U.S. Ambassador Rose McCartney Likins ’81 has lived all over the world, but still calls the University of Mary Washington “home.” More than three decades after she graduated, Likins returned to her alma mater to share her experiences as the U.S. Ambassador to Peru with the next generation of international relations students.
In a classroom in Monroe Hall where she might have sat as an undergraduate student in the late 1970s, Likins used examples from her extensive career in public service to illustrate concepts in class, from macroeconomic policy to free trade agreements. A former international relations student herself, she could relate to the students around the table. Back then, Likins never could have imagined that decades later she’d be back at Mary Washington as a public policy expert.
“It’s such an honor to represent the U.S. abroad,” she said.
Likins has served as U.S. ambassador to Peru since August 2010. She was U.S. ambassador to El Salvador from August 2000 to June 2003 and was dean of the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Professional and Area Studies. Her assignments have taken her across the world, including to posts in Mexico, Paraguay and Bulgaria.
“I was curious about the world,” she said. “Mary Washington gave me the foundations and skills I needed.”
A double major in Spanish and international affairs, Likins said the language and communication skills she learned at UMW prepared her well for a life of public service around the world.
“The language skills, written skills and oral skills – that’s my job description today,” she said. “Everything I learned at Mary Washington I still use every day in my job 31 years later.”
Throughout her career, Likins said two main themes have always stood out to her – the importance of personal interaction to policy and the overwhelming generosity of the American people.
“We are most effective when we reach people on a people-to-people basis,” she said. “That is the key ingredient of 31 years as a diplomat.”
As ambassador, she strives to “get out behind the wall” of the embassy and interact with the locals. Her office increasingly relies on social media and live, online events to make connections.
Likins’ accomplishments haven’t gone unrecognized by her alma mater. In 2005, UMW named Likins a distinguished alumna and awarded her an honorary doctor of humane letters. The same year, she gave UMW’s undergraduate commencement address.
For current students who may want to follow in her footsteps, Likins said to focus on communication skills and foreign languages, while exploring a wide variety of disciplines.
“Take maximum advantage of the tremendous opportunities you have here,” she said. “This is the time in your life when we expect people to be adventurous.”