CAPRICIA PENAVIC MARSHALL
BA 1986, Political Science, JD 1989, Case Western Reserve University
Ambassador-in-Residence, Atlantic Council, Washington, DC
As Ambassador-in-Residence at the Adrienne Arsht Latin American Center in Washington, DC, Capricia Penavic Marshall uses her experience in politics and diplomacy to find new ways that Latin America can be a strategic partner for North America and Europe. Though she joined the center just a few months ago, in October of 2013, it would be difficult to find someone who understood how to nurture beneficial global partnerships better than Marshall. From 2009 to 2013, she served as Chief of Protocol for the U.S. Department of State, overseeing countless official events, including State dinners and visits and the G8, G20, APEC, and NATo Summits, for then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
She has often said that her childhood home in Cleveland was like the United Nations; her mother is from Mexico and her father Croatian. She had an Italian uncle and neighbors from Lebanon and Russia. So though she got her start in politics working with the Clintons, moving to special assistant to the First Lady from 1993 to 1997 and then to deputy assistant to the president and White House Social Secretary from 1997 to 2001, it’s no surprise that the more recent chapters of her career involved working with diplomats from around the globe.
Marshall is consistently praised for her careful planning and new initiatives in diplomacy—but her poise displayed in the face of the unexpected is equally revealing . After a quick (yet graceful) slip on the White House steps before greeting the Mexican president for a state dinner, she later joked to The Washington Post, “As a proud Mexican-American, this historic day at the White House moved me in ways I never anticipated.”
Many people and experiences assisted me in my career path. The Department of Political Science was very small, but it had extraordinary professors who urged us to look outside of the box of traditional lesson plans and methods. These faculty members urged me to pursue an international path. I will forever be grateful to them for their encouragement.
I have so many favorite memories that to single out one is very hard! But one specific memory would be my first full day on campus with my parents, neither of whom went to college. I am first-generation Mexican/Croatian American. My parents were so touched that they were dropping their eldest at this amazing university to begin her studies. It was a tearful time for us all.
I think that Purdue holds so much promise for so many who are seeking out an education beyond the traditional engineering parameters. I was able to find a wonderful niche in the political science department.
I believe I strive every day to achieve more and do more—so I look forward to a “greatest” achievement soon. Having been a bridge of understanding between our great USA and the world was so gratifying.
Person I Admire
I admire my mentor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the most. She presents such an extraordinary example for anyone seeking out government service. Also, through her great work over her lifetime she has brought life-changing opportunities to so many, especially women and girls.
Advice to My College-Age Self
I would advise myself to be open to every opportunity that crosses my path and not to narrow my focus on the experiences life offers.
What I’m Reading
I am reading my colleague Peter Schechter’s book, Point of Entry.
Profession I’d Like to Try
I am personally so happy with diplomatic engagement and showcasing the great culture of our country and that of others—I cannot imagine another profession.