Lessons I Learned on Grace, Gratitude and the Importance of Knowing Your Worth

When I first met Ambassador Elam-Thomas as a student in her Diplomacy class, I had little knowledge of the subject–simply an interest in a career where I might learn foreign languages and travel the world. Over the course of the semester, I quickly learned that there is far more to the art of diplomacy, and I knew that I had to be a part of it. In the years that have followed since, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that Ambassador Elam-Thomas has changed my life.

After graduating from the University of Central Florida, I had the opportunity to work with the Ambassador at the Global Perspectives Office. There, I learned countless valuable lessons about how to carry myself and how to treat others. I discovered how important it is to know your worth, yet also to remain humble and graceful, and to honor those who have helped you along the way. I also learned that everyone–be they a lost undergraduate student with no life plan, or an impressive figure with a lifetime of achievements under their belt–is a person at the end of the day, deserving of compassion and dignity. I hold these lessons close to my heart as I pursue my own career in diplomacy; and, like many of her former students, am eternally grateful for Ambassador Elam-Thomas’ mentorship.

Shannon Payne

Sié Fellow, M.A. International Studies 2019

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

University of Denver

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