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Pt. 1, 30 Spotlights for 30 Years


by Lena M. Harper, J. Lee Simons, and Sara D. Smith

You already know where to find us. Set in the heart of campus, the BYU David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies pulses international life throughout the university. For thirty years it has influenced thousands of students and exposed them to global ideas, individuals, and opportunities. These students have literally made the world their campus, from London to Seoul to Helsinki to Johannesburg—and many other places in between. As alumni they have gone on to make a difference in public service. They foster economic growth through business. And they seek to improve the world through development and work in the nonprofit sector.

Though this global outreach began years earlier, in 1983 BYU president Jeffrey R. Holland announced the program that would consolidate existing international classes and study programs. His vision was to “build a university superstructure in which we better understand the history, culture, and institutions of these people and by which BYU will move into the forefront of the world as an informed facilitator of international understanding, communications, and peace.” In 1985 the newly remodeled Herald R. Clark Building was dedicated as the home of the center.

As part of a thirtieth-anniversary celebration that marks the year between these two founding events, we highlight on the following pages thirty alumni and friends—a small representation of the center’s broad and seemingly immeasurable global impact. Many of these accomplished individuals received degrees from the center; some participated in study abroad or internship programs; others received support for research or specific activities at a critical juncture; and still others demonstrate how a global perspective, fostered by the center, can influence family and profession.

These thirty provide a glimpse of how the thousands who have connected with the Kennedy Center have helped move BYU to “the forefront of the world as an informed facilitator of international understanding, communications, and peace.” And as our research centers continue to grow, as faculty excel in their work, as students dare to dream, and as alumni make important contributions, the Kennedy Center moves forward, supplying a vital lifeblood to campus and the world.

Photograph by Dodge Billingsley


Owner > Foiled Cupcakes, Chicago

Entreprenuer of the traveling cupcake

When her son was in preschool, Mari Luangrath started a business in her home, dedicating three hours a day to baking and selling cupcakes. Little did she know then that her small company would become a brand with more than a hundred Fortune 500 clients.

Luangrath is the owner of Foiled Cupcakes, an Internet-based “cupcakery” that delivers to customers in the Chicago area and to corporate clients nationwide. She attributes much of her success to her location in West Town, which is particularly fruitful for small businesses. It is also a place where citizens set a high value on family and community life.

The Kennedy Center equipped Luangrath with many of the lessons she would need to succeed in business. Her teachers challenged her to push herself, reach out of her comfort zone, and aim for high goals. One of Luangrath’s goals during college was to complete an internship in Europe. The expense seemed intimidating, but the lessons Luangrath learned by immersing herself in a different culture were invaluable.

Some of her most useful lessons were also learned inside the classroom, including one through her Model United Nations class. An international studies major with an emphasis in global economy, Luangrath managed a project in which she had to hypothetically unify several African countries, and she quickly realized the importance of collaboration and alliances. As a business owner, Luangrath has found this concept to be one of her most useful tools in partnering with other companies. Collaborating and negotiating with prospective partners has enabled her business to work more effectively.

For Luangrath, there is a reason the Kennedy Center is at the heart of BYU campus. “It is a place where cultures converge and students get a taste of the rest of the world,” she says. “It opens the doors of many opportunities.”


Ambassador of Costa Rica > to Singapore and Australia

An emissary of higher values

One of the highest-ranking Latter-day Saint international diplomats, Jairo Hernandez is the ambassador of Costa Rica to Singapore and Australia. Such a role can be a daunting responsibility, he says. “You are your country, at a level. It is not you anymore—it is your country and the highest values of your nation.”

Hernandez previously served his country as director of foreign policy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, and as chief of cabinet for the president of Costa Rica. In addition to representing his country, Hernandez feels a responsibility to represent the Church. His stake president once told him, “We are proud that you will represent us as a country, but remember you will also be an ambassador to represent higher values.”

Hernandez received degrees in political science and law from the University of Costa Rica and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. [Illustration by Joel Kimmel]

Photograph by Dodge Billingsley


Partner > Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Chicago

The lawyer with international flair

Karin Berg is an insolvency and restructuring lawyer in Chicago, but she still regularly uses the skills she learned at the Kennedy Center. “Those classes really helped me learn how to think analytically, how to construct and deconstruct arguments,” she says.

In fact, while recently working on a cross-border transaction for a Chinese client, Berg faced communication challenges that ran deeper than language and time-zone barriers, including “getting through the cultural differences and trying to understand exactly what they intended.” No matter where you work, “having an overall view of the world” is essential, she says.

