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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

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Ambassador Seretse and Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl share their passion for politics during the honorary reception

Photographer: Kim Barlag

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Her Excellency Ambassador Tebelelo Mazile Seretse addresses members of the university and the community during the reception

Photographer: Kim Barlag

Ambassador Seretse Commencement

Ambassador Seretse speaks to graduates after receiving an honorary degree during the Ohio University Commencement ceremony, Friday, May 2, 2014.

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

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Patton College hosts reception for ambassador to the U.S. for Botswana

Tebelelo Mazile Seretse received honorary doctorate at Commencement


The Patton College of Education honored Her Excellency Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, ambassador to the United States for the Republic of Botswana, at a reception Thursday, May 1.

The event was held to congratulate her on the conferral of her Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Ohio University.

Many members of the University and the community attended, including former Ohio University President Charles Ping and Athens City Mayor Paul Wiehl. Executive Vice Provost of Global Affairs Lorna Jean Edmonds, and Director of African Studies Steve Howard joined several Patton College faculty and students at the reception. Retired Patton College faculty also attended, including Milt Ploghoft, Luther Haseley and Max Evans. In addition, friends of the ambassador traveled to the event and several Ohio University students from Botswana joined in the celebration.

Renée A. Middleton, dean of The Patton College of Education, nominated the ambassador for the honorary degree.

"Ambassador Seretse is more than an energetic advocate of national affairs; she is a global role model," said Middleton. "Her career is a powerful positive example of leadership placed in the service of compassion and inclusiveness. In the process of leading her country to an important role on the global stage, she has created enormous opportunities for her people and the students and faculty of Ohio University. Honoring Ambassador Seretse with an Ohio University degree is to recognize a global leader who has placed the importance of people and community above all other things."

The Patton College's Associate Professor of Counseling & Higher Education Mona Robinson serves on Ohio University's Honorary Degree Committee. She said the committee selected Ambassador Seretse because throughout her career she has been an energetic exponent of the citizens of Botswana.

"She has championed economic development through education and proven herself to be an unequalled advocate for the rights of women, young people, and the elderly," said Robinson. "A consistent theme running through her career has been opening doors to allow for the elevation of women into positions of authority and power and the expansion and accessibility of education for all Botswana citizens."

Robinson said the reception at The Patton College allowed for her to meet the ambassador, a special honor, she said, as she doesn't always get to meet those she helps select for honorary degrees.

During the reception, Middleton introduced the Ambassador and spoke of her accomplishments.

"Ambassador Seretse's career is one characterized by 'firsts,' as Botswana's Ambassador to the United States, she stands first among equals in the ranks of diplomatic envoys and first with regard to being Botswana's first female head of mission in America," said Middleton. "A lawyer, an economist, and an accountant by virtue of her training and education, Dr. Seretse's prolific occupational experience spans more than 25 years in both public an private enterprise, but it is perhaps her dedication to public service through participation in the realms of diplomacy and politics that separates and differentiates her most."

Ambassador Seretse graduated from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., in 1978 where she attained two undergraduate degrees in four years, a Bachelor of Arts in economics and a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Following this, she earned a Master of Arts Degree in economics from the University of Cincinnati and later a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Botswana.

During the course of her academic life, she on several occasions changed roles, embracing that of teacher and mentor by lecturing undergraduates part-time at both the University of Cincinnati and the University of Botswana. She was able to pursue certain research interests while in the scholastic setting, studying excess liquidity in Botswana's banking system. She has held the posts of Senior Research Officer at the Bank of Botswana and Finance Manager at BP Botswana, as well as practicing law as a senior partner at Seretse Attorneys.

Ambassador Seretse's involvement in politics stems from her belief that politics should be an instrument that influences people on a civic and individual level for the betterment of society, as well as her passion for the development of Botswana. From 1999 to 2004, she was a member of Parliament and served as a Cabinet Minister. During this time, she held three different ministerial-level positions where she was responsible for the oversight of a number of national initiatives with international ramifications, including Acting Minister of Presidential Affairs; Minister of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Wildlife, and Tourism; and Minister of Works, Transport, and Communications.

In her current role of Botswana envoy to the U.S., she oversees joint Botswana/U.S. programs and initiatives in the areas of health, trade and industry, and education. She has been instrumental in the development and expansion of the educational system and infrastructure of Botswana bringing free primary and secondary education to the entire populace. She has achieved universal primary education that is free and accessible to Botswana's disparate population achieving an astonishing 88 percent net attendance ratio for females and 86 percent males. She has implemented adult literacy outreach programs that in tandem with her educational programs have resulted in a 97 percent literacy rate among females and 94 percent among males. And she has achieved literacy rates, life expectancy rates, and secondary education rates among women greater than or equal to males of the same demographic.

Ohio University and the Republic of Botswana have a rich history of collaboration that has enriched all touched by it. Under the leadership of former OHIO President Charles Ping in the 1980s, Ohio University, and specifically The Patton College of Education, began a relationship with University of Botswana in support of the Primary Education Improvement Project (PEIP) to increase the access, efficiency, and relevance of primary education in Botswana. This relationship has strengthened, evolved, and influenced countless lives in the United States and in Botswana to the present day. The Primary Education Improvement Project defined internships in counseling, educational studies, and teacher education in Botswana to help reform the country's primary education system.

Ohio University's ties with Botswana were renewed under the leadership of President Roderick J. McDavis when the former President of Botswana, His Excellency Festus Mogae, visited the Athens Campus in September 2010. This was followed by a visit from Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse. She has served not just as an ambassador of her country, but as a passionate advocate for the OHIO and Botswana partnership.

Ambassador Seretse has energetically picked up the torch that former President Ping extended and has become the champion of the relationship between Ohio University and Botswana. Since her visit, Ambassador Seretse has become a special partner of Ohio University – acting as a catalyst in creating and then expanding opportunities for Ohio University faculty and students.

Ambassador Seretse received her Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the Ohio University Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 2.

“Ohio University is grateful for the opportunity to recognize Ambassador Seretse’s accomplishments, and we deeply appreciate her contributions to our 2014 Graduate Commencement Exercises,” said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis. “It is my hope that her story will inspire our recent graduates to reach for the highest star as they embark on their own journeys.”