| Alumni Couple Live Foreign-Service Life |
From living near an active volcano in Japan, to overlooking nightly tango lessons in the park across from their Argentine apartment, to assessing the H1N1 outbreak with health officials in Mexico City, alumni Lauren and Joe Salazar have had unique experiences in their posts around the world.
Joe Salazar ’90, an international studies graduate, is the deputy consul general in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He was the first UST graduate to be commissioned as a U.S. foreign service officer at the U.S. Department of State in 1998. Along with his wife, Lauren Aulbach Salazar ’91, a liberal arts graduate in Spanish and education, Joe has served in Washington, D.C., and overseas in Seoul, South Korea; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Mexico City, Mexico.
Joe and Lauren met during student orientation at St. Thomas, and beginning with their service as English teachers in the Japan Exchange and Teaching program in rural Nagano, Japan, after graduation, Lauren has joined Joe at each of his posts.
As a U.S. diplomat, Joe works to promote peace, support prosperity and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the United States internationally.
“I have found my career in the foreign service to be challenging, exciting and rewarding,” Joe said. “There is a great satisfaction in serving your country and striving to make the world a better place.”
Joe said his St. Thomas coursework in international studies, philosophy, history and religion gave him a global perspective, ‘a window through which to view the world.’
“It was in my ancient philosophy course that I learned the Aristotelian thought that to live a virtuous life, one must participate actively in decisions regarding the welfare of one’s fellow citizens and one’s society,” Joe said. “It was through my overall experience at UST that I was instilled with a moral obligation to seek peace and fairness in the international arena,” he said.
Joe’s connection to the foreign service was through William J. Cunningham, former director of UST’s Center for International Studies.
“He had a distinguished diplomatic career in the U. S. Foreign Service, and I benefited tremendously from his insights into that world,” Joe said.
Joe said, although it can be deeply rewarding, the foreign service is not the right career path or lifestyle for everyone.
“You may be asked to serve in a number of dangerous places in the world, perhaps without your family,” Joe said. “You may have to pursue the interests of the United States with fewer resources at your disposal.”
As their assignments take the couple and their two children around the world, Lauren said her studies at St. Thomas have given her the skills to work in many areas, as her job changes each time Joe has a new assignment. Certified in bilingual education, she has taught for 15 years, mostly in Spanish immersion programs at the early childhood level.
“I am most proud of my teaching career,” Lauren said. “I have been able to apply the skills essential to this career to other positions in posts where teaching is not a viable option.”
In addition to jobs in education, she worked as a consular associate in Argentina, adjudicating non-immigrant and immigrant visas, and she works presently as a community liaison officer in Vancouver, assisting consulate families as they transition to their lives in Canada or return to the United States.
Lauren has had the chance to learn quilting in Korea, be part of a Gaelic choir in Buenos Aires and visit the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
“Being a foreign service family is challenging, but also provides many opportunities,” Lauren said. “Adapting to new homes and new cultures and leaving behind friends is difficult, but the experiences my family has had are invaluable. To see your own country through the eyes of the citizens of other countries is eye opening.”
Center for International Studies Makes Foreign Service Connection
The University has a history of preparing students for careers in international relations and diplomacy. Joe Salazar is one of four alumni who have become U.S. foreign service officers, three of them from the Center for International Studies.
The Center recently announced a new partnership with the American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C., to promote and deepen public understanding of U.S. diplomacy, and the Center will launch a new “Distinguished Diplomat” lecture series with Ambassador John Negroponte at 6:30 p.m. on March 21 at La Colombe D’Or Ballroom, 3410 Montrose Blvd.
Joe said the partnership is a great opportunity to advance the public understanding of U.S. diplomacy.
“It is also a key component in increasing the understanding among the next generation of U.S. diplomats of the role of the United States in a rapidly changing global landscape, and developing the necessary skills and abilities to meet the international challenges and opportunities facing our nation,” he said.