J. Lee Simons
Kennedy Center alums living in Utah, who would like to support and/or participate in an international initiative, listen up. The International Visitors Council was founded in 1965 to bring foreign visitors to Utah through the International Visitor/Leadership Program, an exchange backed by the U.S. Department of State. Laura Dupuy became their executive director in 2000, and the council was renamed Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (UCCD) in 2003, due to confusion for callers who thought they were contacting a visitors convention bureau. “The name now reflects more accurately what our true mission is, which is to promote global respect and understanding between the people of Utah and other nations,” Dupuy explained.
A Diplomat in the Making
Dupuy had been working as an accountant for KPMG, when her mother-in-law, Marian Hopkins, who was a member of the UCCD board of trustees, asked for her help with an accounting issue. Dupuy volunteered her time, and she soon realized her work at the council was a “much better fit for me personally.”
Born in Louisiana in 1952, Dupuy’s family later moved to Texas and Florida. She claimed “the defining moment in my life came when I was sixteen. My father, who had a lifetime career with a chemical company, came home one day and said ‘What would you think about moving to South Korea?” They moved to Seoul between her junior and senior year, where she graduated from Seoul Foreign School.
“That was the best year. It opened up a world to me that I didn’t know existed. I am so grateful for the experience, and that is what has kept me thinking internationally,” said Dupuy.
She eventually received a BA in international studies from Western College in Oxford, Ohio in 1970 and an accounting degree from Idaho State University in 1982. After college she lived in Hong Kong and then moved to San Antonio, Texas, for seven years. “I have always loved the outdoors and became intrigued by the idea of living in the West, in the mountains,” said Dupuy. That was twenty years ago, and she continues to love it here.
Dupuy is an accomplished musician and was a music teacher for ten years. “I play the fiddle, and I have played in bluegrass and Celtic bands and taught many students over the years,” she recalled. “Then I reached a point where I realized that wasn’t a great long-term career, but I was so lucky to have done it for a decade.” She completed an MBA at Westminster College in 1998 and went back to work in the public accounting field until accepting her current position with UCCD.
She also met and married Tripp Hopkins since arriving in Utah. They live with their two chocolate Labrador retrievers and a cat in Salt Lake City’s avenues. Hopkins is a respiratory specialty manager for Merck. Both are avid gardeners and love to travel. She revealed that it would be easier to say where she had not been than to list where she had been, and said, “I haven’t been to Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and they are high on my list. I have been to the other continents (short of Antarctica), but there are lots of individual places still left to explore.”
When Dupuy came on board as a volunteer, UCCD was going though a natural regrouping process. “Many of the people had served their terms,” she said. “Manoli Sargetakis was the president who invited me to join the organization; he retired, and Byron Russell took over for a three-year term. Donna Vogel is the current president.”
Her eclectic background has served her well at UCCD. “Nonprofits are in the business of providing service, but they often don’t have the benefit of someone with a business background and experience to take care of the business details so the nonprofit can focus attention on the more important matters at hand,” said Dupuy, who devotes more time and energy to the council than her part-time position requires.
The organization has always been supported in a large part by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and for many years the office was located in the former Hotel Utah. Many of the original founders had been connected with the Church hosting office, directed by Ben and Sue Banks, who replaced Norman D. and Luana Shumway in October. “Delegates often come to study religious tolerance and have a specific interest in learning more about the Church. Norm Shumway is on the UCCD Board of Trustees,” she offered. “The hosting office is one of our great volunteer resources.” (Board members are elected by a nominating committee for a three-year term, with an opportunity to be re-elected for a second three-year term.)
UCCD is one of a ninety-six member council of communities throughout the U.S. that help support the Department of State’s exchange initiative. The process of choosing delegates and setting their agenda requires a tremendous amount of teamwork.
Every U.S. embassy is charged by the Department of State to identify emerging leaders who they feel will be important in forming relationships with the United States during their career. “They come from all sectors of public life: the minister of economic development for Ukraine; the director of social services for Botswana, etc. These are individuals who our government thinks will be key leaders in their countries. A nomination is sent by an embassy to the Department of State, once the delegate is approved, the embassy and the delegate work together to come up with mutually agreeable goals and objectives for the delegate’s study in the U.S.,” Dupuy described.
“The Department of State may make suggestions about what they would like the delegate to do, but when delegates arrive in Utah, their itinerary is set,” she said. “If someone had specific things they wanted to see, that would be included in the planning stage, when we might get notification about a visit to Welfare Square or the Olympic venues.”
