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Mentorship, Leadership, and Fearlessness: The Career of Stacy Lomba

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Korbel Communications

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Ambassador McClelland and Deputy Chief of Mission Stacy Lomba were delighted to attend the National Day celebration of the Republic of Indonesia on Tuesday night.

By Kat Vess

The Korbel School of International Studies has been home to many great leaders over the years, and alumna Stacy Lomba is no exception. Stacy attended Korbel for her master's degree in international administration in 2007 and swiftly entered the foreign service in 2009. From the U.S. Embassy in stations around the globe to her current role as the Deputy Chief of Missions for Brunei, she has had a unique career path and story.

Stacy did not begin her life as someone with the travel bug. Raised in a close-knit family, she grew up in Los Angeles. It was not until moving to Florida for college that Stacy first became interested in exploring other parts of the world. She became the President of Florida A&M's model U.N. chapter and began solidifying her future in foreign affairs. "[It] opened up a whole new world for me. I got a passport for the first time in college and traveled to D.R. through my honors society and absolutely loved it. All of these experiences really motivated me to seek a career in foreign affairs. I knew I wanted to contribute." After completing her bachelor's at Florida A&M, Stacy applied to the University of Denver (D.U.) through the Rangel Foreign Affairs Fellowship, a program funded by the State Department that requires students to work at least 5 years for the U.S. Foreign Service after graduating. According to Stacy, the Rangel Fellowship directs students to apply for the top graduate programs in the country, and for international affairs, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies was an outstanding choice. Not knowing anything about D.U. herself, her fellowship mentors shared that D.U. was "the Ivy League of the West." Which helped solidify her decision.

When asked about people she encountered at the Korbel School that impacted her professional interests, she quickly mentioned Dr. Tom Rowe. Dr. Rowe is the founder and director of the International Career Advancement Program (ICAP).  ICAP is conducted annually in Aspen, Colorado, and hosted by the Korbel School.  During Stacy's time at the Korbel School, Dr. Rowe was teaching International Human Rights, where he suggested that Stacy join as one of his Graduate Assistants in ICAP. Through attending the yearly ICAP conferences held at the Aspen Meadows Resort/ Aspen Institute, Stacy networked with many mid-level and senior professionals in the international affairs sector. She enjoyed the program so much that in 2016, she became an ICAP Fellow herself and returned to Aspen with her own cohort, this time sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. "It was a full circle moment, and Dr. Rowe is still there as a support system for the kinds of people who deserve to be in leadership positions."

Being a woman of color in a leadership role, especially in the politically charged atmosphere of foreign service, is something that Stacy has had to navigate in her career. Stacy was elated to share that other women in her network who have pushed her to seek opportunities and apply for positions that seemed too advanced at the time. When the position to work in The U.S. Embassy in Brunei opened, her professional mentors told her, "No waiting, no telling yourself you'll take a few more years. Stacy, you are ready, you are qualified, they need you out there. So I did, and I was successful. I'm still kind of shocked." For Stacy, having supportive colleagues in the foreign service, helping her navigate the system and prepare for executive roles, and advocating on her behalf have been the boost needed to succeed at such a young age. Stacy is grateful for the people in her life who have uplifted and mentored her throughout her professional journey, and she aims to play the same role for other women entering the world of foreign affairs. 

Stacy had three clear elements to help upcoming graduates succeed in the job market. First, students should broaden their imagined career paths: "In whatever career field you want to jump into, be limitless. Foreign affairs is so broad, and there are so many things that you can do. You can work for the State Department, the U.N., non-government organizations, defense work, community-based resilience, economics…" and the list goes on. Stacy urges students not to put themselves in a box and instead go after things that inspire them and that they are passionate about.

Second, she advises students to seek mentorship. As mentioned above, mentors have helped Stacy immensely to shape her career into what it is today. Students should take full advantage of the professors and faculty members at the Korbel School while they can; the school is full of experts in the foreign service field who are more than happy to assist students in their professional pursuits. Stacy admits that she wouldn't be here if not for the mentors she has made throughout the years.

Lastly, Stacy mentions leadership. She states, "if you are inspired to work in foreign service, leadership is key. Honing these leadership skills early is crucial, so seek out opportunities to be a leader, whether that's in a club, or volunteering, start early." She advises current students to develop leadership skills before entering the workforce so they can build on those skills throughout their careers. Part of working in foreign affairs is confidence that you can make a good, solid impact no matter where you go.

Stacy Lomba is passionate about fostering community and support everywhere she goes, and the farther she gets in her career, the more she wants to uplift other young leaders into the world of foreign affairs.