Amb Barbara Stephenson
Barbara J. Stephenson, PhD, (U.S. Ambassador, retired), is vice provost for global affairs and chief global officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s oldest public university established in 1789. She is a distinguished diplomat, former U.S. ambassador, international leader and prior dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute.
Stephenson was appointed UNC-Chapel Hill’s first vice provost for global affairs in 2019 and leads the university’s global strategy in support of its core mission of teaching, research, and service to the state of North Carolina and the country. Under her leadership, UNC-Chapel Hill has realized the Global Guarantee, the university’s promise that a global education is available to every student; strengthened relations with strategic global partners; elevated UNC Chapel Hill’s global reputation; and brought the world to Carolina with increased global programming and cultural exchange.
As president of the American Foreign Service Association from 2015-2019, Stephenson was a principal advocate for diplomacy, working closely with Congress, the media and globally engaged strategic partners. A regular public speaker, she has appeared on CNN, BBC, Sky News, PBS, at numerous World Affairs Councils across the U.S., and as a signature speaker at the Chautauqua Institute.
In 2008, Stephenson was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Panama and later became the first woman to serve as deputy ambassador and acting ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in London, America’s largest embassy in Europe. As advisor to Secretary of State Rice and deputy coordinator for Iraq (2006-2008), Stephenson was recognized with the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for developing and implementing the civilian surge, the largest deployment of civilians to a war zone since the Vietnam War.
From 2001-2004, as the American Consul General in Belfast, Northern Ireland, she helped renew support for the Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to decades of violence. As Consul General and Chief of Mission in Curaçao (1998-2001), she won support from local and Dutch officials to establish two U.S. Air Force bases to support Plan Colombia.
Earlier in her nearly 34-year career as an American diplomat, Stephenson served as special assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Pickering, covering European affairs, including the war-torn Balkans. Other assignments have included desk officer for the UK, political-military officer in South Africa, and political officer in The Hague, San Salvador, and Panama.
Stephenson is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the American College of National Security Leaders, a board member of the World Affairs Councils of America, and a member of the advisory board of Global Ties U.S.
Stephenson holds a PhD, MA, and BA in English literature from the University of Florida.