Meet the 2018 Tragen, CCE-EFM and Dorman Award Winners

AAFSW Honorary President and AAFSW President Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen Thursday, November 15, 2018, Benjamin Franklin Reception Hall, Dept. of State. Photo: Courtesy of AAFSW.

2018 Eleanor Dodson Tragen Award – Patricia Linderman

The 2018 Eleanor Dodson Tragen Award, presented by DACOR, went to AAFSW’s own Patricia Linderman, who served as volunteer AAFSW president from 2011-2015. You may also know her from the books she has co-edited, Realities of Foreign Service Life, Volumes 1 and 2, with royalties going to AAFSW, as well as A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis, a collection of essays about cross-cultural food experiences, which benefits the non-profit Tales from a Small Planet, She is currently working with the volunteer team for a new book for Talesmag, about dealing with special needs abroad.

Throughout her 27 years as a Foreign Service family member, she has contributed to efforts to share honest, candid information about Foreign Service life. She was a founding volunteer with Talesmag, which went online with the “Real Post Reports” way back in 1999, and she has helped moderate Foreign Service online groups such as Livelines and FSParent since the early 2000s. As AAFSW’s president, she organized EFM art and business fairs as well as informational events on topics such as third-culture kids, unaccompanied tours, dealing with grief after transitions, and building resilience. Seeing new online resources arising for the Foreign Service community but realizing that many people were unaware of them, she joined a volunteer team that created the Foreign Service Hub, , which gathers governmental, non-profit and social media resources in a single site. Her information-sharing has also included humorous offerings, such as the musical play for AAFSW’s 50th anniversary (co-authored with Francesca Kelly and edited/directed by Debbi Miller), featuring songs such as “Wake Me Up When the Packout Ends.”

With a B.S. in biology and an M.A. in German, she has worked as a freelance writer, editor, translator and language teacher while accompanying her FSO husband and two sons to Trinidad, Chile, Cuba, Germany, Ecuador and Mexico. After losing 43 pounds in 2014 and discovering her inner athlete, she became a certified personal trainer and health coach, and she now offers transformational health coaching to clients in Northern Virginia and overseas, through her website

AAFSW EFM Employment Committee representative Bob Castro, 2018 CCE-EFM Award Laura Sheehan, AAFSW President Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW Program Chair Sheila Switzer Thursday, November 15, 2018, Benjamin Franklin Reception Hall, Dept. of State. Photo: Courtesy of AAFSW.

2018 Champions of Career Enhancement for EFMs Award (CCE-EFM) – Laura Sheehan

Laura Sheehan is a U.S. lawyer turned expat career coach and strategist. She herself is an EFM who has navigated the challenges of EFM employment through nearly 17 years and seven overseas tours as a FS spouse. In 2016, after having tried almost every form of EFM employment, she learned about a job that would enable her to help her fellow EFMs overcome (or altogether avoid) obstacles to their professional growth – Regional Global Employment Advisor.

Laura’s original portfolio consisted of fourteen posts spread across ten countries in Southeast Asia with a collective client pool of nearly 900 EFMs. In the majority of those countries, there is no bilateral or de facto work agreement, and in two of those countries, EFMs are also prohibited to volunteer. With extremely limited ability to work outside of the Embassy, EFMs in her region had to utilize non-traditional employment tools and get really creative in their professional development. Laura provided one-on-one career coaching to hundreds of EFMs in the East Asia Pacific region. Through the use of GEI-provided tools supplemented with her own materials and anecdotes, she helped EFMs define their career paths, craft resumes, hone their interview skills, negotiate salaries (and raises) and launch their own businesses.

Most often, Laura is credited with helping build EFM confidence and improving morale. If people have been out of the workforce or have had to unexpectedly change their job search focus, their morale and confidence are very low. Laura’s clients often tell her that after talking to her, they feel like they have clarity on their next steps and they have a renewed sense of purpose. They tell her she is a great listener and that she can see creative employment possibilities where they never imagined them. In every interaction, Laura helped EFMs view their time overseas as rich with possibilities rather than restricted by circumstances – limitless rather than limited.

Outside of her paid work, she advocates for all trailing spouses. She took her encouraging messages to the wider expat community by launching a professional development group called “Empowering Perspectives,” speaking on a Thriving Abroad podcast in March 2018, and delivering a talk on “Career Change” at TEDx Hanoi 2018.

2018 Lesley Dorman Award – Catherine Pierce
In Beijing, China since August 2018 – a fifth overseas tour — Catherine is now serving as an Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy. Prior to this assignment, she worked as Staff Assistant for the EX Director at the Foreign Service Institute, Arlington, Virginia. She was the primary point of contact in EX for clearances and correspondence, developed the SharePoint site, and as a member of the EX front office communications team, she contributed to the new EX website.

Previously, she was Green Coordinator, CLO Assistant, and Newsletter Editor at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest 2013-2016, including two TDYs to Beijing and Shanghai to assist the Consular section. Previously, she was Grants Manager in the Office of Democracy and Governance for USAID in Islamabad; Consular Associate for Consular Affairs for Mission Mexico; International Trade Specialist for West Africa for the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service based in Dakar, Senegal.

Before the Foreign Service, Catherine was the Director of Marketing and Communication for Europe, Middle East and Africa for international Information Technology companies based in Paris, France.

With Patricia Linderman, she has been involved in the development and marketing of the portal since its inception in 2016, and has been the AAFSW EFM Employment Chair since 2017, a strong advocate of a fairer EPAP selection system in 2018. She has also volunteered for many other AAFSW charities and activities during her stay in Washington, D.C. 2016-18, and is a long-standing member of the AAFSW French Conversation Group.

Catherine speaks French and Spanish, and is avidly learning Mandarin. She is widely traveled and holds a post-Master degree in Management of International Projects, a Master degree in Economics and a Master degree in English from La Sorbonne University, Paris, France. Her husband T. Edward Pierce is a Security Engineering Officer with Diplomatic Security, currently the Officer in Charge of the Engineering Service Center for all Mission China. They have two children, Victoria, 23, and Charles, 20, living respectively in Los Angeles, CA and Lausanne, Switzerland. Catherine’s hobbies include hiking, writing, photography, scuba diving, and skiing.