Sunday, February 5, 2023

A Week Away from DC, Speaking at CNU and W&M

After a rough week in world events and work, I was thrilled to get away from DC for a long-planned weeklong family road trip. I split up my maternity leave and was able to use one of those weeks now, which was such a delight. A friend of mine from college invited me to give talks at two universities, Christopher Newport University and the College of William & Mary, as part of a speaker series for their students. I was so happy to accept and make a little family getaway of it.

First, we visited friends of ours who had moved from northern Virginia to Midlothian. Baby S loved playing with their kids' shiny, unfamiliar toys that still had sound capabilities (as M removed the batteries from pretty much every toy we have that makes sound). We also visited the Children's Museum in Chesterfield, and it was perfect for letting kids of all ages learn and play. After the kids went to sleep, we adults had a blast catching up and playing Crokinole, a Canadian bar game my Canadian former roommate taught us.

Unfortunately, most of us came down with a nasty bout of food poisoning halfway through our trip. Somehow, M and baby S escaped unscathed but I felt pretty awful. After a day of resting, staying hydrated, and sleeping 10+ hours, though, I started to feel better. We arrived in Newport News to gloomy weather, but S got to enjoy the view of the fountains in the city center from our hotel window and it was so fun to see his face light up with excitement.

On Thursday, I had lunch to catch up with my friend Dr. Francesca Parente, gave a talk at The Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution at Christopher Newport University, and then enjoyed dinner with my host and a few of her colleagues. I even ran into a student with whom I'd overlapped at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and with whom I shared many mutual friends. It's such a small world!

On Friday, we popped over to the International Justice Lab at the College of William & Mary. I grabbed coffee with some students, held my talk in a very modern venue that defied my pre-conceived notions of Williamsburg campus spaces, and then joined my host Dr. Kelebogile "Kelly" Zvobgo for dinner with several other scholars. Our conversation really got me thinking about the importance of learning from the past when determining the way forward on transitional justice, or "how societies respond to the legacies of massive and serious human rights violations" as defined by the International Center for Transitional Justice.

Meeting with my academic counterparts, such inspiring rising stars in human rights and international affairs scholarship, and spending time with students really energized me. Although I didn't recover 100% from my stomach bug in time to enjoy more of the touristy activities and museums I had planned, I was so glad I could continue with the main purpose of the trip: outreach to these bright young people. It reminded me of some of my favorite days in Public Diplomacy and gave me a lot of hope for the future of our field.


  1. What a great opportunity! Did you plan your outfit to exactly match the colors in the REIFF sign? I’m very impressed!

    1. Amazingly, it was a happy coincidence that tickled all of us when it became time to take the photo.