International Educator - May/June 2012 - 88
Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq., is an attorney, author, entrepreneur, speaker, sought after travel expert, and the executive producer and co-host of the Award-Winning World Footprints radio show—a leader in socially responsible travel and lifestyle. Prior to transitioning from corporate America, Tonya received a political appointment to the U.S. Department of Education where she served as a deputy assistant secretary, and was previously contracted to work as a senior legal advisor for the Oﬃce of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She graduated from the London School of Economics and Wayne State University Law School and spent a summer studying comparative law at East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai.
At the time being a lawyer seemed like her focus. Looking back today, though, she admits that her drive for an international education may not have been all about the degree at the end. “In all honesty,” she says. “These things were excuses to travel. Travel has always been in my blood.” So she left Wayne State University, Detroit, for Shanghai and a semester at the East China University of Politics and Law. “It was just something I wanted to see,” she explains. “I’d never been there, and it was an opportunity to experience a totally new country and a totally new culture.” After that, she returned home and went to work at a prosecutor’s office, later relocating to Washington, D.C., where she worked for Congressman Bob Ehrlich. She switched to his campaign for governor of Maryland when he launched it, and when he won the office, realized she was completely burned out, and tried lobbying for awhile, followed by a stint at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “I was not necessarily an ideal government employee,” she says with a laugh. “It was a bit challenging for me. I got married and my husband went on a trip. I struck up a conversation with a woman at a cocktail party who asked me what I did. I told her that my husband and I were both lawyers but that I wasn’t happy—I felt like there some something else I was supposed to be doing.” As it turned out, her new friend was a life coach. “She gave me this question and told me to think back to when I was five years old,” Fitzpatrick says. “What made me happiest? What things brought me the greatest joy? And the answer was horses and travel.” “We had no money for a race pony,” she continues, and so travel was it. Fitzpatrick and her husband opened
World Footprints Media
Tonya Fitzpatrick grew up idolizing her uncle. That’s not so unusual—uncles, after all, play a similar role tograndparents in children’s lives, arriving now and then to spoil their nieces and nephews in a hurricane of fun before going home. Fitzpatrick’s uncle, though, lived in London with his British-born wife. And his niece found that so fascinating that she not only vowed to live there one day, but adopted bits of the country’s culture, sight unseen. “I adopted a British accent,” she says with a laugh. “I was a very popular kid on the playground. And I promised myself that I was going to live in London, just like my uncle Michael.” Children’s dreams often change as they grow, but Fitzpatrick never let go of that one, and wound up being accepted to the London School of Economics for her graduate degree. “I lived in London for three years,” she says. “It was a yearlong course, but I kept renewing my student visa. Then I returned to the U.S. and went to law school, but after the first year, I found an opportunity to go abroad again for a semester in China.”
InternatIonal educator M AY + J U N E . 12
courtesy of tonya fitzpatrick