Awardee Database

Awardees

Susan Vroman

Project on Swedish data-gathering practices and the earning gap between men and women. At the time, Vroman was professor of economics at Georgetown University.

Nels Kloster

Project on the role of science in formulating regulatory policy regarding public health questions, for example, on electromagnetic fields as a possible cause of cancer

Angela E. Crowley

Project on comparative sales of military aircraft to Sweden by the US, France and the USSR, “as a means to determine … overlap and balance between the global economy and the interstate system.” This was Crowley’s doctoral project at UC Irvine.

Mary Carlin Yates

The award citation reads: For outstanding creativity, initiative and sensitivity in directing and managing USIS programs in Zaire from 1993 to 1995. Her achievement in reaching out to newly-formed political groups and the Zairian intellectual community restored the U.S. as a leading force for justice and will form the basis of American-Zairian relations in coming decades. Her dynamism, sensitivity and integrity fully reflect the legacy of Lois Roth.

In her letter of thanks she wrote, “Every year, when I read the criteria for the Lois Award, I recommit myself to trying to live up to her high standard.” Mary Carlin Yates went on to be come U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi from 1999 until June 2002, and as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana from November 2002 to 2005.

Mary Carlin Yates
The Honorable Mary Yates

This first of twelve portraits in 2017, honoring alumni from thirty years of Roth Foundation programs, features The Honorable Mary Carlin Yates.

Mary won the Lois Roth Award in 1997 for her performance as a Cultural Affairs Officer in Kinshasa from 1993 to 1995. During her years in Zaire, Mary established relationships with new political groups and the Zairian intellectual community with creativity and ingenuity. Her work not only assisted the US in regaining its former status as a force for justice and the promotion of democracy in the region, but also made a lasting impact on the nature of American-Congolese relations. Mary explained that, because she could not travel to DC to receive her award in person, her sister and niece represented her at the ceremony, and the event was such an inspiration that her niece went on to join the Foreign Service herself.

Mary was particularly honored to receive the Lois Roth Award, not only for the values the award promotes, but also because Lois Roth was one of her own mentors. In thanking us at the time, Mary wrote: “Every year, when I read the criteria for the Lois Roth Award, I recommit myself to trying to live up to her high standard.” These many years later, Mary explained: “Lois Roth and [my second mentor] Ambassador Melissa Wells taught me that I could be anything I wanted, and even aspire to be an Ambassador. Thanks to role models like these, I never let being a woman cross my mind in any job I went for, whether in the State Department or on interagency assignments to the Department of Defense and National Security Council.” Mary, in turn, has been a strong role model for many women in the Foreign Service.

Mary Yates serves as the commencement speaker at Oregon State University in June 2007
Mary Yates serves as the commencement speaker at Oregon State University in June 2007

Mary considers cultural diplomacy to be “the most important tool in the foreign policy toolbox.” For her, the engaged conversations inspired by cultural and educational programing are the most effective vehicle for communicating the values of the U.S. to the peoples of other countries. The value of this approach has been made clear by her experiences abroad. Although she started her work in Zaire as a political officer, she later switched to Public Diplomacy where she realized she had a greater impact through cultural and educational programs and that even the smallest Public Diplomacy program, —such as helping women to create an AIDS education NGO, or providing election-watch training—could have a lasting, positive impact.

Mary has made significant contributions to American cultural diplomacy. In 1999, a mere two years after receiving her Lois Roth Award, she became the US Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi; there she contributed to efforts led by Nelson Mandela to promote peace between members of the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. In 2002, she became the US Ambassador to Ghana, where she advocated for peace between opposing factions in neighboring Liberia and influenced numerous governmental policies. From 2005 to 2012, she served in a variety of key positions, first as a foreign policy advisor for the US-European Command, then as a deputy to the commander for civil-military activities in the US-Africa Command, and finally as a senior director for African affairs in President Obama’s National Security Council. After additional service as Charge in Khartoum, Sudan, Mary retired from the diplomatic corps in 2012, but she remains busy and passionate about promoting cross-cultural understanding.

Recently, Mary has been reflecting on the importance of giving back to organizations that promote the values she supports. She said, “It was when I was called to become more involved with my alma mater, Oregon State University by serving on the Board of Regents of the Honors College and as a Trustee of the OSU Foundation, that I understood the true meaning of ‘legacy’ and how even a modest amount of effort and financial contributions make a big difference to preserving a legacy you believe in and that you want to see maintained. I realized I should give back to the institutions that reflect my beliefs and shaped my career. I want to urge everyone who really believes in what Lois did and stood for to support the Endowment so that its awards can continue to encourage and inspire others. In an era where women’s rights may be taking a step backwards, it is all the more important to support the legacy of people like Lois Roth.”

