Diplomat in Residence

The U.S. Department of State assigns Senior Foreign Service Officers to the position of Diplomat in Residence (DIR) at certain colleges and universities throughout the United States. The DIR program is central to the effort to recruit the best and brightest young graduates to represent the United States' interests around the world.

While based at specific campuses, all Diplomats in Residence cover wider geographical regions. The DIR hosted by FIU and Miami-Dade College covers southern Florida from Orlando south to and including Puerto Rico. Currently, FIU's DIR is one of only 16 senior diplomats participating in this program nationwide.

For the Academic Year 2021-2023, the DIR is Mrs. Mignon Turner Houston

What Do Diplomats in Residence Do?

DIRs disseminate information about career opportunities not only at their home universities but throughout the region where they are located; they also

  • Identify and counsel diverse candidates for student and career opportunities
  • Guide candidates through the Foreign Service exam application and examination process
  • Represent the Department at conferences and career fairs
  • Support programs sponsored by Foreign Affairs groups
  • Engage in outreach to the military, professional organizations and other local groups
  • Diplomat in Residence for 2021-2024



    Mignon Turner Houston – Diplomat in Residence
    Florida International University, Miami, Florida


    Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, DM 491-A
    Tel: 305-348-6381 | DIRSouthFlorida@state.gov

    Mignon Turner Houston has served as a U.S. Diplomat for 15 years. In this capacity, she promoted U.S. foreign policy and partnerships in the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town, South Africa; the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines; the U.S. Embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon; and the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico. She also served in Washington, DC, working as the Press Officer and Speechwriter for the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and as the Western Hemisphere’s Public Diplomacy Desk Officer covering 21 Caribbean countries. Based on her Spanish and French language abilities, she was selected to serve as the Acting American Citizens Services Chief in Madrid, Spain on a temporary duty assignment in 2013 and to lead the Press Team for the multi-national African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) 2015 Summit in Libreville, Gabon.

    She received her undergraduate degree from Winston-Salem State University in 2004 as a double major in Spanish and Mass Communications and her Master’s degree in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware in 2006. She grew up in a small town in Burlington, North Carolina, and is married to Dr. John Allen Houston. They are preparing for a son in June 2021.


  • Diplomat in Residence for 2019-2021
    rebecca kimbrell

    Rebecca Kimbrell – Diplomat in Residence
    Florida International University, Miami, Florida


    Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, DM 491-A
    Tel: 305-348-6381 | DIRSouthFlorida@state.gov

    Rebecca Kimbrell is a political-coned officer who most recently served as U.S. consul to Lyon, France from 2016 - 2018. Prior to this, she was deputy director in the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Rebecca also served as special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and as a senior watch officer in the Secretary of State's Operations Center.

    Rebecca's overseas assignments included tours as a political officer in Kyiv, and as an economic officer in Ankara. She began her career in Kingston, Jamaica. Before joining the State Department, Rebecca served as the executive director of the Nashville, Tennessee Sports Authority, the agency responsible for financing and overseeing the city's NFL stadium and NHL arena.

    Rebecca earned an M.A. in international relations from Vanderbilt University and a B.A. in political science from David Lipscomb University. Hailing from the South (born in Birmingham, but settling in Nashville), she is an avid football fan and cook. Rebecca is married to a Diplomatic Security special agent. She has studied French, Turkish, and Ukrainian.

  • Diplomat in Residence for 2017-2019
    monique quesada portrait

    Monique Quesada – Diplomat in Residence
    Florida International University, Miami, Florida


    Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, GL-474
    Tel: 305-348-6381 | DIRSouthFlorida@state.gov

    Monique Quesada is the Diplomat in Residence (DIR) at Florida International University and Miami Dade College. She covers the Florida educational district that spans from Daytona Beach to Key West as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As the FIR, she engages with the University and High School students on raising awareness about career opportunities in the Foreign Service and Civil Service with the U.S. Department of State.

    Monique Quesada is a career Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State. Previously the U.S. Embassy's Cultural Attache in London (since 2011), Monique spent a year working as the Deputy U.S. Senior Civilian Representative for Western Afghanistan, and concurrently head of the Political and Economic Section for the new American Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan.

    Since 1988, Monique has split her career between Political Affairs and Public Diplomacy assignments, serving months in Western Europe and North Africa. She speaks the following languages with varying degrees of fluency: French, Italian, Spanish, Dari, Arabic, Modern Greek and Portuguese. Monique's family background personifies American "diversity". Her father came to the U.S. as a student from the Philippines; her mother emigrated from the Netherlands; and Monique was born in Venezuela. She gained U.S. citizenship when she was eight years old in Houston, Texas, grew up in Columbus, Ohio but now considers herself a resident of the great state of Florida.

