2007-09 Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Department of State
Olga Cabello believes the prestige and positive reputation of the U.S. scientific and academic communities “have been underutilized in U.S. foreign policy.” As a AAAS Diplomacy Fellow in the State Department, she contributed to rectifying this situation as one of the lead organizers of the Higher Education Summit for Global Development. Held in April 2008, the event gathered nearly 250 university presidents from all over the world, as well as leaders of philanthropic foundations and high-level government officials. Among these was President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the summit’s keynote speaker. Olga served as the control officer for President Kagame’s visit. Coordinating such a high-level summit provided the opportunity to work with other U.S. government agencies, learn about international protocol, and care about everything from speaker selection to room staging. “I am proud that we were able to put together a world-class conference in just four months,” she says. “It was a very intense interagency effort.” The summit served as a “seeding event” for efforts that will utilize the scientific expertise of the American academic community to support science and technology tracks at universities in the developing world.
Olga now manages a website for ongoing efforts. She views her fellowship in the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS), headed by Dr. Nina Fedoroff, as a strategic move. “I’m interested in diplomacy and wanted to work in an office that would give an exposure and understanding of the widest breadth of scientific issues in a foreign policy context.” In addition to her key task of engaging the higher education community worldwide, Olga supports the biosecurity portfolio for STAS. She has participated in a variety of diplomatic efforts as well, including representing the Science Adviser in the U.S .delegation to Uruguay to initiate the U.S.-Uruguay Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. With a background in biomedical engineering, molecular physiology and biophysics, Olga’s main interests include oversight of ethical use of emerging technologies, efforts to thwart global health care disparities, and scientific approaches to global anti-terrorism intelligence efforts. In her second fellowship year she took the opportunity for another strategic move to address such issues, via a seven-month detail from the State Department to the U.S. Congress, where she focuses primarily on national and global health.