back                   Distinguished Cornell '79 Classmates Honored at the 35th Reunion                    next
The Honorable Makila James

Makila James was nominated for the appointment of United States Ambassador to Swaziland, located in Southern Africa, by President Obama. She was confirmed by the Senate on July 31, 2011 and sworn in August 27, 2012. As U.S. Ambassador in Swaziland, Makila focuses on promoting democracy and human rights, oversees the embassy’s efforts to address the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world, and supports programs to create economic growth and development.

Prior to her nomination, Makila James, a career member of the U.S. State Department’s Senior Foreign Service, served as the Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs. Some of her other State Department assignments include: Deputy Director of the Office of Southern African Affairs, Member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, International Relations Officer in the Office of International Organizations covering Africa in the United Nations Security Council, Desk Officer for Sierra Leone and The Gambia in the Office of West African Affairs, and Watch Officer at the State Department’s Operations Center. Makila’s other overseas assignments have included Jamaica, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Southern Sudan.

Makila received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell, double majoring in Africana Studies and American history. She obtained a juris doctor from Columbia Law School, and a Masters in National Security Studies from National Defense University. Makila practiced law for five years in Washington D.C. for several law firms, including Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, and Kampelman working as an associate in the Native American Law Department.

Makila was inducted into the Quill and Dagger Honor Society at Cornell and was the editor of the student newspaper Umoja Sasa. Her career combines her love of foreign affairs, travel, and African culture. She credits her study at Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center with preparing her for her work at the State Department.

She is married with one son and has proudly passed on her love of travel to him.