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As a high schooler in Illinois, Sherry Mueller was inspired by her 4-H leader, one of the first farmers on a cultural exchange to the Soviet Union. "Seeing his slides of the trip and learning of his experience, I was never the same." It helped shape Mueller's career in international education and cultural diplomacy—and even spurred her to lead her own exchange trip to the former USSR.
When Mueller discovered that American University had a School of International Service, she found her niche. "I didn't know how I wanted to serve...but I knew I wanted to." Mueller's connection with SIS began as a student and has continued as a distinguished practitioner in residence, founding president of the school's alumni chapter, and awardwinning educator and volunteer. She also taught AU’s first course in public diplomacy.
"At SIS we had extraordinary professors," Mueller says. "It was a nurturing environment—intellectually rich, with an emphasis on service." With fellow alum Mark Overmann, SIS/MA '05, Mueller cowrote Working World: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development, a book about pursuing "a career that makes a positive difference in our turbulent world." It's the philosophy of SIS—and Mueller's guiding principle.
In addition to her service to AU, she's held leadership and board positions at Global Ties US, the Institute of International Education, the Public Diplomacy Council, PYXERA Global, and the International Student House of DC. She was recently awarded the 2019 Centennial Medal from the Institute of International Education for her leadership and service.
Mueller benefitted from mentors whose kindness and support—along with that of her parents—continues to inspire her. "I couldn't repay them, but I can pay it forward." Having created the Sherry Lee Mueller Scholarship for SIS graduate students, she is excited to engage recipients and see her philanthropy in action. To build on her initial investment, Mueller named AU a beneficiary of her retirement account. "It is a privilege to provide educational opportunities to generations of SIS students," she says.
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