2020 Cultural Diplomacy Awards

We are excited to announce the recipients of our 2020 Cultural Diplomacy Awards! 

The Lois Roth Award went to Cultural Affairs Officer Davida MacDonald from the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco. Davida was recognized for the “Moonshot Morocco” campaign she designed that transformed the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing into a year-long celebration and captured the imagination of thousands of Moroccans. The campaign consisted of 50+ events across 24 Moroccan cities and engaged more than 15,000 STEM enthusiasts and emerging entrepreneurs in person and tens of thousands online through complementary social media content.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded to Cultural Affairs Officer Holly Zardus from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo for her creation of BOLD (Bosanski Omladinski Lideri), a multi-faceted program to address the problems facing Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) by developing a new cadre of leaders. She took advantage of existing exchange programs, and where those didn’t exist, she created new business-focused projects and short-term academic programs focused on civic and economic development.

The Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Award went to Esti Durahsanti. Through interpersonal skills and leadership, Esti, Cultural Affairs Specialist at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, Indonesia, provides the foundation for public diplomacy programming and an example of excellence for all Consulate employees. Her extensive experience—with women’s empowerment, disability rights, LGBTQ issues, human trafficking and STEAM (add Arts to STEM)—has driven cutting-edge programming with broad impact.

This year, the Lois Roth Foundation and the ECA Awards Committee introduced the Lois Roth Foundation’s Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award to honor the most accomplished and longest-serving locally engaged staff members. This award highlights individuals who are nearing the end of their careers, to recognize their long-standing dedication to their work and their success in honoring Gill’s spirit of “helping the United States while helping your own country.”

The selection committee chose to recognize the following four exceptional long-serving locally engaged staff members with the Gill Jacot-Guillarmod Career Achievement Award.

In over 35 years as a Cultural Assistant at the Consulate General in Jeddah, Ali Al Ghadban’s stellar work in exchange and alumni programs has supported the entire U.S. Mission to Saudi Arabia. He has successfully leveraged his vast network to strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties through education and cultural exchange, while deepening relations with the next generation of Saudi leaders.

Over 40 years, Felicity Aziz, the Deputy Director of the American Center in Jerusalem, has served as the liaison to 35 grantee organizations, while managing operations and staff. The Mission relies on her skilled approach to public diplomacy and advice on women’s empowerment and economic development, religious affairs, innovation and entrepreneurship, climate and environment, rule of law, good governance and peripheral communities.

For almost 30 years, Education and Professional Exchanges Specialist Ivanka Ponikvar has been the most respected exchanges interlocutor at the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia. She has steadily increased the Embassy’s network of policy and opinion-makers and deftly navigated the changing political and economic landscape to recruit the nation’s most promising educational and professional exchange participants.

Helena Vagnerova, Senior Member of the Established Opinion Leader Team at the U.S. Embassy Prague, has mentored generations of FSOs and local staff. From drafting memos and remarks for the Ambassador, to managing logistical, budgetary and bureaucratic issues, she personifies the critical role that cultural outreach plays in strengthening international bonds.

The Ilchman-Richardson Award went to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Director of Academic Exchange Programs, Mary Kirk. Mary and her team have extended the breadth of the Fulbright Program’s outreach and selection processes and reinforced their connection to foreign policy priorities, while ensuring the health, safety and productivity of the exchange experience for all Fulbrighters.

An Honorable Mention was also awarded to ECA’s Senior Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion, David Levin. During his 36 years with ECA, he has built Diversity and Inclusion into ECA’s ethos instilling his fervent belief that international exchange and its life-changing benefits should be available to everyone and that exchanges are stronger and more impactful when they truly represent the diversity of American society and of societies abroad.

We are proud to recognize these amazing individuals who have demonstrated true dedication to promoting international dialogue, and are excited to see what is to come as they continue on in their exceptional careers.


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