Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

An Economic Ambassador

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Kathleen Motzenbecker

Middlebury Institute alumna Kathleen Motzenbecker MAIPS ’97 helps businesses compete in the global marketplace as the executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office.

December 4, 2015

“You always go back to the touchstone of being inspired,” says Kathleen Motzenbecker MAIPS ’97. “I would not be where I am without my experience at the Institute.”

Kathleen was honored earlier this year as one of Minnesota’s Top 50 Women in Business award winners. The St. Paul Business Journal described her as the “state’s economic ambassador,” a role she “shines” in. As the executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office, she is the chief strategist for the promotion of the state and its companies in the global marketplace.

“Minnesota is a global place,” says Kathleen who lists 3M, Cargill, and the medical device industry as major economic presences in the state that CNBC ranked at the top of its annual America’s Top States for Business list. In her current position, she has created a foreign direct investment program and is overseeing the establishment of four offices overseas. She recently returned from a trade mission for the governor in Mexico where she used the Spanish language skills she developed while a student at the Institute.

After graduation, Kathleen headed for the East Coast, starting in New York along with classmate André Gutierrez MAIPS ’97. They’ve remained close friends ever since. “Staying in touch with someone who knows you from grad school and can help you strategize about your career is profound,” she says. Next she moved to Washington D.C., where she worked for the Council on Foreign Relations as D.C. deputy director, served as executive director of the U.S. Committee of the UN Development Programme, and participated in election monitoring for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In her hometown of Chicago, where Kathleen moved next to be closer to family, she worked with Mayor Richard Daley on public diplomacy issues and was responsible for Asia relations at the Illinois International Trade Office. In 2008 she became the founding director of the Center for Global Peace through Commerce at Dominican University in Oak Park, Illinois, where she also helped create a program for MBA students interested in anti-poverty business solutions. 

“Then I fell in love with a Minnesota man,” says Kathleen, “and moved to this wonderful progressive state.” All the while, her experiences at the Institute have helped shape her professional choices. “My global career started with the training I received at Monterey,” she says, adding that she is very happy with the merger with Middlebury and recent name change. “Combining the two schools increases their global connections and the Institute is now very well positioned for the future!”

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