Media Advisory: Meridian at SXSW EDU – American Diplomats Should Look Like America

WHEN:11:00 AM – 12:00 PM CT | March 10, 2022 

WHERE:SXSW EDU Conference and Festival (Hybrid), Austin, Texas, USA 


14 February 2022

One year after launching a diplomatic readiness program aimed at diversifying American’s global affairs workforce, Meridian will spread its message to a new audience at the SXSW EDU Conference and Festival through “American Diplomats Should Look Like America.” This session earned a conference spot by public vote and is featured on SXSW EDU’s global impact track with a focus on continuing education.

In spring 2021, Meridian introduced DiplomacyRISE (Readiness, Innovation, Skill, and Equity), an inclusive diplomatic professional development program that provides greater access to critical skills training, career guidance networks and emerging issue expertise to cultivate the next generation of U.S. diplomats.

Meridian Executive Vice President Natalie Jones, “With the recent unveiling of the deep-rooted inequities in our society, there has been a universal call for greater equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace – and the American diplomatic corps is no exception. The United States is at an inflection point on the global stage and diplomacy has never been more important than now to revitalize our standing in the world. But to do this, the American international affairs community must reflect the full diversity of our country - our backgrounds, our beliefs and our values. That is after all, the greatest asset our nation has.”

Meridian’s SXSW EDU panel will discuss the value and benefits of an American diplomatic corps that reflects the diversity of our country. Greater inclusion of those from varied backgrounds has been shown to foster better policies. Yet, there is imbalanced representation among the U.S. Foreign Service members who share American values and culture with the world. To ensure a more diverse public workforce, it’s vital to create a pipeline that educates, mentors and prepares underrepresented youth for global affairs careers. Without intentional recruitment and retention efforts, the U.S. may overlook talent and misrepresent its people and beliefs to the world.

Addressing these issues at SXSW EDU are panelists:

  • Congressman Joaquin Castro, U.S. House of Representatives (D-TX)
  • Desiree Cormier Smith, Senior Advisor in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State
  • Tonija Hope, Director in the Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University
  • Natalie Jones, Executive Vice President of Meridian International Center

Congressman Castro, who introduced bipartisan legislation to make prestigious internship opportunities at the State Department more accessible to young people of all backgrounds, stated at our 2021 Diplomacy Forum:

"Funding alone cannot address structural issues facing U.S. diplomacy. We need to get back to a diplomacy-first foreign policy. We have no shortage of Americans who are ready to meet this moment. Young people today might just be the most globally minded, civically engaged and diverse generation this nation has ever seen."

As diplomacy evolves, Meridian is helping shape its future. Learn more about Meridian’s diplomacy work here. For questions about the forthcoming SXSW EDU participation, please contact Meridian Digital Marketing Manager Danielle Najjar at

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About Meridian

Meridian International Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit diplomacy center that connects leaders through culture and collaboration to drive solutions for global challenges. Founded over 60 years ago, Meridian has equipped thousands of leaders with the networks, insights and cultural context essential for non-partisan work on shared issues. Meridian strengthens engagement between the United States and the world through diplomacy, global leadership and culture, because we believe we are stronger together when globally engaged.


The SXSW EDU® Conference & Festival is a reflection of the world’s most critical social issues as seen through the lens of education. This year’s event will bring together the learner, the practitioner, the entrepreneur, and the visionary to share their groundbreaking stories, tackle complex issues, and build reimagined paths forward. As a community of diverse people who are united around a like-minded vision for the future, SXSW EDU serves as a place for attendees to renew their purpose in practice from both a personal and professional perspective. It is a place to reinforce the core principles of teaching and learning as well as an opportunity to express your creativity and passion for education. SXSW EDU is a component of the South by Southwest® family of conferences and festivals that has grown from 800 to over 8,000 registrants in the last decade. Join the passionate and innovative community at SXSW EDU, March 7-10, 2022.

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