in order to be successful in careers in international relations, but it also will show them how to pursue the preliminary work that can allow them to move into senior level positions.

“This course offers frank discussions with highly placed practitioners about the knowledge required to enter international politics careers, as well as the professional skills that enable success,” says Sandberg. 

The speakers slated to present have deep experience in a range of international careers, including Cuban Ambassador to the U.S., His Excellency José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez; Tamara Wittes ’91 of the Brookings Institute; Max Strasser ’09 from the New York Times’ London office; Peter Lavoy, former national security council deputy secretary in the Obama administration; and cybersecurity expert Debra Lavoy.

Abercrombie-Winstanley says that her goal as an instructor is to help level the playing field for young people ready to commit to public service. “Navigating the application process for Washington or overseas jobs can be a real challenge,” says the former ambassador. “Top-tier schools often have a diplomat in residence to help students, and I wanted to bring that advantage to the Cleveland area and Ohio.”

Abercrombie-Winstanley has held senior positions at the Defense Department and the National Security Council of the White House. Her diplomacy has earned her various honors, including the Maltese Order of Merit and Department of State Meritorious and Superior Honor award.

“The process for starting this incredibly rewarding career can be daunting,” says Abercrombie-Winstanley. “This course provides access to successful, experienced practitioners and maps out proven strategies to turn theoretical knowledge into a real- world profession. It offers the sort of information, guidance, advice, and encouragement that students at Harvard, Georgetown, George Washington, Howard, Duke, and Denver University may take for granted. Now Oberlin students can.”

Support for this project was provided in part by the Great Lakes Colleges Association as part of its Global Crossroads Initiative, made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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