The spring commencement speaker will be Fatema Z. Sumar. Leveraging her expertise in international development, foreign policy, diplomacy, and advocacy, Fatema Z. Sumar leads efforts to fight poverty by transforming global systems in reaching vulnerable populations. She is the author of the book, The Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty.
Ms. Sumar most recently served as the Vice President of Compact Operations at the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a role appointed by President Biden. She oversaw all the agency’s compacts, which are MCC’s signature grant investment vehicle to reduce poverty through economic growth around the world. She managed MCC’s technical and regional divisions working on infrastructure, the environment and climate change, the private sector, gender and social inclusion, human and community development, land and agriculture, procurement, financial management, strategic partnerships, and contracts and grant management. She previously served as MCC’s Deputy Vice President for Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America.
Ms. Sumar has a distinguished career in the U.S. government in both executive and legislative branches. She previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State where she led U.S. efforts to expand regional economic and energy connectivity and as a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF). In Congress, she was a Senior Professional Staff Member on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the broader region.
In civil society, Ms. Sumar was the Vice President of Global Programs at Oxfam America where she oversaw regional development and humanitarian response to fight the injustice of poverty. Her leadership contributed to initiatives on gender justice, climate justice, local humanitarian leadership, strategic monitoring and evaluation, digital rights, and grant management systems. Early in her career, she also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Ms. Sumar sits on Advisory Boards for Princeton, Cornell, and Indiana universities and on the Advisory Council for Muslim Americans in Public Service. She has been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, The New Republic, The Hill, and other outlets. She is a frequent guest speaker and has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.
Ms. Sumar graduated with a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, where she received the prestigious Stokes Award, and a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Cornell University. She studied abroad at the American University in Cairo. She is the proud mother of three daughters.
Graduating Student Speaker
Meng “Barbara” Zhang graduates today with an MA in Translation. Born and raised in China, she received a bachelor’s in international trade from Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Rutgers University in New Jersey. A seasoned business consultant, she has more than two decades of experience in international trade, project financing, marketing, and education.
She has a passion for building strong local communities, and her deep dedication to volunteer services is evident in her many activities. Last year, as a first-year student, she and a Middlebury Institute classmate cofounded Translators for Elders (TFE). Today, TFE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization helping thousands of underprivileged families overcome language barriers. The TFE Speaker Series has brought world-renowned speakers to the MIIS community, the TFE internship program and localization practicum have encouraged dozens of MIIS student participants and, in collaboration with the interpretation practicum, TFE speaker events have provided opportunities for Translation and Interpretation and Conference Interpretation students to practice simultaneous interpretation.
Beyond this, Barbara has been well known on campus, having worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of the Vice President, served as the Translation, Translation and Interpretation, and Conference Interpretation program representative on the Student Council, and worked with the Institute’s Housing Committee and the first MIIS Values Committee, helping ensure the MIIS values statement reflects the perspectives of all stakeholders.
Barbara is a self-described lifelong learner. Her current projects include translating a historical novel, Across the Great Divide, from English to Chinese.