Alumni Spotlight: Dr. June Soomer - Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States
Dr. June Soomer contends that it was her mother’s philosophies that has fueled her passion for hard work, her dedication to service and innate need to give back. Her mother believed that education could turn your life around, poverty was not a state of mind, and that you must always have a giving attitude.
Dr. Soomer acknowledges that it has not been easy as a black woman moving up the career ladder. She admits that she has achieved only because of strong guidance from the women who have taken the time to set the example, and the men who have provided mentorship, that have allowed her to serve as teacher, lecturer, Central Banker and Diplomat. These achievements have come despite being an introvert, and she maintains that that she is still the same shy person who was initially raised in Morne Du Don and Sans Souci, who played volley ball in the Sab, and who could lay on the beach for hours reading, listening to cricket and listening to music.
Described as a woman of firsts, she was the first woman to receive a PhD in History from the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, the first woman to serve as Saint Lucian Ambassador to CARICOM and the OECS, the first woman to serve as an OECS Commissioner, the first woman to be ratified as the Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States and the first woman to perform the role as Chair of the Open Campus Council of the University of the West Indies. Her hope is that she is now a trailblazer, as opportunities for women at the highest levels continue to be hampered by cultural norms that merely tokenize the leadership and achievements of women.
Before attending the University of the West Indies, she was a teacher at the Sans Souci School, later renamed the Carmen Rene Memorial School, located not too far from her home. She taught there for one year before attending the Saint Lucia Teacher’s College where she received one of the two scholarships that would take her to the University of the West Indies. She returned to the Sans Souci School for two years before heading to the Cave Hill Campus to pursue her first degree. It was there that she realised that she would always be a teacher and accepted every opportunity to speak with young people on any topic they chose.
Dr. Soomer received her Ph.D. in History from the University of the West Indies in 1994. She was the first female to graduate with a doctorate in History from the Cave Hill Campus. Her thesis entitled “An Assessment of the Factors Affecting the Structure and Functioning of The British West Indies Federal Civil Service, 1947-1962”, accentuated her deep passion for regional integration and both directed and fueled her career path. Since then she has written and delivered many lectures on the integration movement with special focus on the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Serving as Saint Lucia’s Ambassador to OECS and CARICOM with responsibility for Diaspora Affairs, a position held from 2008-2015, has afforded her the opportunity to serve her country not only in Saint Lucia but throughout the world. She managed the 2010 Homecoming which saw Saint Lucians returning home from their adopted homes to engage with the government about making their contributions to the country. Out of this engagement, she crafted the Saint Lucia Diaspora Policy which would later be adopted by the Government.
Dr. Soomer has lectured at the University of the West Indies, the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, the University of North Carolina Central. She also worked for ten (10) years at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in the Human Resources Department, the Research Department and the Strategic Policy Unit.
Dr. June Soomer was ratified as the Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) for the period 2016 to 2020 and was the first woman to hold this position in this regional organisation which incorporates members from the Greater Caribbean. During her tenure as the Secretary General of the ACS she undertook the mammoth task of restructuring to fit the ACS for the purpose by focusing on Results Based Management. She upgraded and motivated human resources through training; created a Directorate for Resource Mobilisation; built global partnerships including with the international private sector and streamlined youth and gender into the work of the Organisation.
Since receiving the Teacher’s College Scholarship Dr. Soomer has received numerous awards, including:
- The Jose Marcoletta Award for Diplomacy from Nicaragua – 2021
- The Saint Lucia Cross for distinguished service in the field of Education, Diplomacy, Regionalism and Development Specialty – 2021
- The City of Santiago Award for Outstanding Working for the Caribbean Business Forum – 2019
- The Pelican Award from the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a Distinguished Graduate of the Decade 1989-1998 and for excellence in diplomacy, public service and the promotion of regionalism on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the UWI. -2018.
- The UWI, Cave Hill Award for Leadership – 2018.
- Executive of the Year – St. Kitts and Nevis – 2003
- Award for outstanding contribution to the development of Human Resources in CARICOM Central Banks – 2001
- The Elsa Goveia Memorial Scholarship – UWI 1988
Dr. Soomer has over thirty (30) years of academic and professional experience functioning at the managerial, operational and technical levels in the diplomatic, financial and educational sectors. She has a sound understanding of contemporary development issues and continues to advocate for equality and equity in sustainable development. Most recently, she was appointed Chair of the Open Campus Council of the UWI.