Diplomacy and Diversity: Minority and Immigrant Perspectives on America, its Values, and its Foreign Service
Please note that this is a virtual event. TO REGISTER, CLICK HERE- all those who register will be sent an email with information on how to join the virtual event.
Join a panel discussion with Ambassador Harry Thomas, Ms. Pooja Pama and Ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller on immigrants and minorities in the United States, the State Department and the Foreign Service. Ambassador Thomas served as Director General and has worked on diversity and inclusion initiatives at the State Department throughout his career. Ms. Pama immigrated to the U.S. from India while Ambassador Gfoeller immigrated from France.
Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. is a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and a Senior Strategic Engagement Leader at Special Operations Command. He served as ambassador to Zimbabwe (2016-2018), the Philippines (2010-2013) and Bangladesh (2003-2005). He retired in March 2018 with the rank of Career Minister after more than three decades in the Foreign Service. Ambassador Thomas also served as Executive Secretary and Special Assistant to Secretary Rice, Director General of the Foreign Service, Director for South Asia at the National Security Council and Director of the Operations Center.
Ambassador Thomas speaks Spanish, Hindi, and Bangla. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and holds a master’s degree from Columbia University. He was the Commencement Speaker at Holy Cross and Loyola University. He is a Trustee of the College of the Holy Cross, the American Academy of Diplomacy, Care for the Homeless and, Chairperson of Winter4Kids and is a former Northern Virginia Swimming Official.
Pooja Chandra Pama is the founder and CEO of multiple businesses in the commercial real estate and healthcare arenas including Advanced Medical and Professional Solutions, Inc., Pooja, LLC, ACE Physical Terapy & Sports Medicine Institute and Medical Resources, LLC. She is Vice President - Special Operation of American Woman of International Understanding, an organization whose mission is to promote woman-to-woman interaction and understanding worldwide through meaningful visits, grants, educational support, the celebration and support of the International Women of Courage and participation of local chapters which act locally and affect globally. Ms. Pama is also Co-Chair of the DC Chapter Branch of AWIU.
Ambassador Tatiana C. Gfoeller-Volkoff currently serves as President of AWIU (American Women for International Understanding), a global women's rights NGO. Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff most recently served as the Foreign Policy Advisor (POLAD) to two successive members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She served as POLAD to the Chief of Staff of the Army from 2011 to 2015, and as POLAD to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2015 to 2017. In these positions she undertook sensitive diplomatic mission in support of US military interests in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. She also served as the primary diplomatic link between the Pentagon and the State Department
From 2008 to 2011, she served as US Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. She was responsible for all aspects of US policy in this country, including support for the US war effort in Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz Republic served as the primary transit corridor for US troops into and out if Afghanistan. Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff kept this vital military link open, despite massive from Russia to close it. She also spearheaded US counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics policies in the Kyrgyz Republic.
During her 33-year career with the Department of State and the Department of Defense, Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff reached the highest levels of the US diplomatic service, attaining the rank of Minister-Counselor. Her many postings in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East contained a string of command positions. They included Consul General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Consul General in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargéd'Affaires in Turkmenistan. She also served as Advisor on the Former Soviet Union to the Secretary General of NATO. Her other overseas assignments included Warsaw, Poland, Moscow, Manama, Bahrain, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff earned a strong reputation in the diplomatic service for protecting her staff from harm, often at great risk to her personal safety. While serving as Ambassador in the Kyrgyz Republic, she took direct responsibility for the safety of all American government personnel and US citizens in country during the coup and ethnic pogrom of 2010. She personally led the safe evacuation of 92 Peace Corps volunteers. Despite the chaos and violence the Kyrgyz Republic experienced, not a single US citizen was injured or killed. The US Embassy and air base functioned without interruption throughout months of unrest.
Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff has also devoted considerable time and energy to mentoring young people from diverse backgrounds who are interested in careers in foreign affairs. She has advised numerous young people, both students and young professionals already embarked on their careers. She has focused her efforts particularly on young women and African Americans.
One of the most highly decorated American diplomats in recent decades, Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff holds numerous awards from the Department of State and Department of Defense. They include the US Army's highest civilian award, the National Guard's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the State Department's Distinguished Career Achievement Award.
In addition to her diplomatic work, Ambassador Gfoeller-Volkoff taught a graduate-level course in the politics of the former Soviet Union at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University from 2001 to 2001. During the same period, she wrote a book on the region entitled "United by the Caspian," which was published by Georgetown. She holds both a bachelors and a masters degree in international affairs from the School of Foreign Service, in addition to a certificate in international law from the University of Florence. Her foreign languages include Russian, French, Italian, and Arabic. She is married and has one son.