Our Programs

Cultural Diplomacy

In recollection of Lois Roth’s efforts to promote cross‐cultural understanding and cooperation as a US Foreign Service Officer, the Roth Foundation partners with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) (US State Department), to provide the department’s four awards honoring excellence in the field of cultural and educational diplomacy.

Pictured here at the 2019 ECA Awards Ceremony (left-right): Jeffrey Ladenson (Lois Roth Award Hon. Men.), Marta Garcia de Bello (Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Hon. Men.), Richard Arndt (LRF Founder), Yolanda Robinson (Ilchman-Richardson Winner), Nicole Bayer (Lois Roth Award Winner), and Helen Reidy (Gill-Jacot Guillarmod Winner)
  • The Lois Roth Award recognizes a Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department.
  • The Ilchman‐Richardson Award recognizes an ECA administrator who has made significant contributions in the domestic management of US cultural diplomacy.
  • The Gill Jacot‐Guillarmod Award and the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award recognize locally-employed specialists, working at an embassy or consulate overseas, who have made outstanding contributions to the mutual goals of the U.S. and host country in cultural and/or educational diplomacy.
  • In 2018, the Roth Foundation introduced the Emeritus Award, designed to honor lifetime contributions to international cultural and educational relations. In addition to retired diplomats, eligible candidates may have a different background, including in but not restricted to government, universities, US non-profits, international NGOs, etc.

The types of qualities displayed by recipients of Roth Foundation cultural diplomacy awards include:

  • Cross‐cultural sensitivity and understanding for all—regardless of age, race, religion, color, sex, national origin or disability—and the courage and intellectual integrity to bring alternate facts and opinions into open conversation
  • Ingenuity and imagination in creating projects, programs and products to deepen the contact between foreign intellectuals, artists and professionals and their US counterparts
  • Familiarity with global affairs and foreign languages, to deepen substantive discussion between US and foreign intellectuals, scholars and professionals
  • Patience, wisdom and generosity in helping new colleagues, both international and US, develop their careers
  • Special skill in promoting collaborations between US and foreign institutions and high‐quality exchange opportunities with the civil sector.

Our Awards

Lois Roth Award For Cultural Diplomacy

The Lois Roth Award is presented every year to a Foreign Service Officer who has made significant contributions to the field of US cultural and educational diplomacy. It honors those who exhibit cross-cultural sensitivity in all aspects of their work and show patience, wisdom and generosity in helping new colleagues—international and American—to pursue and develop their skills and careers. Displaying familiarity with different areas of the world, global affairs and foreign languages, winners of this award hold substantive discussion with US and foreign scholars, artists and professionals, while exemplifying Lois Roth’s personal legacy of superior creativity and human warmth in their work with others.

The 2021 Lois Roth Award went to Public Affairs Officer William Couch from the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Bill skillfully used a range of cultural diplomacy tools, over two years, to reverse Finnish opposition to repatriating the remains of 20 Indigenous People and their funerary objects for reburial in Mesa Verde National Park. Bill coordinated U.S. and Finnish officials, the museum, American Airlines, tribal governments, and the National Park Service, an effort resulting in global guidance from Washington tasking all Missions to seek out and assist in repatriation of remains and artifacts.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded to Cultural Affairs Officer Raisa Dukas from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Raisa’s incredible support to her peers, subordinates, and interlocutors, her mentoring and creation of a new, but now permanent, regional Community of Practice for PD practitioners, and her creative programming and broad strategic outreach plan that attracted new partners and beneficiaries for USG programs will have a lasting influence on regional cultural diplomacy efforts and richly exemplify the legacy of Lois Roth.

