Public Diplomacy Symposium held on SU campus

Professionals spoke about non-state actors in international relations at the annual two-day event.

Each year, the public diplomacy graduate students of Syracuse University host a public diplomacy symposium. Usually held in Washington D.C., this year's event, inspired by Geoffrey Wiseman’s book, "Isolate or Engage: Adversarial States, US Foreign Policy, and Public Diplomacy," was held at SU on Oct. 13 and 14.

The first day featured a panel on “New Diplomacy,” featuring SU alumni Corrie Zoli, director of research for the Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism, and W. Michael Short, founder of Short Enterprises. Former Foreign Service Officer (FSO) Steven Pike also hosted a discussion.

"Think of how you can participate in public diplomacy without working with the State."
-Holly Gordon, co-founder of Girl Rising

A panel consisting of Ellen Blackler, the vice president of global public policy at The Walt Disney Co., Joe Bednar, a seasoned media professional who joined an entrepreneurial venture, PowerVJ, in 2013, Mike Fernandez who led Cargill’s global corporate affairs activities and Carl Schramm, an internationally recognized leader in entrepreneurship and economic growth, discussed the role of corporations in new public diplomacy.

The first day concluded with a one-on-one interview with Mark McDowell, Canada’s first resident Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. McDowell said when he arrived in Myanmar, which had seen a generation of sanctions and a dictatorial regime, he was faced with the challenge of building a relationship between Canada and Myanmar with a small staff and few resources.

“Our message was, Canada is here,” McDowell said. “We’re a good country and we’re trying to help.”

Through Facebook communication and an unconventional use of informal language with the people of Myanmar, McDowell said he was able to win the confidence of the people of Myanmar.

On the second day of the symposium, Michael Schneider, director of the Washington Public Diplomacy Program at Maxwell the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, gave a talk on public diplomacy, which was followed by a panel discussion on the role the media plays in the new era of diplomacy.

The panel consisted of Roy Gutterman, a professor and the director of Tully Center for Free Speech at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Ken Harper, an associate professor and director of Newhouse Center for Global Engagement, Holly Gordon, co-founder of Girl Rising and Anastasia Kolobrodova, Project Officer at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Kolobrodova emphasized the need for a media organizations to recognize their audience.

“Know your people and establish credibility by being objective and professional,” Kolobrodova said.

Gordon, who has a background in international relations, informed students about an entrepreneurial approach to public diplomacy that could be useful in solving global issues.

“Think of how you can participate in public diplomacy without working with the state,” Gordon said.

The symposium ended with a panel discussion between Sanjay Srivastava, professor of political science at Banaras Hindu University, and Tosca Bruno-Van Vijfeijken, director of the Transnational NGO Initiative at Maxwell.

The final panel explored the role played by non-state actors in new diplomacy through an academic lens, where it noted how non-state actors were gaining prominence and public diplomacy was getting more global.

Public diplomacy graduate student Megan Soule found the symposium an engaging extension of the learning process.

“Not only is this an opportunity to bring some of the best speakers to Syracuse, but it is also an opportunity to promote the program to Newhouse and the university as a whole,” Soule said.

As people left the symposium, she hoped that they would have a better idea of what public diplomacy means.

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