One has many teachers in life. Professors come and go, sometimes getting lost among the myriad of faces and voices during our time in university. Some are remembered for their boring lectures, others for their difficult exams. Every so often however, one challenges, dares and even scares you into recognizing your full human potential, all while extending kindness and nourishing your spirit. That one would be the incomparable Ambassador Elam-Thomas.
I will never forget the first time my friends saw her walking across campus, her freshly-braided hair radiating wisdom, her perfectly-chosen outfit defining professionalism, stately demeanor exuding the essence of greatness—a true dignitary. A fellow student pointed to ask, “Who is that lady? She looks so regal…” I proudly turned and said “that woman happens to be Ambassador Elam-Thomas of the Global Perspectives Office and my professor of Honors Diplomacy”. I was so proud to be able to claim her as my favorite and most inspiring professor. Today I am happy to call her my mentor, the person whose had the most influence on me both personally and professionally throughout my time at UCF.
Ambassador Elam-Thomas challenges her students, forcing them out of their comfort zones and into the unknown-always with a purpose and a plan. During the time that I took her Honors Diplomacy class I was heavily involved in the UCF College Democrats, having been one of the core campaigners on campus during the 2008 election. One day, she assigns me the task of taking a harsh stance on the issue of President Obama’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. As his number one fan and supporter, I found myself suddenly conducting hours of research backing a position she knew I would never advocate in real life. That assignment was only one of the many ways Ambassador challenged us and forced us to deeply consider all sides of an issue. She was teaching us an important lesson for life, always think before you speak and try to truly understand the opposing sides—whether or not you agree is a different matter.
Ambassador Elam-Thomas is perhaps the greatest symbol of US Diplomacy and International Affairs that I will ever experience. Her penchant for teaching, nurturing, and fostering her students demonstrates her desire to help create a brighter future for our country. Everyone has something to learn from her, regardless of whether one hopes to work in diplomacy or not. She is a symbol of hope for all those lucky enough to meet and be influenced by her.
Dual MA Peace and Conflict Studies 2016
University of Kent / University of Marburg