Radio interview transcript
Judyth Piazza interviews Lauren Krizner Fischer, Department of State Education Program Specialist, U.S. Diplomacy Center
December 7, 2011
Time: 1 minute 52 seconds
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Time: 14 minutes 15 seconds
Judyth: Hi Lauren, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show
Lauren: Well it’s my pleasure to be with you, thank you
Judyth: Well you’ve been doing some amazing things. Tell us a little bit about Lauren.
Lauren: Hi, thank you so much, my name is Lauren Fischer and I am Education Program Specialist for the U.S. Diplomacy Center, which is part of the U.S. Department of State, and I am working with a team of folks here to build a visitor’s center and museum of diplomacy for the Department of State. Leading up to the opening of our visitor’s center and museum, we have recently launched a very dynamic and interactive website called Discover Diplomacy, which you can find at diplomacy.state.gov/discoverdiplomacy. And it’s a website directed towards a high school and college aged audience, anyone can really access the site and learn something from it. But it’s a website that explores the notion of diplomacy, what it is, and the work of the Department of State and the diplomats that are here and the diplomats who are working on behalf of the American people around the world, and embassies and consulates and missions, as well as here in the United States, and the myriad of issues that diplomats are working on from human rights, to clean water, to non-proliferation, to securing the skies and how airplanes land in other countries. So, it’s a website that people can come to and learn the basics of diplomacy as well as how the State Department works and uses the skills of diplomacy on behalf of the American people.
Judyth: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from this project?
Lauren: The most important lesson that I have learned is that people are hungry for this kind of knowledge, they’re hungry for this kind of information to learn about how the United States is interacting with the world, that we have embassies in over 190 countries where our diplomats are working to create a more secure and democratic world. So once people have received this information they realize wow, I never knew that my country was involved in the world in this way and that diplomats, and there are thousands of diplomats working around the world, working for me, to make so I can travel overseas, so international visitors can come to this country and participate in programs that the State Department is involved with the Fulbright Scholarship program that there are student exchanges beginning on a high school level that the State department manages, that we have to do with the art biennials around the world that we help to manage all of the Secretary of State’s travel when she goes to visit with upper levels around the world. So, what I’ve learned is that the American people are really interested in learning more about what the State Department is doing.
Judyth: When did you first know that diplomacy was your passion?
Lauren: Once I came to the Department, I’m an Educator, so I think education first and foremost is my passion, engaging people with new content and new information, and being challenged by presenting information in an interesting way that people then can interact with and learn from and remember. So education first and foremost is my passion and then once I was offered the challenge of coming to work at the State Department on this content of diplomacy, I was wowed by the extent to which the State Department works around the world and the many amazing things that our diplomats do. And so, what has become my passion now is through education bringing to the American people all this information and the ways in which diplomats work around the world. And getting, in fact, Americans becoming excited themselves and wanting to become involved in diplomacy, whether it’s becoming an exchange student, whether it’s traveling, whether it’s learning about language and cultures around the world, whether it’s about becoming involved in a non-governmental organization that works on international issues. So, watching people become inspired by the information and wanting to become involved in diplomacy has been incredibly rewarding and what keeps me engaged in diplomacy.
Judyth: Who are some of your mentors that have helped you along the way?
Lauren: The many different people and diplomats who work at the State Department have mentored me in wanting to learn more about how the State Department works around the world. There are what we call ‘Desk Officers’ here at the State Department and there’s one diplomat or ‘Desk Officer’ for every country with whom the United States shares diplomatic relations and it’s these people who work tirelessly on issues with countries that I call upon for information and they are so dedicated to their work to learning and keeping informed about what’s going on around the world, this is very inspiring to me, and keeps me engaged in the information. They’ve more inspired than mentored I think, the mentor in my own life as an educator, my mentor Karen Jorgenson, who passed away many years ago, but helped me to realize how people love to be presented with information that they can interact with and learn from, and that is really the purpose of the Discover Diplomacy website through our digital world, the web really provides an opportunity for people everywhere to interact with, in this case the website, and learn about, in our case diplomacy.
Judyth: What was the inspiration behind opening it up to high school and college students?
Lauren: Our inspiration for creating a website, called Discovery Diplomacy, that’s directed towards high school and college students audiences was because we want to inspire this age group to become involved in the world, and to educate them on what’s going on in the world today, also, I mean, at that age there’s so much passion, there’s so much energy that I wanted to capture that and I wanted to inspire so they may become not necessarily a foreign service officer, although that would be wonderful, that they would want to become engaged in the world, that they would want to interact with people from other countries, that they might want to learn language and learn about cultures. So that was really my goal for creating the site to capture the imagination and the inspiration of this age group.
