María Teresa La Porte: thought leader in European public diplomacy (1961-2020).
Teresa has left us too soon. As the world experiences uncertainty and turbulence, her calm and careful analysis, her ability to identify trends and to open new avenues for research leave a huge gap in the study of international political communication. She has always been at the forefront of the main research topics of the last two decades, the Spanish thought leader in European international relations and public diplomacy.
Teresa was born in Madrid in 1961 and moved to Pamplona to study at the University of Navarra, where she took a degree in Information Sciences (Journalism). She would never leave her alma mater, where she held successive management positions at the University and where she became the first Dean of the School of Communication (2005-2008). During her tenure, the academic courses were renewed to adapt them to the new digital times and an International Media Program was promoted, driving innovation and the internationalization of the School. After finishing her term, she never ceased traveling and researching in the world´s leading research centres, taking advantage of the leading research programs. She won a Salvador de Madariaga scholarship (Government of Spain) to expand her studies. Her first destination was The Clingendael Institute, in The Hague, where she contributed to the study of public diplomacy in a European perspective. She was Guest Professor at the University of Paris XII-Val de Marne (2005-2012) and a Visiting Professor at the USC Annenberg Centre with the support of a Fulbright Scholarship (2009). She also researched at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Harvard University) as a NATO Fellow, the London School of Economics and Political Science, The Hoover Institution (Stanford University) and George Washington University, among others.
In her academic life, Teresa contributed to the renewal of public diplomacy studies, a field in which she was able to explain the unavoidable link between international relations and global communication. She was interested in the role of citizens and non-state actors in the design and execution of public diplomacy projects, whose effectiveness depended - in her own words - on the legitimate and effective participation of civil society. As early as 2012 she wrote about cities as important diplomatic actors and as the backbone of legitimacy, representation and recognition. She contributed to the strategic analysis of the European Union's capabilities in communication. Her research work, which should be continually re-read, argues that the European project contributes to global governance because it provides essential values in building a better world. The last work she left us focused on how think tanks can deploy strategic influence, at a time of a battle for ideas and freedom of expression. Her last professional assignment was “senior consultant on public diplomacy for the Sustainable Development Goals Fund” (SDGF) of the United Nations. Only now, when I review her intellectual production, can I assess the impact of her work and her acuity in calibrating the dimensions and scope of global political communication.
Although I never worked at her university, I must still thank her for her time and dedication. In 2005 I was a young dean of Social Sciences and Communication, pretty clueless about the hectic academic life. We hardly knew each other and yet Teresa always had time to listen to me and help me with difficult decisions. Her capacity for leadership, her ability to listen and her advice were essential to my professional growth. A little later we began an extensive exchange of letters and worked together on some academic and professional projects. We coincided in different conferences and academic events, where I always benefited from her analytical vision and endless network of friends, not contacts. She was always available to anyone who needed her. She always opened the doors to her home. She always followed closely her students´ professional careers.
We are left with her academic output, which forms part of the intellectual corpus of public diplomacy. Without fear of contradiction I believe that it was Mateye, as everyone called her, who introduced public diplomacy studies in the Spanish language. Through Mateye´s work, the rest of us have learnt the dimensions of this open and multidisciplinary subject, which combines history, communication, international relations and politics. She earnt the respect of her Anglo-Saxon colleagues through important contributions to understanding global politics and the European project. I will never forget her unwavering intellectual honesty. But above all I will always remember the teacher, companion and friend who was always there when I needed her. Thank you Mateye. I am missing you already.
Juan Luis Manfredi Sánchez is Senior Lecturer in Journalism and International Studies at the University of Castilla-La Mancha.