The Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University welcomed five new members to its advisory board to aid in efforts to reshape the school’s representation and inclusion policies.
The new members, voted onto the SFS Board of Advisors on March 25, will contribute to an ongoing review process intended to identify ways for the SFS community to represent a more diverse group of people, according to Joel Hellman, dean of the SFS. The board, including the new appointees, consists of 43 members who are SFS graduates, parents of current students or community members. The board’s role is to guide the dean’s office and the school administration in areas like fundraising and outreach across graduate and parent networks.
The new appointments highlight an increase in representation of people from different career paths, backgrounds and identities, according to Alma Caballero (SFS ’13, GRD ’15), one of the new board members.
“I think that this is a testament to the efforts that Dean Hellman and the university are trying to conduct in bringing much more of that diversity, and it’s not only a diversity of ethnicity but also diversity of thought and a diversity of experience and a diversity of background, so I think that’s a positive step forward,” Caballero said in a video interview with The Hoya.
Caballero, who will be the youngest member ever to serve on the board, comes from a background in global consulting with a focus on Latin America and currently serves as the regional director for northern Latin America at McLarty Associates, a global strategy advisory firm in Washington, D.C.
“The fact that I was nominated and voted to be part of the board is a substantial change because it’s the first time that a young alumni will be part of the board,” Caballero said.
The incoming board members were elected in part because of their commitment to the Georgetown University community and because they bring different perspectives from those who have been historically represented on the board, according to Hellman.
“We are in the process of reviewing the role of the board, and in that process, we thought it was important to bring on right away a group of more diverse voices into the board so that they can be part of that discussion,” Hellman said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
The process of becoming a board member includes prior engagement with the SFS for some time and in different capacities, such as participating in coffee chats or planning for the school’s centennial activities, according to Hellman.
The board must explore why certain demographics are underrepresented in the student body of the SFS, according to Zaid Zaid (SFS ’97), one of the new board members. Zaid currently works as the lead on Facebook’s North America strategic response policy team on U.S. politics and elections and previously served in the Obama administration.
“The number of Black students that are in SFS every year is low, and part of that means that we need to do better recruitment,” Zaid said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Part of it means that we need to think about why students at Georgetown are choosing other schools, but I’m not sure what the answer is yet.”
Across all four undergraduate schools, 6.3% of Georgetown students identify as Black, 9.5% of students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 10.4% of students identify as Asian, according to the university’s 2019-20 Campus Demographics Survey. An additional 48.8% of undergraduates identify as white.
The board is also welcoming Nick Talwar (SFS ’95), who currently serves as the president and CEO of the technology investment platform CircleUp, and Brionne Dawson (SFS ’02), who works in diplomatic and foreign policy at the Bureau for Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Also joining the board is Lulu Garcia-Navarro (SFS ’94), the host of “Weekend Edition Sunday” and the news podcast “Up First: at NPR. Garcia-Navarro has also worked as a foreign correspondent in Brazil, Israel, Mexico and Iraq.
A more diverse student body in the SFS will change the demographics of the next generation of foreign service officers, according to Garcia-Navarro.
“Elite institutions need to make room at the table for different kinds of students,” Garcia-Navarro said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “The School of Foreign Service has such a very close relationship with the cadre of the State Department in this country. Because of that close relationship, it is even more incumbent on the School of Foreign Service to really open up the ranks to other types of people because that will help shape actually how the American government itself functions.”