Social Science and Honors College graduate Donna Hrinak has cultivated a career in foreign service and international business.September 24, 2022
From the time she was 12 years old, Donna Hrinak, ‘72, wanted to go into the foreign service—if only to get out of the small Pennsylvania town where she grew up.
Inspired by a beauty pageant interview with Miss Kansas, Hrinak achieved that goal, serving as a U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil from 1994 to 2004, under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“It’s really a very special profession,” Hrinak said. “You have a chance to show the best of your country to people to whom you may be the first or only human representative of your country.”
Having joined the foreign service at age 22, she retired from it after 30 years and entered the corporate world, working for Boeing. Today, Hrinak is the senior vice president of corporate affairs for the Royal Caribbean Group, joining the company in the middle of a pandemic in a position created just for her.
“I didn’t want to be 65 and wondering if I ever could have done anything else,” Hrinak said about changing careers. “I have great respect for U.S. business overseas and I wanted to be a part of that. U.S. companies have not always been angels in Latin America, but they set a standard for local businesses in the community. They really defined community partnerships instead of just writing a check.”
Fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese, she has served in Latin America throughout her government and private sector career.
A former Distinguished Alumni Grand Award recipient, Hrinak said coming to East Lansing to attend MSU opened her eyes to a world she hadn’t known existed.
“I met people from all kinds of backgrounds,” Hrinak said. “My roommate married a man from Iran—I had never even thought of Iran. I had culinary experiences and music experiences. I was so lucky to have that opportunity to go to a big public university where those opportunities were available.”
She now serves on the board of trustees for Florida International University where she continues to preach the advantages of a big university.
Hrinak remembers going to her first concert while at MSU—she saw the 5th Dimension perform live. Growing up, her family didn’t have extra money to attend concerts and they weren’t inclined to musical activity. Rather, they were sports fans. Hrinak said her dad was so excited that she got to attend a Big Ten football game that even if she’d never gotten a degree, it would have been enough for him.
She almost convinced her son to attend MSU. They toured campus and he was wowed by the beauty of it. Then, on an otherwise beautiful April day, the temperature dropped to the 40s and he opted to attend a Florida school instead.
Hrinak’s pride in being a Spartan has followed her throughout her career. Once while attending a Boeing leadership meeting—the type of meeting where they invite a big-name guest speaker—she was joined by a few others from MSU. The guest speaker was Magic Johnson.
“I can’t tell you how good it was to say ‘Go Green’ and have people shout back, ‘Go White,’” Hrinak said.
Contributing Writer(s): Bridgette M. Redman, '91