Global Envoy: What We Know About MaryKay Loss Carlson, the nominee to be US Ambassador to the PH - The Scene

Interestingly, she became a diplomat by chance.

On February 4, President Joe Biden announced long-time diplomat MaryKay Doss Carlson as nominee for the new US ambassador to the Philippines. Currently, she’s based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, serving as their Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the US Embassy there. 

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Carlson has a wealth of experience beyond the US and South America. In Asia, she worked as a DCM in India for three years, including a 10-month stint as their Chargé d’Affaires or temporary ambassador. While in China, the Arkansas native served as a Foreign Service officer.

Carlson spend three years in India as the US embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, including a ten-month stint as their Chargé d’Affaires or temporary ambassador. / Photo from Carlson’s Facebook page.

She also held the latter post in Ukraine, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the Rhodes College graduate is a career member of the US Senior Foreign Service and is ranked a Minister-Counselor.

Entrance to international studies

Although she’s been working in diplomacy since 1985, Carlson’s entrance into international studies happened by chance. “Back in the day, we actually drew numbers to select classes. By the time I got to pick, the classes I had originally wanted were filled, so I ended up taking Politics of Latin America,” she told Rhode College’s school magazine.

The class she was randomly selected for was taught by former professor Dr. David Likes, who would become her mentor. 

On her first diplomatic post as a consular officer in the Dominican Republic, Carlson said, “the biggest lesson I learned is the need to treat each applicant with respect. Consular officers are the face of the United States, and how we treat applicants, even those who don’t qualify for visas, matters.”

Carlson adds that Dr. Likes helped her spend a summer in Bolivia with two Rhodes College graduates. One of them worked at the United States Agency for International Development in La Paz, Bolivia’s administrative capital. “It was through them that I learned about the Foreign Service and working in [the] US Embassies overseas,” Carlson said.

The mother of two ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, finishing a master’s degree in International Relations at Georgetown University, and National Security Strategy from National Defense University. 

Being a face of the United States

In 2019, just before she started her appointment in Argentina, Carlson reflected on her first post as a consular officer in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. “The biggest lesson I learned is the need to treat each applicant with respect,” Carlson says. “Consular officers are the face of the United States, and how we treat applicants, even those who don’t qualify for visas, matters.”

When she climbed up the ranks and became DCM in India, Carlson was a “strong” supporter of women’s rights. In 2017, the US and India co-hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India. Its theme was “Women First, Prosperity for all,” and it tackled the US State Department’s goal to help combat global gender-based violence. 

Given Carlson’s decades of experience (which honed her fluency in Spanish and Chinese), she advised new Foreign Service Officers in the US through her alma mater’s magazine. “Sometimes you don’t know what you should want! I’ve had a wonderful career that has taken me places I never expected. In 10 years, I may still be with the State Department—but I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what I’ll be doing. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll love it.”

Banner photo from MaryKay Loss Carlson’s Facebook page.

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