Worldly women: Globe-hopping grads tell all

Through its latest evening lecture series, “Virginia 2020: Women Engaged with the World,” the University of Virginia’s Women’s Center continues its mission to enlighten, empower, and celebrate women as shapers of the world. 
Like most of the programs at the center, which range from mentoring to sexual assault education, this series is part of a bigger, forward-reaching plan. Eager to foster dialogue and spark change, the center decided to use UVA’s broad “2020 Plan”– a vision of the university’s future focusing on science and technology, fine arts, international affairs, and public service–- as a call to arms. Since 2000, and continuing through 2004, the Women’s Center will examine the role of women in these four key areas. 
Starting off 2003 with a punch, the “Women Engaged with the World” series brings to the forefront six female pioneers whose work in legal, human rights, judicial, and artistic arenas is transforming traditional power structures around the world and creating positive change, for us all. 
The first talk in the series, “An American’s Journey in Asia” Thursday January 30, is by Diane Johnston, UVA ’75, currently Executive Director of Radio Free Asia. Johnston joined the Foreign Service fresh out of college and was posted to Taipei, Hong Kong, and Beijing. “My postings coincided with the normalization of relations between the U.S. and China, and I hope to convey some of the thrills and chills of those years in my talk,” she says.
Some of the points she’ll expound upon include the challenge of explaining to the most densely populated city in the world that NASA can't guarantee that an out-of-control 75-ton satellite will not hit Hong Kong when it falls from the sky; how your elected representatives behave on junkets overseas; and how to make the Chinese government back down. 
She’ll also talk and answer questions about Radio Free Asia, news source to countries denied freedom of information by their own governments, in her attempts to encourage her audience to get active overseas. 
The rest of the series promises a similar mix of education and inspiration. Is it just a coincidence that, like Johnston, most of the speakers are UVA grads? Not at all. 
“Thinking about international affairs is quite a kaleidoscopic undertaking,” explains series programmer Sarah Whitney. ”By looking at the ways in which Virginia graduates go out and engage with international projects designed to better women's lives, we have a way of exploring the connections between our community and the larger, global one.”
Now that’s what I call putting your degree to good use.

Diane Johnston discusses how the media can be a tool for political and social transformation on Thursday, January 30, at 7pm in the Curry School of Education’s Ruffner Hall Main Auditorium (Emmet Street just across from the parking garage). A schedule of the “Virginia 2020: Women Engaged with the World” lecture series is available at the Women’s Center, or visit

Read more on: diane johnston