Raisa Dukas wins 2021 Lois Roth Award Honorable Mention

Ilchman‐Richardson Award

Instituted in 2007, the Ilchman‐Richardson Award recognizes an ECA employee in Washington who has made significant contributions to the management of US cultural diplomacy, while leading and mentoring others. It is named in appreciation of two former ECA Assistant Secretaries, Alice Ilchman and John Richardson. After her tenure at ECA, Alice Ilchman, formerly Dean of Wellesley College, became the Associate Director of USICA and USIA (1979‐81) and then the President of Sarah Lawrence College, before becoming chair of the board of the Rockefeller Foundation; she directed the Jeanette Watson Fellowships until her death in 2006. John Richardson became Assistant Secretary for State/ECA (1968‐77) after years in corporate law, investment banking and Radio Free Europe; after his tenure, he headed Youth for Understanding and chaired the boards of the US Endowment for Democracy and the US Institute of Peace.

Toni Bowser, Director of IT at ECA, wins the Lois Roth Foundation’s 2021 Ilchman-Richardson Award

The 2021 Ilchman-Richardson Award went to Ms. Antoinette (Toni) Bowser, the Director of Information Technology (IT) at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. State Department. Toni’s vision and tenacity have made ECA’s mission possible, especially during the pandemic shift to telework and virtual programming, supporting posts, partners, and participants. Her principled leadership resulted in Vision21, a multi-year project that enhanced the Bureau’s strategic and budget planning, outcomes assessment, and capability for reporting to Congress, the Executive branch leadership, regional bureau colleagues, and other stakeholders. Toni’s success exemplifies the legacy behind the Ilchman-Richardson award.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded to Charlotte Titus, the Branch Chief of Europe/Eurasia Branch (IVLP Division) at Office of International Visitors in Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. State Department. Over 30 years Charlotte improved program efficiency and the work environment for her colleagues. She led a steering committee of international security professionals and their U.S. counterparts, a working group that updates a SharePoint site with real-time guidance for exchanges stakeholders and advocated for telework to strengthen operations and work-life balance, among many other initiatives. Through her compassionate leadership Charlotte heads a team that is grateful for her leadership.

Gill Jacot‐Guillarmod Awards

Established in 2013, Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Awards recognize Locally Engaged Staff members at US embassies and consulates who have made outstanding contributions in educational and cultural diplomacy to missions shared by the U.S. and the host country. These awards are named in honor of Gillian (Gill) Jacot-Guillarmod who served for 35 years at the US Mission in South Africa and Embassy in Pretoria, spanning the apartheid period to the emergence of democracy.

Such staff members share their deep institutional memory, personal relationships in the community and knowledge of local culture, society and politics. They also maintain continuity at US embassies and missions worldwide, as US Foreign Service Officers rotate every few years, and play an important role as mentors to new colleagues and supervisors alike. As Bruce Wharton, then-Acting Under Secretary for Public Affairs, put it 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.”

Gill Jacot-Guillarmod, whom this award honors, 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. Lois Roth considered Gill to be one of the most remarkable locally-employed staff she had ever encountered. This is also true of the dozen of Gill’s colleagues at USIS Pretoria, many of whom worked with the Roth Foundation to get this prize instituted. This award in Gill’s name thus represents the respect and admiration of a great number of people. 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).

The 2021 Gill Jacot-Guillarmod award went to Cultural Affairs Assistant at the U. S. Embassy in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Elina Akhtiyarova. Elina excels in shaping 12+ exchange programs from inception to program and into ongoing relationships to the benefit of Kazakhstan and the U.S. When COVID cancelled the in-person event for the International Visitor Leadership Program’s 80th anniversary, Elina conceptualized, implemented, and moderated a Facebook Live program with Washington and Embassy officials and over 120 guests that has garnered close to 3,000 views, significantly increasing the embassy’s influence and reach.

The 2021 Honorable Mention for the Lois Roth Foundation’s Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award for excellence in cultural diplomacy went to Dr. Gözde Doğan Yalçıner, Cultural Specialist at U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Gözde’s award is for the bilateral Cultural Property Agreement (CPA) signed this year. Gözde created partnerships linking the Turkish government, NGOs, and arts institutions, resulting in a CPA that curbs smuggling, denies revenue to terrorist organizations, and protects cultural heritage. 