Community council selection and scheduling are contracted out to seven program agencies in Washington, D.C. They provide a for-fee service to arrange the placement of each delegate or group of delegates. “For instance, Delphi International (now International Visitor Leadership Program http://www.worldlearning.org/what-we-do/professional-exchanges-and-training/) is a nonprofit education foundation who would contact us to arrange a program,” Dupuy explained.
Delegates come to the U.S. for a four-week program. The first week they spend in Washington, D.C. Travel is scheduled in-between the four-day stay in three communities that best match the program objectives. “We get a phone call anywhere from two weeks to two months in advance saying, ‘We have x-number of delegates coming from Ukraine, who are interested in studying religious diversity on these days—can you host them?’” she continued. “We sometimes wish we had more notice so that we could make deeper connections within the community, but it is often just not possible. Our answer is always ‘yes!’ We never turn anyone down. We even arranged a program on border issues—we don’t have any international borders. I said, ‘They need to go to Texas.’ But we don’t turn anyone away.”
In the interim, UCCD makes arrangements for their stay. “Each individual or group travels with an English Language Officer (ELO) from the Department of State, unless they do not speak English, in which case they travel with an interpreter,” said Dupuy. The ELO helps them coordinate transportation, communicate with UCCD, helps them get to meetings, and answers questions about money or customs.
“One group, entitled Education and Religion in the U.S., was a delegation of eight individuals from Pakistan with one interpreter. A van picked them up from the airport and took them to the hotel, where they received a welcome letter and ten-page detailed itinerary,” she said, which is the typical scenario for all the visitors, who stay at Little America Hotel—purported to be the nicest accommodations out of all the council cities.
A group of entrepreneurs, comprised of women from the Middle East and North Africa, included a woman from Gaza, a woman from Palestine, a woman from Israel, and several women from Turkey. “That group was so interesting because there was a lot of citizen diplomacy happening within the confines of the group itself,” Dupuy related. “We had meetings at WorldStock (http://www.WorldStock.com), and they specialize in buying goods from other countries. The women established a relationship with them to sell some of their countries’ handicrafts. We were hopeful that it would provide a good economic relationship for those women.”
Dupuy was quick to add that she believes citizen diplomacy works in both directions. “I don’t want people to have the misconception that in explaining American ideas and culture to these visitors that we are suggesting they adopt them. That is not our intent,” she asserted. “If there is something they can use, that is wonderful—we can share that, but likewise we appreciate what they share from the beauty and values of their cultures.”
IF DELEGATES ARRIVE ON A WEEKEND, UCCD DOES NOT PROVIDE PROGRAMMING UNLESS IT IS REQUESTED. FAVORITE DESTINATIONS INCLUDE ANTELOPE ISLAND, TEMPLE SQUARE, OR PARK CITY (AND OTHER NEARBY MOUNTAIN LOCALES).
Often Church hosting or others find Utahns who speak the visitors’ languages—an unexpected surprise for them every time. “When you find someone in the community who speaks Uzbeki, the delegates are simply amazed,” she declared with a laugh.
There are currently forty-four presidents and heads of state in countries around the world who have participated in this program. Notably, Tony Blair, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, and Gerhard Schroeder were all participants when they were up and coming leaders.
An added element of service to the community exists in the outreach to public schools. If delegates have an interest in education, they are provided with opportunities to meet one-on-one with students. “We are in the process of expanding and redefining our Junior Journalist Program. We give the school background information on the country and on the visitor(s). Students prepare interview questions before the meeting,” said Dupuy. “They interview in small groups and afterwards write essays or articles about the results of their experience.” A process that involves the students much more than having a visitor stand and talk about Pakistan, where both the delegates and the students benefit from the interchange. And, according to Dupuy, weeks later the students continue to talk about their experience. Some students have had their articles published in school or UCCD newsletters.
“One of our board members, Rosemary Baron, was the principal of Utah’s most diverse school, Northwest Middle School (she is now the principal of Clayton Middle School). Rosemary has been a great champion,” Dupuy affirmed. “When a group of Saudis came, she had a student there to greet them who spoke Arabic. And when a group came from Afghanistan, she had a boy who had moved here when he was eight or nine who had been born in Afghanistan. This creates a much deeper connection than that of professional meetings alone.”