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This alumni portrait was written by Drew Barnhart, the Roth Foundation’s Social Media and Outreach Manager, based on an interview conducted by retired Foreign Service officer and Roth Foundation Board member Anne Barbaro.

Fae Korsmo

A comparative project on indigenous land ownership organization focusing on the Sami, Sweden’s northern ethnic minority, and the Inuit in Alaska.

This seventh of twelve portraits in 2017, honoring alumni from thirty years of Roth Foundation programs, features one of our very first award winners. Fae Korsmo won our support for the work she conducted in Sweden in 1989-90. Our Swedish program was the first one we set up—in memory of Lois Roth’s close ties to the country, which included a Fulbright year. At the start, though, these awards were coordinated with the American Scandinavian Foundation, instead of Fulbright Sweden … as Fae explains.

“When I applied for a dissertation fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation in 1989, I didn’t know that the Lois Roth Foundation existed. When I received a positive response from the ASF, however, I also received a letter—a very encouraging and substantive letter from Richard (Dick) T. Arndt, the Endowment’s founder, offering me additional funds for my dissertation research.

With funds in hand, I set off for Sweden for the first stage of a comparative politics research project focusing on the laws and policies impacting indigenous peoples in northern nation-states, with a focus first on the Nordics. The next year I would turn to Alaska and Canada. Beyond a couple of nights at a bed-and-breakfast, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or where I was going.  Oh, yes, I had a research design and a plan; but as I began my studies, the plan made less and less sense in the midst of the reality.  I later learned that this is a pretty common experience when doing field research.

If I remember correctly, Dick’s letter had gently implied that I should just keep my eyes open.  So that’s what I did, and I’m glad.  Together, the ASF Fellowship and the Roth Foundation Award enabled me to spend nearly a full year getting to know the political system and the situation of minorities, including the Sámi people, in Sweden.

Why the Sámi?  Well, I had developed a curiosity about the situation of the Sámi when I spent a summer month in Bergen, Norway, studying all things Norwegian—in Norwegian (!)—at the University of Bergen in 1980. Prior to that stay, I knew nothing of the Sámi—only that they were known in English as “Laplanders.” I now learned that a group of Sámi was staging a hunger strike in Oslo, in protest of the construction of a dam in northern Norway that would disrupt their reindeer husbandry and traditional way of life.

While completing an MA at George Washington University, I then studied international law on human rights and aboriginal title, which led me to pursue a Ph.D. in comparative politics. Not every nation-state recognizes—in law or in fact—the time-immemorial rights of indigenous societies.  In at least two cases, however—the State of Alaska and Sweden—the national governments had attempted to settle indigenous legal claims and/or political differences through modern economic models: Sweden employed the model of the economic (reindeer-herding) cooperative, while the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in the U.S. relied on the model of the for-profit corporation.

Fae graduating with her MA.

After completing my dissertation in 1992, I went on to teach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. There I also continued my research into the legal and political rights of indigenous peoples in the circumpolar north.  It was an exciting field; after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, for example, many northern indigenous societies were asserting their rights to land and water in Russia. Since the 1980s it has been heartening to read the work of indigenous scholars.  On some level, I always felt a little like a tourist, an outsider looking in, with a limited perspective.  Nowadays, it is a very different research environment; indigenous researchers work alongside their respected elders and local experts, and ethical principles of research are more widely known and respected.

I have learned even more about ethical principles of research working for the National Science Foundation.  The NSF is a place where you are constantly learning, always reminded of the need to keep an open, “beginner’s mind.”  I enjoy being part of an organization that enables people to discover and learn.

To this day I support the Lois Roth Foundation—not only because of the gift I received, but also because, in addition to research, it emphasizes cultural diplomacy and translation.  All of these avenues of activity are vital to the sciences and the humanities, which to my mind make them vital for our legacy as individuals and as a culture.  My wish is to encourage students and junior scholars to keep going, even when the path seems unclear.  We are all tourists, and the gifts we receive help us to contribute and find the places where we might make a difference.”

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This text was written by Fae Korsmo and edited by LRE Chair Skyler Arndt-Briggs. Thanks to Drew Barnhart, our Media and Outreach Manager, for producing our June Portrait.

Nan Bell

The first winner of the Lois Roth Award, Nan Bell was nominated by her entire staff at the European Branch of the International Visitor program for her work during a period of explosive growth in programs following the fall of the Berlin wall.

*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.