The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2023 47 to the tarmac. This allowed the CODEL to attend all planned meetings and showcase the importance of U.S. regional partnerships in Cambodia. Leis was also the control officer for the ambassador’s visit to Siem Reap to participate in the Cambodia Climate Change Summit and to visit U.S.- supported programs focusing on youth development and food security. With just one day’s notice, Leis visited each site and worked across the mission and with local partners to coordinate security, protocol, and public messaging to ensure a safe and successful visit. Advancing people-to-people ties, she also helped organize a town hall for more than 200 high school students, where the ambassador highlighted the importance of U.S.-ASEAN relations. Leis was later recognized by the assistant secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs for drafting a “cable of note” highlighting the visit. Leis frequently volunteered for work that was outside her job requirements. “During my second tour, I wanted to learn as much as I could about how diplomacy and sections and agencies throughout the embassy work,” she explained. “I also wanted to work with as many mission colleagues as possible, so I volunteered to take on roles outside my normal duties in the Regional Security Office.” After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, one of the U.S. ambassador’s priorities was to have a large Independence Day reception. Leis volunteered to be the event coordinator, establishing a planning committee comprising both American and local staff to elicit input and support for the 450-person reception. She collaborated with the front office to ensure its expectations were met, delegated tasks to the committee, managed a large budget, coordinated closely with venue management, and kept the planning team on schedule. She then established templates and clear guidelines to improve efficiency and reduce redundancies in future years. Leis also volunteered to work with a colleague from USAID to develop the mission’s Integrated Country Strategy (ICS). Coordinating across all embassy sections and with 11 mission agency heads, planning started with a senior staff retreat and continued with a series of brainstorming and drafting sessions that were led by Leis and her co-coordinator. She worked closely with the ICS team in Washington, D.C., to ensure all guidelines were followed and potential areas of friction were avoided. Over the course of four months, Leis led the mission team to create a sustainable three-year strategic plan; she then presented the implementation strategy to nearly 100 American staff. “I am honored to receive this award from AFSA and to showcase some of the amazing work that OMSs do every day!” Leis told the FSJ. “The events and projects that led to this award were group efforts, and as such, this award also reflects the hard work of my many talented colleagues in Phnom Penh. They helped me shine!” Katie Leis joined the Foreign Service as an office management specialist in 2019, serving first in Accra and then in Phnom Penh. Earlier, she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, where she taught English and health studies, helped her community build a library, and started a support and income-generating group for adults living with HIV/AIDS. She also worked at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., as a small grants specialist. Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Leis worked as an eligible family member at the U.S. embassies in Kabul and Tel Aviv. She holds a B.A. in sociology from Portland State University and an M.A. in international development from American University. Her hobbies include scuba diving, running, traveling, and volunteering to teach English and art to kids. Katie Leis teaching art as a volunteer in Cambodia. During the president’s visit, I was able to see our highest level of diplomacy in action, as well as see how much work goes into preparing for it. It took a massive team to make the visit a success, and I was proud to be a part of it. —Katie Leis