Mona Sutphen was working in advertising, thinking there had to be more to life than hawking soap, when the Foreign Service called. An international relations major, Sutphen took the Foreign Service exam only at the prodding of her professors. Then she took a job that, on one hand, let her exercise her creative talents. On the other, though, it felt completely unfulfilling. And when the call came, she was grateful her professors had prodded.
Three decades and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics later, Sutphen has served in a prestigious range of government and diplomatic positions. During the Clinton presidency, she served on the National Security Council. She also served in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. From 2009 to 2011, she was Obama’s White House deputy chief of staff for policy. While juggling those highly demanding jobs, Sutphen also managed to co-author a book on diplomacy entitled “The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise.”
Sutphen’s newest endeavor is working in the startup and investment space, with an eye toward creating a better future. Currently, she’s the head of investment strategies at the Vistria Group, a Chicago-based private investment firm that prioritizes social good and global purpose in its investment strategy. Sutphen’s commitment to a better future is also visible in her role as a trustee at Mount Holyoke and in her work on the board of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
Class year: 1989
Major: International relations
Joined board in: 2015, re-elected in 2020