  • Diplomat in Residence for 2015-2017
    Catherine Rodriguez Portrait

    Catherine Rodriguez – Diplomat in Residence
    Florida International University, Miami, Florida


    Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, GL-474
    Tel: 305-348-6381 or 202-674-3317 | DIRSouthFlorida@state.gov

    Catherine Rodriguez is the Diplomat in Residence (DIR) at Florida International University and Miami Dade College. She covers the Florida educational district that spans from Daytona Beach to Key West as well as Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. As the DIR, she engages with University and High School students on raising awareness about careers opportunities in the Foreign Service and Civil Service with the U.S. Department of State. Catherine has served multiple tours of duty in South Asia including assignments in Pakistan and India. She also served as the Regional Director of the Office of Foreign Mission where she was responsible for liaison and administrative support for the 3000 foreign diplomats stationed in nine states and two territories in the Southeastern United States. Catherine was a Colin Powell Fellow and a recipient of the prestigious Una Chapman Cox sabbatical where she obtained a Masters in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University.

    Catherine attended Florida International University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, a Masters degree in Business Administration and a Masters in Accounting. She is a certified public accountant who began her professional career with the United States Agency of International Development where she served as an auditor for the Inspector General’s Office. In that capacity, she served tours of duty in Washington DC, Costa Rica and El Salvador.

    She is married to Nace Crawford, a retired Senior Foreign Service officer. Her hobbies include travel, the arts, and reading. She is fluent in Spanish.

  • Diplomat in Residence for 2012-2015

    Edward Loo

    Edward Loo, Diplomat in Residence
    Florida International University, Miami, Florida


    Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, GL-474
    Tel: 305-348-6381 | eloo@fiu.edu

    Ed Loo arrived in San Francisco as an infant in the arms of his parents on a steamship from Hong Kong. Today, he is a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, with the rank of Counselor.

    In his career of over 25 years, he has served extensively in Latin America, East Asia, and Europe. One unifying thread in his assignments has been that they have been in countries undergoing significant transformation. As a press attaché in Beijing he arrived in 1989 right after the tragedy of Tiananmen Square, working from the same Embassy compound where the U.S. sheltered dissident astrophysicist Fang Lizhi from Chinese security agents for more than a year. In Manila, he ran a newsroom operation from the Embassy to put the spotlight on U.S. assistance in the aftermath of the devastating Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruptions and to help redefine our bilateral relationship after the closing of the U.S. bases in the Philippines. Returning to Beijing in 1994 as American Center Director, he opened the first foreign government center to encourage visits and contacts by ordinary Chinese citizens, often times against the wishes of local authorities.

    As Public Affairs Counselor in Managua, Ed developed the messaging strategy for the U.S. Government's massive assistance program to help Nicaragua recover from the ravages of Hurricane Mitch. He served as Cultural Attaché in Madrid where, among other achievements, he launched an annual seminar on countering terrorism sponsored by the U.S. and Spanish governments, a topic tragically brought close to home with the Madrid train station bombings of March 2004. In Bogotá, Ed was acting Public Affairs Counselor and then Cultural Attaché at our second largest Embassy with its priorities of working with Colombia to combat narcotics trafficking and terrorism. Before he left Colombia in 2008, he was privileged to witness the dramatic rescue of three American citizens held hostage in the jungle by the FARC for more than five years. Ed has just ended his assignment as Public Affairs Counselor in Budapest, Hungary, a nation that is undergoing profound political changes that the U.S. is watching closely.

    It is second nature for Ed, as a public diplomacy officer, to reach out to individuals from diverse communities, especially from disadvantaged and marginalized populations, whether they be activists and dissidents in China, Muslims in Spain, Latin Americans of African descent, or ethnic Roma in Hungary. He is especially proud of his instrumental role in the creation of the Muslim outreach program in Madrid, special Fulbright scholarships for Afro-Colombians to study in the U.S., and a professional development program for Roma university students at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest.

    Ed speaks fluent Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese, and has studied Hungarian, French, and Filipino. In addition to the postings mentioned previously, he also served twice in Taiwan and in Washington. He graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with degrees in history and English, and has a master's degree from Columbia University in American History. He is still proud to call San Francisco his home.

  • Diplomat in Residence for 2010-2011

    Jeffry R. Olesen, Diplomat in Residence, Florida International University and Miami-Dade College, Miami, Florida

    Jeffry R. Olesen, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the U. S. Department of State Diplomat in Residence at Florida International University and Miami-Dade College. Before assuming this position, Mr. Olesen served from July 2007 until July 2010 as Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs to the three U.S. Missions in Vienna; the U.S. Mission to Austria, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Vienna (US UNVIE) and the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (USOSCE).

