Shefali Razdan Duggal is very familiar with the 15-minute walk from South Quad to Academic Quad at Miami University. She was typically seen leaving her dorm room in Tappan Hall early to catch her 8:30 a.m. political science class in Harrison Hall. Yet, when sitting in the seats hundreds of students sat in before her, she had no idea where her political aspirations would take her.
Born in India, Razdan Duggal and her parents arrived in Cincinnati when she was 5 years old. Growing up, she always knew she would attend Miami.
“When you’re from Cincinnati, you know all about Miami University,” she said.
Razdan Duggal was painfully shy when she was younger, so she majored in the only subject that would force her to talk to others: mass communications with a focus in broadcast journalism and a minor in political science.
“I remember it was the latter part of my high school years that I realized the only way I could learn to overcome shyness is if I forced myself to be in public speaking situations," Razdan Duggal said. "That’s when I thought mass communication was a good option for me because it would utilize my writing skills, and it would force me to speak in front of others."
She graduated from Miami in 1993 while working multiple jobs to pay for her tuition and taking care of her mother, who was going through a divorce. Razdan Duggal credits Miami for her success post-graduation because of its positive learning environment, teaching her bipartisanship at a young age and providing her with caring professors.
Lee Harrington, a former professor of sociology and social justice, is one of the devoted teachers Razdan Duggal fondly remembers. She first met Harrington during her office hours, and they stayed in touch even after Razdan Duggal left Miami’s campus. They exchange Christmas cards every year.
“I immediately enjoyed her company as a student and then more and more just as a friend over the years,” Harrington said.
When Razdan Duggal graduated from Miami, she planned to become a lawyer. But after dropping out of one law school and failing out of another, she decided to get her master's degree in political communication from New York University instead.
She landed a job working on her first big campaign in 2000 with Al Gore’s presidential run. She continued working on campaigns with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. She is also a member of Human Rights Watch, serves on the Leadership and Character Council at Wake Forest University and has stayed close to her alma mater as a member of the advisory board for the Inside Washington program at Miami.
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In 2021, she received a call from the White House that she was being considered for the role of U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
“A lot of ambassadors are more political supporters,” Phillip Arceneaux, a professor of strategic communications at Miami, said. “Ms. [Razdan] Duggal has worked with women’s rights issues. She’s worked in campaign finance and those kinds of things.”
Razdan Duggal underwent a five-month-long background check in both the U.S. and the Netherlands. Her candidacy was announced on March 11, 2022, and she began working with the State Department to prepare for her Senate hearing.
While a candidate waits for their Senate hearing, they can do mock trials called “murder boards.” Razdan Duggal did 50 of them.
On Sept. 14, 2022, Razdan Duggal had her Senate hearing, and the vote was unanimous.
“I came out with a voice vote, which means there was not one senator that voted it down, it was all positive,” Razdan Duggal said. “It was completely a shock in the best way possible.”
Since her appointment, her focus has been to expand the relationship between the U.S. and the Netherlands and with other countries.
“The kind of relationship she’s going to try and foster between Americans and the Netherlands is largely in line with President Biden’s administration and his policy,” Arceneaux said.
Razdan Duggal is also working to grow economic ties with the Netherlands and promote shared matters of democratic values, human rights, rules based on international order and more.
“My goal is to visit all the provinces and get to know the country, but also I’m going into places where they may not have ever met a U.S. Ambassador, and I’m making myself very, very accessible,” Razdan Duggal said. “I’m trying to show that someone who came from nothing, no privilege and no connections, and kind of scrapped my way up, that anything is possible.”
Harrington said Razdan Duggal’s accomplishments are inspirational for any dedicated Miami student.
“[She is] certainly a role model, especially as someone who was local to Ohio, and representative of what someone can do with intelligence and a lot of hard work and a clear career trajectory,” Harrington said.
Arceneaux agreed with Harrington and said Razdan Duggal’s accomplishments are even more representative of the importance of a liberal arts degree.
“At the Miami level, [her success] is great,” Arceneaux said. “At the department level, it’s really great for [humanities] because there’s a lot of issues right now about how practical and how much utility a liberal arts degree has.”
Even though Razdan Duggal credits most of her success to Miami, she had no idea this would be her future when she sat in the classrooms of Harrison Hall.
“When I was at Miami, although I had a wonderful experience,” Razdan Duggal said, “I wouldn’t have envisioned this.”