Exchange Matters / June 20, 2024

My Diplomatic Odyssey

By Lily Fowler, 2024 Emerging Leader and International Exchange Program Officer at Utah Global Diplomacy

Embarking on a career in citizen diplomacy was not my original plan. It was a serendipitous discovery during my graduate studies that led me to Utah Global Diplomacy. Their mission of fostering respect between Utah and other nations instantly captivated me, sparking a curiosity that I could not ignore and leading to my volunteering at their annual fundraising event. It was here that I first understood the profound impact of people-to-people diplomacy. I was inspired by President and CEO Felecia Maxfield-Barrett’s heartfelt stories of community members engaging with individuals from around the world and the impact of those interactions. I knew that I had to be a part of this transformative work. 

Lily (right) celebrates Citizen Diplomacy Day with Utah Global Diplomacy. All photos provided by the author.

Fueled by this newfound passion, I applied for an internship at Utah Global Diplomacy, focused on cultural education and events. In this role, I helped plan the World Affairs Symposium Series, centered around topics such as Refugees in Utah and Interfaith Dialogue, and engaged with the different groups of international visitors our office hosted. My dream to learn more about the world of exchanges soon became a reality.  

Lily (second from right) with the 2024 cohort of Emerging Leaders at the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting.

Under the invaluable mentorship of Ahmad Zia Afzali, the International Exchange Program Director, I assisted in preparing for and welcoming groups of individuals from around the world. Ahmad’s guidance played a pivotal role in shaping my career path in programming, instilling in me a sense of purpose and dedication to our work. Ahmad also advocated for my personal and professional growth, and he nominated me for the Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders Program.

Participating in the Emerging Leaders Program was a defining moment in my professional journey. It offered invaluable opportunities for networking, skills development, and collaboration with fellow students and young professionals. This program served as a springboard for my growth into the complexities of public diplomacy and the career opportunities available in DC and beyond.  

As part of the Emerging Leaders Program, I engaged in a service project focused on personal and professional development. I participated in a Citizen Diplomacy Certification course offered through the International Leadership Academy at Utah Global Diplomacy. This immersive experience delved into topics including public speaking, advocacy, and conflict resolution. We also heard from the Director of the Office of International Visitors, Amy Storrow, when she visited Utah for our Citizen Diplomacy Day. The course not only enhanced my understanding of global issues but also provided practical skills for working in the field of international relations, such as learning how to effectively communicate with diverse groups and navigate complex diplomatic situations. 

Amy Storrow, Director of the Office of International Visitors, visits Utah Global Diplomacy.

As I transition into my new role as an International Exchange Program Officer, I am excited to continue advancing the mission and values of my organization and the Global Ties Network and to contribute to greater understanding and cooperation on a global scale.  

My journey from intern to Program Officer at Utah Global Diplomacy has been a testament to the transformative power of volunteerism and mentorship. To fellow students or young professionals curious about diplomacy work or who are about to embark on a similar journey, I offer this advice: 

  • Seize Opportunities: Embrace internships, volunteer roles, and professional development programs to gain practical experience and expand your network. 
  • Build Relationships: Cultivate connections with professionals in your field and seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support. 
  • Stay Informed: Stay informed on global issues and trends and engage in discussions to deepen your understanding of international affairs and world events.  
  • Remain Adaptable: The field of diplomacy is dynamic and ever evolving. Embrace change and challenges as opportunities for growth and learning.

As I continue this path, I aim to inspire the next cohort of emerging leaders and continue to be a steward of this incredible Network.