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Program in International Studies
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Program in International Studies
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Moscow, ID 83844-3177

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Jacob Parker

Jacob Parker

Some students earn renown as astute events planners for the parties they throw. University of Idaho alumnus Jacob Parker may shatter all previous records however: Parker, finishing up a master’s degree in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Ohio State University, is making ready for 70 million guests.
 
As part of his graduate studies, Parker directs all aspects of the USA Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, which runs from May 1 through October 31 in Shanghai, China. Planners estimate 70 million people will visit the Expo in this six-month period.  The theme for USA's pavillion is "Rising To The Challenge."
 
Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and was a Martin Scholar while attending Idaho. He was named the Chapman Outstanding Student in the Martin School of International Studies in 2008, the year he graduated.
 
He now is enrolled in OSU’s Chinese Flagship Program, established by the U.S. government to teach students strategic languages, like Chinese. The program requires an internship utilizing the native language in a cultural context. Through the program, Parker volunteered to work on the 2010 Expo, then worked his way up to the position of operating manager, and then to director of operations of the Expo’s USA National Pavilion.
      
Parker’s University of Idaho education has been an asset as he organizes and directs the project.
 
“My experiences at the University of Idaho, and especially the Martin Institute, have greatly influenced my career path and current position at the USA Pavilion,” Parker said. “Throughout my time at the University of Idaho, I was given numerous opportunities to travel to international conferences, including the international Model United Nations Conference in New York City and the Alliance Toward Harnessing Global Opportunities international conference in Los Angeles. These experiences exposed me to working within the cultural framework of a multinational community. In addition, I frequently attended University of Idaho sponsored speakers series which focused on international negotiations, peacekeeping and conflict management – skills that have proved handy in my current position.”  
 
Parker directs the USA Pavilion with a staff of over 75 people.  
 
Parker’s job includes developing and overseeing all functions of the USA Pavilion, including the operation planning phase under the guidance of the chief operating officer; on-the-ground directing of USA Pavilion operations – coordinating all aspects of logistics, facilities maintenance and security – throughout the six-month Expo; and break-down of USA Pavilion facilities at the close of the event.  
 
He works in conjunction with the Expo Logistics Center, Expo Zone C Department, Expo Visa Department, the Commissioner Generals Office, Consulate Expo Liaison Office, VIP Suite Operations, Protocol, Entertainment, Communications and Cultural Programming Divisions of the USA Pavilion. Ultimately, Parker and his team are responsible for “creating a fulfilling Pavilion experience that represents the best of American culture and values,” he said.
 
Parker also works with the U.S. government, the Chinese government, and private multinational organizations serving as Expo sponsors.
 
Achieving the daunting goal of representing the best of American culture and values requires taking command of hundreds of far less glamorous details, like making sure there is enough food, water and toilets for 70 million expected visitors. 
 
“Calculating the amount of toilet paper to have on hand for six months is a real challenge,” Parker confesses.
            
Meanwhile, he is getting plenty of experience using Chinese in a cultural context. “I was conducting a security meeting yesterday entirely in Chinese with native speakers,” he said. “We discussed all manners of security from placement of guards to the procedures for security check. Some days I will meet with the CEO of a multinational organization in Shanghai on political delegation visits and speak entirely in English. Every day is different.”
 
For Parker, each workday is a bilingual, cross-cultural adventure: “I wake up at 7 a.m. and move on to chair a daily operations meeting,” he said. “Depending on the day, I may then travel to the Expo grounds for a site visit or a policy negotiation. I may interview candidates for open positions. I spend much of my time soliciting proposals from potential suppliers. I help manage a multi-million dollar budget and am frequently in price negotiations with Chinese and foreign companies. It takes years of planning, a dizzying budget – $55 billion – and an entire country to plan any event of this size.”
 
Despite daily challenges, Parker maintains a calm demeanor, an eye for detail, and the ability to synthesize those details into the big picture. He has found the experience to be “challenging, rewarding and very instructive.”
 
“I love it,” Parker said. “I wake up ever day excited for something new.”
 
More information about the Shanghai World Expo 2010 and the USA Pavilion.