The Foreign Service Journal, March 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2021 77 AFSA NEWS AFSA and the Pandemic Continued from p. 69 continue to reach out to new members of the Foreign Ser- vice who have not yet joined AFSA,” she says. AFSA’s general outreach efforts—keeping members informed and engaging media, students and the American public—have shifted, as well. “We had to rework our outreach plans when COVID-19 first hit as the nation’s attention was understandably focused elsewhere,” Miele says. “However, as we moved into last spring we rec- ognized that the Foreign Service response to the pandemic—namely the repatriation of American citizens from overseas—was an important story to com- municate because it dem- onstrated how the Foreign Service, with its presence throughout the world, can act quickly on behalf of Americans.” Professional Policy Issues . AFSA’s advocacy efforts are aimed at support- ing Foreign Service mem- bers and ensuring that suf- ficient resources are devoted to diplomacy. Julie Nutter, AFSA’s PPI director, says the pandemic has changed the way AFSA does business, with some upsides and some down- sides. “We can now reach many more members via Zoom town halls and similar events than before,” she says. “We can also invite members from multiple U.S. embassies in the same region for events.” Last year, AFSA offered a series of virtual town halls about the pandemic and other issues by region and time zone, and nearly 500 AFSA members registered. “I consider this to be a major step forward in member engagement,” she says. At the same time, Nutter misses the in-person struc- tured conversations that AFSA held before the pan- demic. “The much smaller setting fostered very frank conversations and allowed members to meet AFSA President Eric Rubin and the agency VPs,” she says. Nutter adds that, post- pandemic, she hopes to be able to offer a mix of live-streaming and in-person events. “I think AFSA’s work will be richer for it,” she says. The Foreign Service Jour- nal. FSJ Editor-In-Chief Shawn Dorman says that while the FSJ team has missed being in the office together, the nature of publications work “has allowed us to continue to put the magazine out on time.” One of the biggest chal- lenges during the pandemic was the loss for several months of the use of the diplomatic pouch to send magazines to members serv- ing overseas. Thankfully, she says, we now are able to use the pouch again. “While 2020 was one of the toughest years for AFSA and for the Foreign Service,” Dorman adds, “we were able to produce some of our best issues, with spotlights on diversity and inclusion, the pandemic response, arms control, human rights, Rus- sia and some deep dives into personnel issues.” Advocacy on The Hill. Kim Greenplate, head of AFSA’s advocacy section, says her toughest challenge has been Congress’ lack of attention on the Interna- tional Affairs Budget while it is focusing so much on domestic issues during the pandemic. “Advocates have to fight hard for supplemental IAB funding and ward off harmful narratives about the money contained in the State, For- eign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act,” she says. “AFSA must constantly remind Congress what diplomats do and why it matters.” Maintaining and creat- ing new relationships with Hill staff has also been a challenge. “Connecting with people in person provides a back and forth that I believe is truly missing via video chat,” Greenplate says. “For- tunately, a virtual schedule has allowed members of Congress more time to meet with organizations like AFSA. This has been a definite benefit.” Awards and Scholar- ships. AFSA Scholarships and Awards Manager Theo Horn says that the pandemic has created challenges for his program. “We’ve had to shift a lot of activities that have tradi- tionally been done in person, such as judging of scholar- ships, essays and awards, online,” he says. This has led AFSA to change the way it trains and accommodates its volunteers. “Worse is having to cancel or delay events such as the Memorial Plaque ceremony, Performance and Dissent Awards and our Scholarship Award ceremony,” Horn says. “It’s been a challenge, and all of our members and volunteers have been very willing to work through the changes. That is much appreciated,” he adds. n AFSA has been conducting most of its business virtually since March 2020, including this staff meeting in January. AFSA/CAMERONWOODWORTH