Funding and Volunteer Support
In 2000, UCCD hosted 154 compared to 334 this year (numbers that include the total persons and programs served). Dupuy explained, “Because we might do one program for fifteen and another program for one individual, the Department of State wants us to calculate them this way to receive our portion of the Community Partnership grant (from the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs).”
Their budget on the other hand, has remained a modest $116,000 since Dupuy became the executive director, and their staff remains the same as well. Dupuy remarked, only half joking, “We are proud of our efficiency; we are a staff of one and a half, and I am the half.” She and Krzysztof Barchanski, program director, and the only full-time employee, manage all aspects of their operations with the help of two student interns. Currently, an intern from Westminster College covers weekday mornings, and a BYU intern works three afternoons a week. Interns have also come from the University of Utah in the past. Barchanski, who is originally from Poland, has been with UCCD for seven years.
Fund-raising is a top priority for Dupuy, with only forty percent of their budget covered by the government grant. “Every year Congress votes on a line item in the Congressional budget that allows for funds to promote international exchanges. All of these funds are grouped together in one central heading that includes not only the international visitor/leadership program but also Fulbright scholarships and other kinds of exchanges,” she said. “Most people are familiar with the Fulbright program, simply because the Fulbright allows Americans to go overseas, while our program allows these emerging leaders from other countries to come here.” The balance of their budget is derived from a variety of sources: Local foundations 25%, hotel royalties 14%, the annual Vivaldi by Candlelight event 10%, corporate membership 8%, and individual membership 3%.
All members at the Consul Level and above receive complimentary, priority-seating tickets to the annual fund-raising event “Vivaldi by Candlelight” and gala pre-concert dinner. This year, Vivaldi by Candlelight was held on Saturday, 10 December at 8:00 p.m., in the First Presbyterian Church, 12 C. Street and South Temple.
“We have what I would categorize as three types of volunteers,” stated Dupuy. “There are three hundred professional resources, members of the community at large, who volunteer an hour to two hours of their time to sit down and meet with our delegates. These would include, for example, Forrest S. Cuch, executive director for the Utah Division of Indian Affairs; Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr.; and Tim Chambless, former assistant director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics and currently a political science professor at the University of Utah. These men are representative of the professionals who would meet directly with the delegates to assist with their specific program goals and objectives.”
Delegates would also be linked up with volunteers who are their professional counterparts. At these one-on-one meetings, they “exchange ideas, questions, and best practices that relate to their profession, which they then take home and implement,” said Dupuy.
UCCD members, ordinary citizens in the community, also host the delegates at what UCCD calls Home Hospitality—a meal and informal conversation. Unfortunately, much of what visitors know about the U.S., prior to their program, is what they learned from TV shows or films that do not represent an accurate portrayal of the majority population. “We want them to go into the homes and to see what a typical American family is like,” she said. “Our members also have a chance to share these visitors with their children and with their neighbors. Home Hospitality can take lots of forms: a block party, a Jazz game, a barbeque, etc. The idea is to be informal, where they can ask questions: ‘What do you think?’ ‘What is it really like here?’ ‘What do Americans know about the Ukraine?’”
Dupuy and Hopkins host several home hospitality events each year. “We recently hosted eight European delegates, and we invited all the members. We had a party for eighty in our backyard. With a friend I co-hosted a multi-regional delegation, where I cooked, and we used her house,” she recounted. “Another time, we hosted a group of mayors from Ecuador at our house, and it was the most fabulous evening. My husband and I had just been to Ecuador about three months earlier, so we had pictures and memories to share. They were all musicians, so after dinner we got out the guitars and passed them around. We must have played music out on the deck for hours. We started out with South American folk songs and ended up with the Beatles, and the other universal music that we all knew—it was fantastic!”
They don’t get to spend time with every delegation, however. “As soon as one delegation arrives, Krzysztof is working on the next one to arrive,” Dupuy reported.
Vital to any organization, UCCD receives feedback in three ways. One source is through official channels that include the program agency and a final report compiled by the ELO or interpreter and the delegate, which is submitted to the Department of State and a copy goes to UCCD. Dupuy said, “The report talks about the highlight of each program, what they liked, and what they didn’t like.”
The second source is from an evaluation placed in each packet that the delegates received upon arrival. Visitors are asked: What was productive and what was not? How was the home hospitality? How were the accommodations, transportation, etc.? That evaluation is returned to UCCD directly.
