C. Pat Alsup, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, is a career member of the US Foreign Service and is currently the US Ambassador to The Gambia. The path to appointment by President Barack Obama as a US Ambassador was one she never dreamed of while at HBS, but she has embraced it for the past 25 years, as it has enabled her to serve her country and contribute to positive change in other countries, especially in Africa.
Pat worked in a variety of careers—market research for a consumer products manufacturer, retailing for a major department store, strategic planning for an aerospace company, economic development for a municipal government, hotel development, art gallery ownership—before finding her forte in the Foreign Service. Her first assignments in the Foreign Service were in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where she was a consular officer, and then Mexico City, where she was detailed to Treasury as assistant financial attaché. Her other overseas assignments were as deputy chief of mission at the US Embassies in Accra, Ghana and Banjul, The Gambia. At the US State Department’s headquarters in Washington her assignments included Director of the Office of Central African Affairs, Desk Officer for the Eastern Caribbean, and Economics Officer in the Office of Multilateral Trade.
More recently, Pat’s career with the US Department of State has been spent working in Africa or on African issues, and her encounters on the African continent have formed her personally and professionally. These encounters have instilled in her a deep and abiding love and respect for Africa, its diverse peoples, and for the amazing potential of the continent. As she witnessed multiple examples of great wisdom, phenomenal courage, and amazing resilience, Pat also developed a profound appreciation for the challenges facing Africa.
She has made many contributions to improving the lives of African peoples, including coordinating assistance for a country after a munitions depot explosion killed some 300 people and left 14,000 homeless; funding a business incubator for young African entrepreneurs; providing solar energy to medical clinics in an African country with prolonged electricity outages; and establishing child welfare centers so that mothers can go to work and know that their preschool children are safe and in nurturing hands. But Pat cites her recent experience helping The Gambia rid itself of an abusive, authoritarian regime as the most rewarding so far.
When Pat returned to The Gambia as US Ambassador she was challenged to advance US policy goals in a country where the president regularly spouted anti-Western rhetoric and fear of the government permeated discourse at all levels. However, she refused to be intimidated by the government’s actions against her and the embassy and, at the risk of being declared persona non grata by the Gambian government, took a principled stance against the government’s crackdown on basic human rights, speaking out boldly and often against the government’s abuses. Encouraged by vocal support from the United States and many other countries, as well as international and regional organizations, the Gambian people went to the polls and, after 22 years, voted the dictator and his party out of office. Pat describes the inauguration of a new Gambian president committed to democratic ideals as a celebration charged with hope, much like President Obama’s first inauguration. The new Gambian government has embraced the United States as a partner, and Pat is working hard now to help the country fulfill its aspirations to consolidate democracy, grow the economy, and fulfill the hopes and dreams of the its people.
Pat received her BA in economics from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. During her Foreign Service career she also earned a masters in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University. She is an avid art lover and collector and gets special joy from encouraging young people—in the United States—and abroad—to shoot for the stars.