Career Achievement Award

To honor the most accomplished and longest-serving Locally Engaged Staff members, in 2020 the ECA Awards Committee and Lois Roth Foundation introduced a Career Achievement category for Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award nominees. This award recognizes those who are nearing the end of their careers for long-standing dedication to their work and their success in what Gill described as “helping the United States while helping your own country.”

Elena Broszkowski, a Cultural Affairs Specialist at U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela won the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Awards for Career Achievement. For a dozen years, Elena Broszkowski managed the Performing and Visual Arts Portfolio, comprising ECA cultural arts programs and nominations, and post-funded social transformation-through-the-arts programs incorporating exchanges alumni, Binational Centers, public and private universities, municipalities led by opposition party members, and many other Post allies. Using theater, music and practical training, Elena leaves a lasting legacy of young leaders able to bring the changes that Venezuelan society needs.

Throughout her 22-year career, Fatma Souidi brought Algerians and Americans together – in spite of a civil war, a revolution, economic crisis, and a pandemic. Fatma engineered the region’s first Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Property which led to updated cultural preservation legislation and training focused on preventing looting of cultural property. Her work in this and other fields is the bedrock of our relationship with an otherwise standoffish government, exemplifying the best of cultural diplomacy.

For nearly two decades, Vanessa Wagner, an Established Opinion Leaders Specialist at U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, has led the entire range of cultural programming. Most notably, she secured $2.5 million to conserve dozens of heritage sites and led U.S. repatriation of some 2,000 artifacts to Peru, raising the profile of the Mission throughout Peru. Vanessa’s humanity, care for contacts and workmates, advocacy for U.S. interests and help for Peruvians well represent the legacy of Gill Jacot-Guillarmod.

Emeritus Award for Cultural Diplomacy

In contrast to the first three awards for excellence in cultural and educational diplomacy, which are restricted to actively employed individuals, the Roth Foundation’s Emeritus Award fills a longstanding need to recognize work in cultural diplomacy on the part of others. This occasional award recognizes lifetime contributions to deepening international educational and cultural dialogue and exchange. The selection panel candidates including, but not restricted to individuals with a background in government, universities, US non-profits, international NGOs, etc. It is guided by the attributes exemplified by Lois Roth: deep humanity, wisdom and generosity of spirit, as well as skill, ingenuity, cross-cultural insight, commitment to excellence and mentoring, and a conceptual grasp of the numerous interlinked components affecting education, culture and interpersonal communication.

Former Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission Penny Eagan with 2018 Emeritus Award winner Mark Taplin.

Penny Egan received the 2019 Lois Roth Emeritus Award for her lifetime of contributions to the field of cultural diplomacy, with a focus on international education. During her twelve-year tenure as Executive Director of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, Penny forged stronger educational links between the US and UK, gaining increased funding for American pre- and post-doctoral scholars to study at the top research universities in the UK. She also took important steps towards making international education more accessible through her creation of the Social Mobility Program, which provides funding for underprivileged UK undergraduates to attend American universities. Penny’s dedication to cultural and educational diplomacy has provided opportunities for hundreds of students to enrich their educational experience, and in doing so has fostered continued cultural exchange between the US and UK.

Nomination Process

Every spring, the Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs will internally circulate details regarding nominations for the Lois Roth Award, the Ilchman-Richardson Award and the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Awards. Supervisors are invited to submit nominations in all three categories, which must include:

  1. Name and title of nominee;
  2. Name, title and email address of nominating supervisor;
  3. Work location of the nominee;
  4. Brief description of the role of the nominee at the overseas post or domestic ECA office;
  5. Narrative (not to exceed three pages) describing the achievement(s) of the nominee and justifying the nomination.

Nominations for the occasional Emeritus Award for Cultural Diplomacy may be submitted to the Roth Foundation via email at any time. Please include a c.v. for the individual and a narrative (not to exceed three pages) describing the achievement(s) of the nominee and justifying the nomination. The Foundation will assemble a committee to evaluate the nomination and reserves the right to: reject the nomination, should the committee so decide; or select the time and venue for bestowing the award, should the committee approve the nomination.