Berg has been aware of the wider world beyond her hometown of Salt Lake City from a young age. Her mother was born in what is now eastern Germany and would tell stories of life during the Second World War and her escape with her family to western Germany before the construction of the Berlin Wall. Connecting with her roots, Berg took German and studied abroad in Vienna while at BYU, where her international relations degree in 1998 was a natural fit.

“I’ve always had this affinity for different cultures,” she says. “I love traveling and learning about different cultures and meeting the people there.”

Photograph by Bradley H. Slade


Interior designer and DIY blogger > Burlap and Denim, Utah

The blogging homemaker

Amanda Richards is literally a homemaker: she and her husband and their four sons live in a house she designed, built, and decorated herself. After building her home, which is modeled after a house in a tiny French village where her husband served his mission, Richards has designed and decorated other homes. “I decided to start my blog, Burlap and Denim, to help others create living spaces,” she says. Her blog—filled with inexpensive DIY projects, home-styling tips, and free printables—has drawn nearly 15,000 followers on Pinterest.

A graduate in Near Eastern studies, Richards spent a summer at BYU’s Jerusalem Center with her husband and still pulls her design aesthetic from places she’s visited—Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and India. Most of her blog traffic comes from the United States, but she has readers from more than 200 countries. “Being a mom is my main priority,” says Richards, “and my blog allows me to work and create income while my kids are at school.” Richards has just expanded into retail, opening an online curated home-furnishings store called Burlap and Denim Home.


National key account sales manager > BP America, Chicago

Champion of building key relationships

Joe Seeger—who has worked for oil giant BP since 1995 after graduating from BYU with an MA in international and area studies in 1992 and doing postgraduate work at the University of Denver—has seen success in sales, marketing, and university recruiting. But what he values most is building connections through employee engagement and mentoring. “It’s nice to be able to say I delivered against performance objectives or to get a bonus, but those things are fleeting,” he says. “What brings me the most satisfaction at work are relationships.”

He remembers working in London with team members from several countries on a project “that would impact millions of consumers across the globe every day.” He glanced up at a world map highlighting areas where BP had an exploration/production and retail presence. “My mind was whisked back to 238 in the HRCB,” where he and fellow students were told that one day they might work internationally “and that part of what we were learning was to prepare us to ‘go forth to serve’ in whatever capacity we were called.”

Now a member of the Kennedy Center Board, Seeger forges relationships between alumni with his outreach efforts in the Chicago area. “As the world continues to shrink,” he says, “the Kennedy Center will continue to play an important role for the Church and our ability to connect globally within increasingly diverse communities.” [Illustration by Joel Kimmel]


Assistant director > Office of International Affairs, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, DC

Part diplomat, lawyer, and policymaker

When Troy Beatty applied for a job at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), he expected to stay a few years and then return to private practice. But that was ten years ago. The most satisfying aspect of the work, he says, is the opportunity for public service. “I’m not just working in the law or internationally; I’m serving the people.”

Beatty grew up in Hurricane, Utah, reading National Geographic and learning about a world he wanted to explore—part of which he experienced firsthand when he served an LDS mission in Poland and later completed a BYU study abroad program in Russia. At BYU he earned a trio of degrees—BA in international relations in 1996, MA in international and area studies in 1997, and JD in 2001—that created a powerful combination that ultimately got him his job.

Stationed in the SEC’s Office of International Affairs, Beatty helps regulate and oversee the U.S. securities market on a global scale. He has tracked down “bad guys” (fraudsters and lawbreakers), taken testimony overseas, helped China enact a foreign bribery law, and trained on regulating a securities market.

“All that I learned at BYU I use when I interact with foreign government officials,” says Beatty. “It’s about building relationships.” [Illustration by Joel Kimmel]


Growth executive > Domo, Utah

The software startup guru

Chad Heinrich traded Silicon Valley for the Silicon Slopes of the Wasatch Front, bringing to Domo his experience building software startups. As the first or second marketer on staff at ZoneAlarm, Box, and Dropbox—software that together have served more than 300 million users—Heinrich has helped people connect and share around the world. “It’s very satisfying to have worked on the early stages of products that have gone on to impact the way people collaborate and get work done,” he says.

