A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.
Stephen Szypulski, whose grandparents immigrated to the United States as young adults, started exploring his interest in international affairs, politics, and his family’s background after his many international trips with PTPI. Among these, he was a part of the inaugural Global Youth Forum Humanitarian Conference (GYFHC) to South Africa in 2006, the Young Generation Laos Library launch in cooperation with the Library of Laos Project in 2008, and to the GYFHC in Russia – all programs led by PTPI Chairman Emeritus Mary Jean Eisenhower.
“These trips were instrumental for opening my eyes to life outside of my local and state communities, helping me understand what it meant to be a global citizen, and for giving me motivation to care about issues affecting others around the world” he says. “It was impressive to have traveled to almost 20 countries by the time I was in high school—more than most of my peers at the time— but I was most inspired to use these experiences with PTPI and to make a career out of it.” Since then, Stephen has concentrated on learning everything he can about international affairs and foreign policy.
In 2009, Stephen began his studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, his “dream school,” where he majored in International Politics, became involved in Polish-American life on campus -joined Georgetown’s Polish Club and eventually became its co-president; worked with the American Polish Forum; and frequented events around Washington, DC and at the Polish Embassy. At Georgetown, where he was a student of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he more deeply explored his Polish roots given the strength of the school’s Russian and Eastern European program offerings.
After a year as a Fulbright scholar, he served as a political aide in the New York area and returned to school, this time at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. The Harriman Institute at Columbia, formerly known as the Russian Institute, was the first academic center in the United States established solely to research and teach about Russia, and later, Russia, East Europe, and Eurasia as a region. “Studying and engaging with leading scholars from all disciplines was an amazing experience,” he says about his time spent at Harriman, from which he recently graduated in May.
Though his friends and contacts from PTPI are dispersed around the world, the organization’s mission still remains with him during his travels. “Whenever I entered Columbia’s main library and saw a portrait of President (and PTPI founder) Eisenhower hanging at the top of a main staircase, it was a daily reminder of the influence PTPI has had, the relevance of its mission, and of course, the legacy of its founder.”
We have 23,700 members around the world, and each has a story to tell. Discover the drives, dreams and ambitions of our PTPI network members, and then share your story with us. It’s how we break down barriers to peace and understanding.
Thank you for your ongoing support for our mission at People to People International. We, as a whole, continue to strive to live up to the legacy of world peace. But every day we make a choice to make a difference. That difference cannot be made without you and your contributions. Only together can we create everlasting peace and only together can we strive for and achieve greatness.
Merrill Eisenhower Atwater joined People to People International as the Chief Operating Officer in January 2018 and in April of that same year, he became Chief Executive Officer.