And the final source is a personal e-mail sent by Dupuy. “I say how much we enjoyed having them, that we hoped their stay and visit was fruitful, and ask for any additional comments and thoughts,” she said. Each source offers opportunities to help UCCD know what they are doing well and what they can do to improve.
“Visitors may request New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, and then they land in D.C.,” said Dupuy, “and they ask, ‘Why are you sending me to Salt Lake City? I’ve never even heard of it.’ Overwhelmingly, in the official reports that we get back from D.C., our visitors consistently say, ‘I was so surprised that Utah was my favorite place.’ We are regarded as being very friendly, very welcoming.”
A unique part of the follow- up asks for the delegates’ participation in what UCCD calls their “Ambassador Club.” If they agree, UCCD members, who travel to the delegates’ countries, are hosted to home hospitality by the delegates in an act of reciprocation.
Growth and Expansion
When asked what might account for the increased number of people and programs over the last five years, Dupuy modestly responded, “The first year I hosted a western regional conference for our council system, and we had Department of State dignitaries, agency officials, and so forth, who saw firsthand all the resources Utah has to offer.”
Then the 2002 Winter Olympics went a long way toward putting Utah on the map for many foreigners. She said they’ve hosted delegates from China who have come to meet with security officials who headed up the Olympics.
And perhaps a history of “proven successful and substantial programs” laid a solid foundation. “As an organization we have focused on providing the highest quality programming that we can, and we have taken a very business-like approach, realizing that we are competing with ninety-five other councils. We have begun a very aggressive marketing campaign with the agencies, illustrating the resources we have in our community. Now we are taking a much more proactive approach in getting programs scheduled for Utah,” Dupuy added.
All ninety-six communities share the same mission, but UCCD is challenged to compete with the budgets of New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. “I call it competitive, but Utah has a lot to offer, and there is a lot of diversity in terms of industry or educational opportunities.”
The Department of State is savvy to Utah’s strengths, and UCCD has been targeted for some of the more sensitive and delicate groups. “The first delegation from Afghanistan was sent to us specifically because the Department of State knew that Salt Lake as a community would be warm and welcoming. They got here, looked around, and said, ‘We feel right at home; this is just like being in Kabul.’ The delegates said, ‘We could stay here.’ They loved it,” Dupuy confided.
She shared a framed photo taken of the first group from Iraq, a delegation of educators, and said, “They teach English in Iraqi schools; they are the most beautiful and extraordinary people. And, again, it was such a compliment to us as a state to know that the Department of State felt very confident and comfortable sending them to Utah.”
In 2004, UCCD became a member of the World Affairs Council of America (WACA), a nonpartisan, grass roots, community-based organization. They are dedicated to helping communities learn about key foreign policy issues, primarily through lectures. “This will never be a primary focus for UCCD, but we have started to gradually introduce the lectures as a way for us to create a public forum,” Dupuy explained. “Our main challenge is to increase membership—more people who would like to participate in the home hospitality. The public forum will allow us to share key lectures on current topics and share the message about UCCD at the same time to new audiences.”
The lectures created a whole new networking opportunity. In addition to the list of recommended speakers generated by WACA, other contacts are now calling and asking if UCCD would like to host speakers who are coming to Salt Lake City. They range from scholars to former and current diplomats who are willing to speak without the usual costly honorarium.
There is no doubt that Dupuy brought her own style to UCCD, but her experiences there have also left their mark on her. “Regardless of where your affiliations lie with any particular administration, our underlying principles are unwavering; they do not change, and these are the things that we want to convey to our international visitors. Indeed, if the United States of America did not have values that were desirable, why would half the world have modeled their governments upon ours?” she asked.
“The most surprising thing about my work with UCCD is that it awakened a passion in me that I didn’t know I had. It’s exciting to come to a new realization about the country I live in, to have this renewed pride and understanding, and to experience this quest for knowledge. I feel like I have been given a gift in terms of learning, exploring—and it’s global” said an impassioned Dupuy. “Furthermore, it’s interesting to learn the key issues and dynamics that we share with all people around the world, while rejoicing in the differences—celebrating the differences is one of the great joys of this job.
“Last January I was inspired by a tour that was given at the Lincoln Memorial and the capitol. I came back a born-again American. After having spent my life walking around oblivious to all the grace that has been given to me—now I can celebrate.” Spoken like a true citizen diplomat.
The UCCD web site will undergo a major overhaul in the coming months; they can be found online at http://www.utahdiplomacy.org.