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  • Department of Global Development

Perspectives in Global Development Seminar Series: Fall 2021

From from domestic and foreign waters, "The Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty" is the story of an immigrant woman who blended skillsets and worked across borders, boardrooms, and bureaucracies to fight global poverty. Many people aspire to "change the world," but making a difference on a global scale is not easy. When first-generation, Muslim-American Fatema Z. Sumar had the chance to serve across the U.S. government as a diplomat, political aide, and development expert, she seized it. Traveling more than three-quarters of a million miles to dozens of countries, from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Mongolia and Jordan, Fatema worked to fight poverty and create economic opportunities for people around the globe while raising young children at home. Her stories reveal an up-close look at the highs and lows of a career in Development Diplomacy. Her seminar speaks to anyone interested in working on foreign policy and international development, laying out the roadmap for the next generation of Development Diplomats.

About the presenter

Globally, with nearly one out of every three people living in poverty, Fatema Z. Sumar believes we must tackle the root causes to create lasting solutions. She is a mission-oriented change leader and author, creating a more equal world by transforming global systems to reach vulnerable populations. She wrote The Development Diplomat: Working Across Borders, Boardrooms, and Bureaucracies to End Poverty to share stories from her own journey to inspire others to invest in development diplomacy.
Fatema has a distinguished career, leading efforts to advance inclusive and sustainable development in emerging markets and fragile countries. In 2021, President Biden appointed Fatema as the Vice President of Compact Operations at the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. government foreign aid agency that reduces poverty through economic growth. 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, Fatema worked for three US Senators, including as a Senior Professional Staff Member on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She also worked in civil society at Oxfam America and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Fatema sits on Advisory Boards for Princeton, Cornell, and Indiana universities. Her work 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. Fatema 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 where she founded the Translator Interpreter Program. She studied abroad at the American University in Cairo.
Fatema and her husband (also a Cornell grad!) live in Lexington, Massachusetts with their three inspirational daughters. When not at her computer or on her phone, you can find her exploring new places near and far, repurposing leftovers in the kitchen, or in a downward dog on her yoga mat.

Registration information

The speaker will present in-person in Emerson 135. Guests are welcomed to join the session in-person or via Zoom. To attend via Zoom, use the registration link below.

About the seminar series

The Perspectives in Global Development seminars are held Wednesdays from 12:25 – 1:15 p.m. eastern time during the semester. The series will be presented in a hybrid format with some speakers on campus and others appearing via Zoom. Students, faculty and the general public are welcome to attend. The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Global Development, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the School of Integrative Plant Science as part of courses IARD 6960NTRES 6960PLSCS 6960 and AEM 6960. 

Date & Time

October 20, 2021
12:25 pm - 1:15 pm

Fatema Sumar

More information about this event.

Contact Information

Jeff Kangacha

  • jnk62 [at]


Fatema Sumar, Vice President of Compact Operations at the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)


Department of Global Development

School of Integrative Plant Science

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Natural Resources and the Environment

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