Meet our Director of International Programs | James McManus

As the Director of International Programs with the World Affairs Council, James McManus oversees the administration for international leaders sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s premier exchange program, the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP). He welcomes each delegation with open arms, as he expands their knowledge of the United States through organizing professional meetings and connecting them to locals in the community through hosting opportunities. His weeks sometimes turn into weekends, as he goes over and beyond to make our international guests feel welcomed.   

James is currently a graduate student at Northern Kentucky University and is expecting to complete his Master’s Degree in Public Administration in December of 2018. He has a true passion for cooking and traveling, as he often reminisces about his trip to Turkey. Meet James…  


As an NKU student how did you find out about the World Affairs Council and why did you want to get involved?

The NKU History Department shared a World Affairs Council post for a part-time Programs Associate position. I had recently finished my undergrad year, and I had yet to be exposed to such an interesting cultural organization. I wanted to see how I could be involved, so I applied for the position!

You wear many “hats” as the Director of International Programs, what do you do on a daily basis here at the World Affairs Council to keep international visitors coming to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky?

As the Director of International Programs, my job is to promote the best that this region has to offer to the U.S. Department of State and other organizations. Whether it be businesses, non-profits, or city agencies, I highlight the story of local organizations and share big movements, case studies that our regions excel as global partners. My goal is to make people to people connections in this region so that international visitors can learn from our organizations and vice versa. These efforts put Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky on the global scale.

James at the top of Ankara Castle, a medieval fortress that sits on top of a large hill in Turkey’s capital.

What are the most important professional exchanges you’ve worked on?

All of the various projects I work on are very important, whether it’s about the law, policing, museum management. They are all important in their own way. Last April, a group of locally employed U.S. embassy staff arrived for a week-long exchange to better understand American government, politics, entrepreneurship, culture, and more. These guests were native to their countries yet were recently employed to work for US embassies. It was an amazing experience professionally and personally, as I became friends with the visitors. This visit inspired me. I knew this was work I could be really engaged in and enjoy.

What is your favorite part about meeting and working with International Leaders?

My favorite part is how incredibly talented the visitors are in whatever they are doing. I learn so much from delegates, even if they’re discussing topics such as complicated energy security or aviation. I enjoy helping to make these connections between our delegations and local organizations. The conversations and experiences are truly rewarding and fascinating.

The World Affairs Council staff likes to call you an “encyclopedia” – what are your primary sources for gathering the latest news?

There are three news sources I like to follow primarily which include NPR, BBC for the European content, and Aljazera, a Middle Eastern broadcast that provides a ton of information that American sources might not highlight.

James in front of Saint Patricks Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.

What are your favorite international restaurants in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky?

I really enjoy Wabi Sabi in Covington, Kentucky, but mostly I enjoy cooking at home. I dabble in French cooking and enjoy rolling my own sushi. One of my favorite foods to make is Aburi Sushi where you flame to sear the fish with a blow torch. This was something I saw for the first time on a trip to Vancouver last year.

Between balancing a full-time position at the World Affairs Council and studying for your master’s in Public Administration at NKU, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Besides cooking, I enjoy reading in my spare time. I am currently reading India: A History by John Keay. I also have a passion for graphic novels and animation. Some of my favorites that have an international flair are Persepolis which is an animated film based on a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. It tells a story of a girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The Breadwinner is another stunning piece of animation that was done by the Irish animation studio called Cartoon Saloon, which does amazing work. It’s about a young girl living in Afghanistan and her family’s struggle when her father is taken prisoner by the Taliban. For something a little lighter, Ernest & Celestine is a charming bit of animation by the French Studio Les Armateurs, which tells the story of the unlikely friendship of a bear and mouse.

James on Quarry Rock after hiking in Vancouver, Canada.

If the roles were reversed and you were able to visit another country as an International Leader, where would you want to go and why?

Turkey was the first country I had visited outside of the US. I enjoyed everything – from the art, architecture, and history. Istanbul was alive and vibrant and I will never forget the food. So I have a bit of soft spot for wanting to go back there.

If I had to choose a place I’ve never been I’d go to Morocco. It’s pretty high on my list since I have an interest in Islamic history. The US and Morocco have had long diplomatic ties. In fact, Morocco was the first country to recognize America’s independence. The American Legation in Tangiers Morocco is also the only building on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places that aren’t in the United States. Morocco also has the oldest continuously operating university in the world, Al Akhawayn University. It was built in 859 by a wealthy Moroccan woman.

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