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Celebrating Excellence: The Josef Korbel School of International Studies Distinguished Alumni Award

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Korbel Communications

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Anil Raj on a summit with arms extended in the air with mountains in the background
Claudia Fuentes Julio at the podium

In international affairs, the pursuit is to change the world. It is not merely a goal but a guiding principle that shapes the trajectory of individuals who aspire to make a lasting impact on the global stage. At the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, this commitment is celebrated annually at Korbel Honors through the Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA). This accolade pays tribute to an exceptional graduate who epitomizes vision, leadership, courage, and service, demonstrating remarkable contributions to their community, profession, and the world. This esteemed recipient champions diversity, equity, and inclusion, working tirelessly to create a brighter future. 

The selection process for the Distinguished Alumni Award is rigorous and comprehensive. Nominees are evaluated based on their professional achievements, contributions to international relations, and commitment to promoting positive change in the world. Consideration for the esteemed recognition goes to alums who have excelled in diplomacy, public service, academia, non-profit work, and the private sector and their impact on the Korbel School.

The 2022 recipient, Anil Raj, embodied the promotion of positive change in the world, receiving the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award posthumously. He was a dedicated individual committed to global development, losing his life while working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Afghanistan on November 19, 2024.

While at the Korbel school, where he received his master’s in International Human Rights ('09) and a certificate in Humanitarian Assistance ('09), Raj was known as a humble yet lively student. Professor Tim Sisk nominated him for the Distinguished Alumni Award after advising him on his thesis and teaching him in many classes. Sisk described Raj as popular among his peers with a larger-than-life personality, and known as an overall great guy. He was an intelligent, charismatic student who kept the level of enthusiasm and engagement in class high. According to Sisk, Anil embodied what former Korbel School Dean Tom Farer described students as practical idealists. He had a pragmatic approach to problem-solving and action– a person who believed in lofty ideals or principles but also understood the importance of practicality to achieve them. This description is likely why Raj became involved in research on the Demobilization, Disarmament, and Reintegration (DDR) of former military personnel back into communities, leading him to a UNDP career. 

Anil's unwavering dedication to humanitarian efforts and passion for making a positive difference in the world left an indelible mark on all who knew him. As a Management Specialist for the UNDP, he made the ultimate sacrifice to advance peace and establish a legitimate government in Afghanistan. His invaluable contributions to the UNDP, particularly in regions facing significant challenges, exemplified his selflessness and commitment to serving others. Anil's legacy is a poignant reminder of the risks and sacrifices that courageous individuals like him undertake to achieve a better world. His spirit and impact will continue to inspire and guide those who carry on the vital work of humanitarian service at the Korbel School and beyond. 

One of the hallmarks of the Distinguished Alumni Award is its ability to showcase the diverse and impactful ways graduates of the Josef Korbel School shape the future of international affairs. From ambassadors and policymakers to human rights advocates and social entrepreneurs, recipients of the award represent a broad spectrum of talents and expertise, united by their shared commitment to advancing peace, justice, and prosperity on a global scale. Their journeys testify to the limitless possibilities and the transformative power of a Josef Korbel education.

Last year's honoree, Claudia Fuentes Julio, Ph.D. ('14), was honored for her remarkable contributions to higher education, international diplomacy, and the inclusion of women in foreign policy decision-making. Lynn Holland, a dedicated faculty member with 18 years of service at the Josef Korbel School, nominated Fuentes Julio. Holland remarked that as a standout in her academic pursuits and a favorite among faculty and students, Claudia Fuentes Julio's journey from the classroom to the international stage is a testament to her unwavering dedication and commitment to excellence in international studies. When Holland conducted an external review at Chapman University in southern California, where Claudia taught, she saw firsthand the praise from students and colleagues alike for her expertise in politics, international relations, and diplomacy.

In 2022, Claudia Fuentes Julio's distinguished career took a new turn when she was appointed Chile's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. In this role, she continues to champion the cause of disarmament, gender equality, and peacebuilding on the global stage, representing the values of the Josef Korbel School and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.

As the school continues to nurture talent and leadership in international affairs, alums like Claudia Fuentes Julio and Anil Raj serve as beacons of hope and inspiration, demonstrating the transformative power of education, dedication, and service to humanity.

Beyond their individual accomplishments, Distinguished Alumni Award recipients serve as role models and mentors for current students and aspiring leaders at the Josef Korbel School, inspiring the next generation of global citizens to pursue excellence and make a meaningful difference.

As the world faces increasingly complex challenges, from climate change and global health crises to geopolitical tensions and humanitarian emergencies, the importance of nurturing talent and leadership in international affairs has never been greater. The Josef Korbel School of International Studies Distinguished Alumni Award reminds us of the hard work, dedication, and extraordinary contributions of graduates who positively impact and shape a more just, peaceful, and prosperous world for all.