In 1997, Heinrich took the diplomacy skills he honed in Model United Nations at BYU to his first postgrad job. He covered sales in Scandinavia, the Baltic States, and Poland for a German advertising company, where he once made a “last-minute decision” to drive almost 200 miles to visit a prospective client in Estonia. “You’re the only salesperson who ever came to visit me,” the client told him. Heinrich closed the deal.

At Domo he shapes product and market strategies for the company’s business intelligence platform. And using his Silicon Valley connections, he’s helping the Kennedy Center bring tech leaders to speak to students. “I’m impressed by the Kennedy Center’s efforts to facilitate continued education for undergraduates and postgraduates,” he says. [Illustration by Joel Kimmel]

Photograph by Chad Williams


Senior advisor > U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, DC

International counselor extraordinaire

With the conflict in Syria, regime transitions in North Africa, and other international crises, it has been a busy year for Evan McMullin, a senior advisor to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives. But McMullin says watching American democracy in action is beautiful. “For all its weaknesses, we are incredibly fortunate to have our system, and it should not be taken for granted,” he says.

As an undergraduate at BYU, McMullin chose to major in international studies as a stepping-stone to the CIA. He studied abroad in Israel as a David L. Boren Scholar with the Department of Defense’s National Security Education Program, which he discovered through the Kennedy Center. “It turned out to be a perfect capstone to the traditional coursework I had done in Provo,” he says.

The most important lesson he learned at BYU was the value of service. “Service buoys those who need it and grants valuable knowledge to those who give it,” he says. “Service lays the groundwork for more knowledge, more service, and greater impact.”

McMullin worked ten years with the CIA before pursuing an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, he accepted a position with Goldman Sachs, where he learned about business models, strategy, and capital requirements across several industries.

To future and current young professionals, he stresses the importance of “pursuing professional passions” and being willing to do the most challenging jobs. He also recommends developing relationships early and “doing whatever you can to help others reach their goals.”

“It is amazing what can be done when you simply choose to set fear aside and do whatever it is that you would like to do,” he says. “There is often value in taking well-calculated risks, and if you do not take them, you are probably missing out on a lot of life’s opportunities.”


Program officer & team lead > Meridian International Center, DC

Champion of international understanding

After communism fell in his native Romania, Bogdan Banu wanted to study politics and international relations. But those areas of study weren’t really available because of the post- communist political structure, so he looked for a good school in the United States—and found BYU.

While a student Banu interned at the Washington Seminar and spent two years trying to convince the Embassy of Romania that he should intern for them—for free. When he finally succeeded, he became their first intern and the first intern for the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

His time in DC also introduced him to the Meridian International Center, the largest nonprofit dedicated to international exchanges. “It made me aware of how important people-to-people exchange is,” says Banu. “Unless you get someone to come here, they will not have a good understanding of the reality of life in the United States.”

Banu began working at Meridian after graduating from BYU in international relations in 1999. He currently runs several exchange programs and has managed international development programs in the West Bank, Iraq, and Iran. Banu, who started the Romanian Club at BYU, also works with several Romanian-American organizations in the DC area. [Illustration by Joel Kimmel]

Courtesy Estee Ward


JD candidate > University of Pennsylvania Law School

The student who’s enabling women in Jordan

People work by word of mouth in Jordan, which is how Estee Ward got involved helping put together a discussion-and- lecture series on gender equality at a local café in Amman.

Ward went to Jordan in August 2013 on a yearlong Fulbright Scholarship through BYU. Rather than focus on one research project, she took advantage of several opportunities that pulled her into Jordanian life. “I wanted to pair my love for social development, my love for the Middle East, and my interest for entrepreneurism,” she says.

Ward was a research associate at Wamda, a think tank that focuses on local entrepreneurship in the region. She also worked with the University of Jordan’s Center for Women’s Studies, looking at women’s economic empowerment issues—microfinancing programs, for example. She shadowed a program that gives grant money to women in Jordanian villages and then observes the impact.

This August Ward started law school at UPenn. “I’m hoping to come out with a mindset of someone with a law degree but still end up working in the sphere of international development,” she says. “What I’ve really become passionate about is giving everyone the ability to live, to have their basic rights, and to have the opportunities that I’ve had.”

Visit our Facebook and LinkedIn feeds for additional content about our Thirty for Thirty—photos, filmed interviews, and more. And please send us a note or write a post: we want to hear about your experiences, journeys, and connections and how you have been influenced by the Kennedy Center.

See Pt 2 and Pt 3 for more Spotlights from this issue.