The Foreign Service Journal - September 2017
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Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell and U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B.

Carter depart the Indian Foreign Ministry in New Delhi on July 23, 2012.

people secure mentor/mentee relationships on their own?


The formal programs are important, but for me they are

far less valuable than the mentoring done by immediate supervi-

sors and senior officers on an individual basis. If you have to be

told that mentoring is part of your work requirements, you are

probably not going to be very good at it. Mentoring needs to be

a part of the department

ethos and can be done at all

levels. Given the fluidity of

our assignments, someone

who has been at post a week

may be the old-timer for the

newest arrival.



While you officially

retired from the Foreign Ser-

vice in 2014, you have been going full speed ahead since then. Tell

us how you came to be the State Department’s Ebola coordinator,

and what that entailed. (And thank you again for sharing your

experiences in the article,

“Fighting Pandemics: Lessons Learned,

with Gwen Tobert for our May focus on global health.)


I got a call out of the blue in September 2014 from then-

Counselor Tom Shannon asking me to come back to coordinate

the department’s response to the Ebola outbreak. I think my

experience leading the avian influenza team and my previous

work on Africa with National Security Advisor Susan Rice led to

the call. I had been following developments via television from

my bench on the beach and was very concerned that the interna-

tional community did not seem to be stepping up, so it was a little

hard to say no.

port of more enlightened colleagues and

an increasing number of superb women

role models. I was encouraged to take on

extra responsibilities, such as writing the

human rights report in Nepal, serving as a

temporary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

staff aide and as consul general in Lahore

to show that I could do the work as well or

better than my male colleagues.

The changes mandated in the after-

math of the class action suits and adher-

ence to federal Equal Employment Oppor-

tunity Commission standards meant that

promotions were more closely tied to

documented performance, and the assign-

ment process became a more level playing field. It also helped

to have a good sense of humor and a willingness to stand up to

outright discrimination.


How successful has the Foreign Service been in increasing

diversity? How can the foreign affairs agencies retain minority tal-

ent once those individuals

are in the Foreign Service?


There has been

an enormous change in

the Foreign Service, but

there is more to be done,

particularly in champion-

ing Hispanics and African

Americans. The deputy

chief of mission glass ceiling

for women disappeared

in the 1980s, shattered by Beth Jones and many others. I was

delighted to see some of the SETS, and ambassadorial classes I’ve

mentored have a majority of females.

The department has to compete with American business and

academia for our talent pool. Ensuring that our new officers,

across the board, have the necessary training to succeed—and

have support and mentoring—is essential to keeping them in the



You’ve been a champion for mentoring, receiving the

Arnold Lewis Raphel Award in 2003 for your efforts to promote

and develop the people around you, especially entry-level officers.

How is the State Department doing with encouraging mentorship

and establishing official mechanisms for mentoring? How should

The Foreign Service depends

on a steady inflow/outflow [of

new hires], and disruptions in

that flow result in problems that

persist for a generation.