This year will be a milestone for our Global Ties U.S. member organization in Alabama. Not only are they celebrating their 50 year anniversary, they are reinvigorating their organization by adopting a new name, Global Ties Alabama. Jona Elwell spoke with Executive Director Jacqui Shipe about this momentous year. Jacqui shares her insights on the past and future of Global Ties Alabama as well as her thoughts on women’s leadership in the exchange field.
FIFTY YEARS OF GLOBAL TIES ALABAMA, CONGRATULATIONS! HOW DO YOU THINK THE ORGANIZATION HAS CHANGED SINCE ITS INCEPTION?
Jacqui Shipe: Over the past fifty years, the sustained commitment of our local citizen diplomats as well as the state of Alabama has never wavered. The initial programs were based solely in Huntsville. Now, the entire state participates and this scope is quite impressive considering the size and lean staff of Global Ties Alabama. Other than location there are two major shifts that have occurred for us. First off, whereas we started as solely programming for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), over time we have added more programming—specifically youth programs. Ultimately, we have to believe in what we do and that the results will follow. Sustainable programs will lead to positive outcomes even if the impact is not always immediate. The other piece is the Internet. The Internet has allowed Huntsville to extend its reach to globally-minded individuals. For example, during our Diplomacy Begins Here summit we had an attendee who, without any previous interaction with any organizations involved, discovered our summit and chose to attend. I think that is a powerful shift. Another obvious and key change is our new name. Last month we released our first newsletter with the new Global Ties Alabama branding and I have heard nothing but positive reinforcement on our new look.
DESPITE THE SNOWSTORM, THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY GALA SEEMED LIKE A SUCCESS! CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE EVENT?
JS: For the attendees and speakers to leave their homes in the weather we experienced truly shows our unique and dedicated constituency. Our ceremony which celebrated our three award winners and featured our keynote speaker, Claes Nobel. Mayor Troy Trulock was the 2015 Thomas Pickens Gates Awardee; James Nathan, the founder and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Alabama, was our 2015 Citizen Diplomat of the Year; and the Legacy Award was given to the U.S. Department of State, which was accepted by Dr. Clarence Hodges. Claes Nobel challenged Alabama’s citizen diplomats to “Change the World – Start Now!” which was an excellent and inspirational way to end the evening.
IN HONOR OF WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH, THIS ISSUE OF EXCHANGEMATTERS IS FOCUSED ON WOMEN IN EXCHANGE. WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN AS A FEMALE IN THE WORLD OF DIPLOMACY?
JS: Prior to coming to Global Ties Alabama, I had a career as an ethics officer. I was the first African American and first female ethics officer for Bell Atlantic as well as Verizon. When I was first appointed, I was surprised as I didn’t know I was being considered as a potential hire. I met with the then CEO and he told me something that I’ve held on to: he didn’t want me filling the shoes of my beloved predecessor; he said my shoes were exactly what the company needed. This advice has helped me enter any situation or new organization. I am confident that what I bring to the table is important and valuable. I wouldn’t look at this view as being overly cocky; I just use it as a reminder that my point of view is significant. I also want to say that I am proud that women’s issues are recognized a significant program topics for the IVLP.
ANY LAST THOUGHTS OR COMMENTS?
JS: Firstly, the commitment we make to youth is the answer to a more successful future. When we invest in youth, the benefits, while not immediate, are definitely tangible. As a final note, I see an upward trajectory for Global Ties Alabama and the network. I am a proud member of the Board of Directors for Global Ties U.S. and proud to work as a global exchange advocate.
By Jona Elwell, Global Ties U.S.