Students in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, were given the rare opportunity March 15 to hear a firsthand account of overseas service and how it relates to their chosen field.

Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis visited TCA as part of the school’s continuing Leadership Lecture Series. Having served in many foreign countries, she shed some light on how she came to work overseas, and what choices students have in that field.

“The ambassador’s experience was very interesting because of her stories,” said 11th-grader Karen. “She gave me a new way of seeing the world and expanded my knowledge of how many people are keeping our world safe.”

Another 11th grade student, Kelvin, was interested in “the cool things she learned when she was in different countries and the way her job improves people’s lives.”

Raised in New Jersey, Butenis earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and a master’s degree in international business relations from Columbia University, New York. Butenis was Ambassador to Sri Lanka and to Maldives from 2009-12; Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad from 2007-09; and prior to that she was Ambassador to Bangladesh and Deputy Chief of Mission in Islamabad.

She also served in Karachi, San Salvador, New Delhi, attended the National War College, served in the Visa office, and was Consul General in Warsaw, Poland and Bogotá, Columbia. Most recently Butenis served as the Dean of the School of Professional and Area Studies in the Foreign Service Institute, before retiring in 2014 with the rank of Career Minister. She received the Baker-Wilkins Award as the Outstanding Deputy Chief of Mission for her service in Iraq.

“The Leadership Lecture Series is an opportunity to provide our students with a better awareness of options they have as they continue to consider their individual futures beyond high school,” said Michael Knowles, TCA community relations director. “A career in foreign service is one that many of our students may not have considered.”

Students were given the opportunity to ask questions following Butenis’ presentation. Karen wanted to know, “When did you come home?” and “Do they still have arranged marriages?” in response to a discussion related to certain cultures. Kelvin posed, “Do you feel that you helped people?” in reference to the ambassador’s career choice.

“We hope our students [used] the ambassador’s visit as an opportunity to reflect on how they want to make a difference in the world,” Knowles elaborated. “I have a good friend who is a Franciscan sister; she always says, ‘you have to know people’s stories… know their stories, and you’ll know them.’”