Changing the World: Robert Needham ’86 oversees American interests in northern Italy

Currently Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan, Italy, Robert Needham ’86 has long been a citizen of the world. He was born in England and grew up in Northern Ireland before immigrating to Wisconsin with his parents in 1979.

At Ripon, he majored in politics and government. He learned about the State Department while studying for his master’s degree in international relations at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.

“The idea of working at our embassies around the world and being involved with foreign policy issues was exciting,” he says.

Over the past 30 years, his international postings have included Poland, Oman, Croatia, England, Denmark, Ukraine and U.S. missions to the United Nations in Geneva, Belgium and Afghanistan. In Milan, he manages a staff of about 40 Americans and 60 local staff, overseeing America’s interests in northern Italy. “For example, we have a lot of economic interests in northern Italy because this area generates much of Italy’s wealth,” he says. “I encourage Italian investment in the United States and assist U.S. firms and individuals doing business in northern Italy.

He says his Ripon liberal arts education “provided me with a well-rounded education which gave me the ability to see things from more than one point of view. The capacity to keep an open mind has been extremely important to me in this career and in life away from the workplace. I did not appreciate this while I was at Ripon, but this has been a real asset.”

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