Judyth: You’ve been very successful at what you do. What key quality would you say that all successful people share?
Lauren: I believe that all successful people share an interest in the other. And by that I mean, willingness to listen, to learn, to acknowledge another person’s capabilities or their talents. Things successful people share the willingness to want to work together, to compromise, and to see successful people lead, become leaders, they read a confidence that people want to be in their presence. And in many ways I think those are some of the skills the diplomats use, it’s listening, it’s patience, it’s a willingness to want to work together and to solve a problem.
Judyth: Tell us about some of the things that a diplomat does.
Lauren: Well, they work with counterparts in other nations to listen to the issues at hand; they compromise on important policy issues. That’s sort of in the broad idea of what diplomats do. But, diplomats at the State Department, they process passport applications, they process visas for international visitors who want to come to the United States, they process visitor visas or temporary stay visas, diplomats assist Americans overseas so if Americans should encounter some unfortunate event, a diplomat is there to help an American get what he or she needs, diplomats work with the business community to help secure business opportunity overseas, diplomats work on human rights issues in countries overseas, diplomats engage in helping to monitor elections overseas. I’d say those are some of the things that diplomats do.
Judyth: I know that you have a Discover Diplomacy webinar coming up on December 8th, tell us about that.
Lauren: We are so happy to be working with the Global School Net Organization who is helping to reach educators and to share with them this amazing resource called Discover Diplomacy, which is the website, which explores what diplomacy is, the work of the Department of State and its diplomats around the world. And so, there is a webinar being hosted by Global School Net tomorrow, Thursday, December 8th at 4:00 eastern time/1:00 west coast time, that will introduce this resource and guide educators, and anyone who wants to participate, through the website and explore ways of how they may use it with their students in the classroom the kind of information that is there, and also to explore ways that, based on the information learned and how you can continue your involvement in diplomacy, so I very much look forward to participating in that, and to hear the questions from educators on how they may use this resource in the classroom, what can they continue to find on this website, which includes the voice and stories of diplomats as well as just the nuts and bolts about what diplomacy is. So I very much look forward to sharing with the education community and hearing their responses, potentially hearing their ideas about how we can make this yet an even a more fabulous website for them.
Judyth: Where do you see the website in the next 5 years?
Lauren: I see the website will continue to become a robust resource for teachers because the vision here is to continue to add information to it. So, it’s a live website in that sense, it will continuously have information added; video, audio, as well as text and image. We will be adding, in a year, a diplomatic simulation program, which are diplomatic simulations that teachers can use in the classroom that engage students in the process of diplomacy as they work with their negotiations and their diplomatic skills of listening, learning, problem solving, and compromising on a global issue. So, for example, in a year we will be mounting a simulation on the crisis of our oceans and fisheries around the world, and students will be able to engage in a program with themselves in the classroom and they will be able to come together representing different state holder groups in this issue of oceans and fisheries and work together to try and come up with solutions on how to solve the crises that face our depleting fish population. So what’s forthcoming will be a diplomatic simulation program and the hope as we create an education community around this website, that simulations will be continuously added for teachers to use in the classroom. We also would love, in the fourth coming years on the website, to create a blog and a way for students and educators to post their comments on how they’re becoming involved in diplomacy and their community and how they’re raising awareness around international issues within their community. There is a great vision behind the website that initially, as it’s being launched in Discovery Diplomacy, it just offers some nuts and bolts of information about what diplomacy is and how our diplomats work on the many different issues involved in diplomacy around the world.
Judyth: Can you tell our listeners how they can find out more about the interactive website and the Discover Diplomacy webinar that’s on December 8th?
Lauren: You can find out more about the Discover Diplomacy website by going there, you can Google Discover Diplomacy and you will find the URL or you can go to diplomacy.state.gov/discoverdiplomacy, and you’ll be taken right there, and you’ll be greeted by some amazing images and an animated video exploring the ideas of what diplomacy is and for a personal tour of Discover Diplomacy you want to log onto globalschoolnet.org, and you will find the link to the webinar that will be held tomorrow Thursday, December 8th at 1:00 west coast time/ 4:00 east coast time and have a tour through this interactive website that will give you more information about diplomacy and the work of our diplomats.
Judyth: Lauren it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show today and I hope that you’ll come back again.
Lauren: Well many thanks Judyth and I would love to see you again, thank you.
Judyth: Thank you.