The Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award, recognizes Locally Engaged Staff (LES) members who have made outstanding contributions in educational and cultural diplomacy to objectives shared by the U.S. and the host country. With deep institutional memory and knowledge of local culture, society and politics, as well as their relation to US priorities, such staff members maintain continuity at U.S. embassies and missions around the world, as Foreign Service Officers rotate in and out every few years, and play an important role as mentors to new colleagues and supervisors alike. As Acting Under Secretary for Public Affairs Bruce Wharton confirmed, in reference to 2015 “Gill” recipient Monica Alcalde: “The things she taught me—from process, to substance, to style—have guided me as I moved from job to job across Latin America, the U.S. and Africa. Without Monica’s patient teaching and friendship, I don’t think I would ever have made it beyond Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer.“
This year the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award for a Locally Engaged Staff member went to Basma Amawi, of the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. She is recognized for, among many other notable achievements, her unsurpassed networks of exchange program grantees, from grassroots organizations to the Royal Court, and her ability to rearrange programs on the fly to maximize impact when circumstances suddenly change. The thousands of programs she has created and enriched have reached millions of Jordanians, making her an invaluable team member and an inspiration to public diplomacy practitioners the world over.
Exceptionally, this year’s candidate pool was of such outstanding caliber that the selection panel opted to award an unprecedented two Honorable Mention awards for the Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Award. The first Honorable Mention went to Márcia Mizuno, Cultural Specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil. Marcia is recognized for 29 years of unusually effective work on Education and Cultural programming in school throughout the country, as well as her engagement with the Brazilian network of 40 Bi-national Centers. Among many other ground-breaking achievements, Márcia is the creator of the Youth Ambassador program, a model that has since been replicated worldwide. Her passion for improving relations between the U.S. and Brazil and her success in supporting our mutual goals are truly remarkable.
The second Honorable Mention award for the Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Award goes to Quynh Ngo, Cultural Specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam. Since 1996, Quynh Ngo’s profound knowledge of Vietnamese history and traditions has helped guide the Embassy’s efforts to deepen people-to-people ties, particularly through education. Based on building an extensive network of influential contacts and implementing long-term initiatives, such as Project Jayhawk (which has so far sent twenty-six teachers to train at Kansas State Univ.) , expanding the Access Microscholarship English tutoring program and the Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program to schools beyond the big cities, Quynh’s work built the foundation on which all progress in the U.S.-Vietnam partnership has been built.
This award is named in honor of Gill Jacot-Guillarmod, who served for thirty-five years in South Africa, spanning a period from the dark days of apartheid through to the peaceful emergence of democracy. Although it ran counter to the American democratic mission, in the 1960s and 70s the U.S. was under intense pressure from the South African government to support its state-sponsored racial segregation. Within this tense environment, Gill programmed hundreds of Fulbright and other grantees; later, with great political sensitivity, she worked to assist in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. She is remembered as a consummate cross-cultural communicator and bridge builder, serving on behalf of all as a mentor, counselor and committed senior colleague. Read an Interview with Gill Jacot-Guillarmod, conducted by Foreign Service Officer Dan Whitman and published in his book Outsmarting Apartheid (SUNY Press, 2014).
For a complete list of winners of the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award, please see Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award Recipients.