Dr. Robin Renee Sanders, former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Congo (2002-2005) and Nigeria (2007-2010), visited California Baptist University March 25, to talk with students, staff and faculty about her life and mission helping those in need.
Sanders has a degree in communications and is a political analyst by skill craft. She worked overseas for the Foreign Services for more than 20 years. Sanders said her whole experience as an ambassador has been humbling.
“I have seen people at their most desperate, so I don’t get daily drama about mundane things. With normal drama, people aren’t starving or running from bullets or worrying about whether their child will survive,” Sanders said.
During her time in the foreign services Sanders was a political chief, ran the office of public diplomacy and press for all of Africa, served twice on the National Security Council at the White House as director for Africa, was a member of Congress for two years and served as the deputy commandant at the National Defense University.
Sanders visited CBU as a part of the Woodrow Wilson Fellows Program, which seeks to educate America’s next generation of leaders.
Sanders said the program is her way of giving back to the community and encouraging students. She said she wants to encourage students to think globally and act locally.
She spoke to the group about the role of an embassy in overseas countries and the relationship with the United States. She emphasized the importance of embassies because they create diplomatic relations and act as the first line of defense for America.
Sanders said she never expected this success.
“I did not get into this by design,” Sanders said. “It was when I was in grad school I got into foreign affairs. There were a lot of students in my class from Africa who were grandchildren of the African leaders and they were very aware of the world. I was an Army brat, so I had an open-minded childhood, too. I was really fascinated by the political change and I decided to get a master’s in international relations.”
After leaving the diplomatic core, Sanders founded the FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative in 2015. FEEEDS stands for Food Security, Education, Environment-Energy, Economics, Democracy-Development and Self-help.
The organization is dedicated to aid development between countries by resolving challenges in their communities.
Sanders also runs a business that focuses on connecting American business with African companies that want to work with the United States or buy American goods and services.
Jose Mejia, senior communication studies major, said getting to hear a perspective from someone students aspire to be one day is one of his favorite opportunities at CBU.
“I didn’t really know a lot about being an ambassador or her jobs, so I came to find out more about that and got a lot of good information,” Mejia said. “I love that she was so straightforward about everything and the way she talked about her experiences and her position was really inspiring.”
Garrett English, director of Academic Engagement for the office of Academic Affairs said the ambassador’s visit reinforced CBU’s belief that being globally aware is vitally important.
“I would like students to understand that there are a lot of opportunities out there for service, both domestically and internationally,” English said. “Regardless of what career path a student chooses, a global perspective is important in today’s changing world.”
Students interested in joining the foreign service field must first pass the Foreign Service Officer Test.