    Mr. Olesen entered the Foreign Service in 1987 and has served seven overseas postings and two tours at the State Department in Washington. Before arriving in Vienna, he served as Management Counselor at Embassy Athens (2004-2007) where he supported construction of a new $40 million Annex building. As Management Counselor in Embassy Almaty (2001-2004), he created an Embassy Branch Office in the new capital of Astana and acquired the property from the Government of Kazakhstan for construction of a new Embassy compound there. As Administrative Officer in Embassy Budapest (1999-2001) he coordinated support for the Office of Yugoslav Affairs when it was established in Budapest after the closure of Embassy Belgrade prior to NATO operations against the Milosevic regime.

    Other postings include Supervisory General Services Officer (GSO) at Embassy Budapest (1997-1999) where he supported a major renovation of the Chancery building and several evacuations of Embassy Belgrade; GSO at Embassy Abu Dhabi (1989-1991) supporting greatly increased operations in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm; Administrative Officer at Consulate General Lahore (1991-1993) where he provided support for the construction and move to a new Consulate building; and as vice consul at Consulate General Guadalajara (1987-1989) providing services to American citizens throughout the consular district.

    Tours at State Department headquarters in Washington D.C. include a stint handling export control policy for conventional weapons in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (1993-1995, and as Post Management Officer in the Office of the Executive Director of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (1995-1997) where he helped support the move of the U.S. Embassy from Bonn to Berlin.

    Prior to joining the State Department Mr. Olesen spent 17 years in the private sector working in the retail field for nearly seven years with Montgomery Ward and Co.(1971-1977), and in the financial services industry for ten years with Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney and as part-owner of Olesen-Houser and Associates (1977-1987). He spent eight years as a military reservist in the National Guard serving in the District of Columbia National Guard (1970-1973) and West Virginia National Guard (1973-1978). He served as an adjunct instructor in financial management at the undergraduate level at West Virginia State College and Marshall University, and at the graduate level at the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies.

    Mr. Olesen holds an undergraduate degree (AB) in history and government from Cornell University (1970), and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from West Virginia University’s College of Graduate Studies (1978).

    Mr. Olesen is married and has three adult children and two grandchildren.

  • Diplomat in Residence for 2009-2010

    Hilarion "Lari" Martinez, Diplomat in Residence, Florida International University, Miami, Florida

    Lari Martinez is Cuban-American and a Miamian. He came to the U.S. at the age of seven with his then eight year old brother on one of the Peter Pan flights that were organized to bring to the U.S. unaccompanied Cuban children. Both of Lari’s parents were teachers in Havana.

    Lari was educated in Miami in public schools. He earned a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in pure mathematics at Duke University, a law degree from the University of Florida, an Masters in Law degree (in International and Comparative Law, with honors) from the University of Brussels, and an Master of Science degree in National Security Strategy degree from the National War College at the National Defense University. Lari was also awarded an honorary MBA in Bilbao, Spain for having expanded U.S.- Basque commercial ties. During his overseas assignments, he lectured at many of the U.S. university study-abroad programs and mentored American students interested in careers in diplomacy. He has also received numerous Superior Honor and Meritorious Honor Awards from the State Department.

    While at the University of Florida Law School, he was Managing Editor of the prestigious Law Review. This is also where he participated in his first study-abroad program at the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City where he worked with a major law firm.

    As a Rotary Foundation Scholar in Europe, Lari completed programs at the International Faculty of Comparative Law in Strasburg, France and at The Hague Academy in Holland in Private International Law.

    Lari returned to Miami after his European studies and worked as an attorney with a major law firm specializing in commercial law. He joined the Department of State in 1986 and has served at U.S. embassies and consulates in Peru, Northern Ireland, London, Bilbao, Madrid, Bosnia, Florence, and Greece. His Washington assignments include Senior Desk Officer for El Salvador, Senior Advisor in the Office of Foreign Missions responsible for foreign diplomats in the U.S., and the creator and chief of a new Regulatory Compliance Unit responsible for the massive international visitor exchange program. Although his career has included work in all specialty areas of the Foreign Service, including management, political affairs, commercial matters, public diplomacy, and economics, Lari is a consular officer.

    At FIU, Lari is also a visiting professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations teaching the popular Diplomacy course. This year, Lari was awarded the Partnership for Excellent Award which is the highest award given by FIU Career Services to an employer.

    In addition to native Spanish, Lari speaks French, Italian, Greek, and English.