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‘Facing Global Challenges’ Focus of Laguna Blanca Symposium

Laguna Blanca School will hold its Global Studies Symposium, titled “American Diplomacy: Facing Global Challenges Past, Present & Future,” from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 19 in the Merovick Gymnasium.

Laguna Blanca’s second annual Global Studies awareness program will focus on American diplomacy and the role of the Foreign Service officer and embassy. Students, faculty and parents will tackle the topic from historical, present day and future perspectives. The global studies program was initiated last year to educate students on the challenges and responsibilities they will face as global citizens.

“Most Americans have no idea of the complex duties of diplomats,” said Upper School history teacher Martha Elliott, who also coordinates the Laguna Global Studies Program said. “We are extraordinarily privileged to have three ambassadors and an officer from the joint State and Commerce Department to give our students a firsthand look at diplomacy and foreign relations.”

Distinguished Speakers

Ambassador Susan Elliott (live from Tajikistan), “Role of the State Department”

Ambassador Elliott is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan. Prior to this position, she was the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs deputy assistant secretary responsible for Central Asia from 2010 to 2012. She has served as the deputy chief of mission to Moscow, Russia and as counsel general to Northern Ireland.

Abraham Tall, “Life Growing Up in the Foreign Service”

A junior at Cate School, Abraham will share a young person’s perspective on the enriching cultural experiences gained from life in the foreign service. Abraham was born in 1995 in Dakar, Senegal, and attended a private Catholic French school, Cours Sainte Marie de Hann, from 1999 to 2002, where he learned French and Wolof. In 2002, his family moved to Bamako, Mali, where he attended the American International School of Bamako. In 2009, he and his family moved to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where his parents currently live. Abraham attended The American School of Kinshasa until 2012 when he transferred to Cate School in Carpinteria.

Geoffrey Walser (LBS ‘62), “Promoting American Commerce Abroad”

Walser served a 19-year career as a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. He started his career at the U.S. Embassy Singapore (1981-84), where he served as the Commerce Department’s first senior commercial officer. From 1988 to 1992, he served as the senior commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand and in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. He also promoted U.S. commercial and investment interests at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal, Quebec from 1988 to 1992. From 1994-95, he was principal commercial officer to the U.S. Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Walser was a part of a USFCS team that implemented best practices programs at USFCS posts in France, Austria, Kuwait, India, Ivory Coast, Indonesia and China. He finished his USFCS career in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (1998-2000).

Ambassador John Ordway, “Life in the Foreign Service”

Ambassador Ordway is a retired Foreign Service officer who is the commissioner to the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Consultative Commission under the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Regulations Treaty). He served as ambassador to Kazakhstan (2004-08) and to Armenia (2001-04). He was director of African Affairs at the National Security Council during the first Bush administration, as well as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1999 to 2001.

Ambassador Susan McCaw, “The Role of an Ambassador” (Thursday Student Assembly)

McCaw served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Austria from 2005 to 2007. Prior to this appointment, she was president of COM Investments, a private investment firm, where she serves today.

McCaw was a principal at Robertson Stephens & Company, a San Francisco-based investment bank, and also worked as an associate in Robertson Stephens Venture Capital Group. She started her career as a business analyst for McKinsey & Company in New York and Hong Kong.

The Global Studies Program is made possible by a grant from the Mosher Foundation.

—Paul Slocombe is headmaster for Laguna Blanca School.

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