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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Academics & Research

Political science department appoints diplomat

Newly appointed UH Diplomat in Residence Donna Blair, a career member of the Department of State Senior Foreign Service, has plans to help students interested in foreign policy and affairs reach their goals and inform them of international and domestic opportunities for internships and careers that are available.

“I have had a very fortunate and long career in a sense that I have not limited myself by geography or by fear, and I have never let that stop me,” she said. “At the end of the day, believe it or not, all people all over the world basically want the same thing and I have the same needs and desires, to take care of family and have a livelihood, to live in peace and prosperity.”

Before arriving Sept. 9, Blair served as the Principal Officer and head of the US Mission in Lagos, Nigeria. Prior to that she served as the Head of the US Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and is currently serving under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She is originally from New Orleans, where she remembers being exposed to a lot of different cultures and religions and said that Foreign Service was a natural fit. She had dreamed of a career in foreign affairs since she was in the third grade.

“I tell people you have to remember a couple of things,” she said. “Always put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

Blair’s first international post was in Hong Kong, where she served as a consulate officer. She took the initiative to attend The University of Hong Kong and study the Chinese culture. While there, Blair issued actor Jackie Chan his first US visa.

“The potential and the possibilities to make an impact on the world, to serve overseas, interact with different people and cultures and to meet your own American citizens in a new and different light is limitless in terms of the career opportunities,” Blair said. “I have a satisfying and rewarding career, where you can make a difference and have an impact.”

Blair is responsible for recruiting for Southeast Texas and Louisiana, and her office is housed within UH’s political science department.

“People might think that for Foreign Service you might have to be in political science or liberals arts, and that’s not necessarily the case,” Blair said. “There are other components of the Foreign Service on the specialist side.”

Greg Weiher, chair of the political science department, said that many students have interest in careers and opportunities such as those with the Department of State, and don’t know where to go for information or how to get started.

“We have a lot of students that are interested in careers in international relations, politics and business,” Weiher said. “The diplomat is a real resource for those students. It’s a resource for the department.”

The diplomat-in-residence position was in place for several years, but the post had been vacant for over a year after the last appointee, Michael W. McClellan, was transferred to the University of Michigan after only two weeks. Weiher said that his replacement, Blair, is a great asset for the University and the students.

“She obviously knows a lot more than anybody here about the Department of State internships,” Weiher said. “It’s a great position for us.”

Blair received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola College, formerly Dominican College, majoring in history with a minor in Russian studies. She then pursued and received her master’s degree with a focus in social sciences and international relations from the University of Detroit.

“We are trying to get the word out. This is such a diverse campus, which is a great thing,” Blair said. “I think that people just don’t know what the opportunities are. People don’t know what the State Department is, not just here but all over and that’s what I’m here for.”

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