Broad College of Business graduates leave MSU to enter a competitive, fast-moving world. More often than not, it can be difficult to find time to give back to those who are less fortunate. However, Broad College alumna Cecilia Zhuang (B.A. Supply Chain Management ’11) has found the time. She was recently recognized for her volunteer efforts with the 2019 Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad.
“Being a traveling spouse, my life has always been quickly adapting to my family’s situations and new countries,” Zhuang said. “I think getting this award gives me a sense of being valued as a contributor to a bigger community.”
The Outstanding Volunteerism Award was established in 1990 by the Associates of American Foreign Service Worldwide to celebrate the giving efforts of Foreign Service officers and their families while stationed overseas. “This kind of outreach is unofficial, it’s grassroots diplomacy and certainly not part of a job description,” award chair Lara Center said. “SOSA projects show Americans at their generous best, demonstrating outstanding creativity and commitment to improving the lives of others.”
The award is given to up to six individuals each year, selecting one from each global region. This year’s recipients were honored on Nov. 20, 2019, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. “The committee is looking for several key elements in projects: the scope and reach, sustainability, ingenuity and the leadership of the nominee,” Center explained. “Cecilia made a large impact with the local community with several projects and had a clear sense of how to manage projects with the best possible outcomes.”
Zhuang made her impact in Rabat, Morocco, where her spouse serves in the Department of Agriculture. While in Morocco, Zhuang was a devoted supporter of her community, working with local government, nonprofits, women, students and impoverished families.
“The Broad College equipped me with managerial skills; I learned how to plan and execute projects, how to communicate with diplomats, corporate and NGO partners,” Zhuang explained.
She worked with Enactus, a global nonprofit dedicated to championing the entrepreneurial efforts of students with the goal of creating socio-economic development, and mentored eight students, helping them identify areas for improvement and network with Moroccan government officials.
Additionally, Zhuang organized an event for Women’s Day in 2019 that hosted five speakers and welcomed more than 50 students and community leaders. Event speakers touched on the subject of achieving equal pay; in Morocco, women make 17% less than men on average. The purpose of the event was to inspire women and provide them with options to overcome social and cultural barriers to their success.
Zhuang’s work in Morocco and efforts to strengthen those less fortunate are truly inspiring. Her recognition for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad is a testament to the leadership skills that students learn at the Broad College.