PORTAGE, Ind. — A northwest Indiana native is the new U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone.

Portage native Maria Brewer has served in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Pakistan and other locations during her career with the U.S. State Department, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports .

Brewer graduated in 1991 from Portage High School and in 1995 from Valparaiso University, where she studied international economics and cultural affairs, among other subjects.

Brewer became a foreign service officer in 1996. Her first tour was in Nigeria, where she says she “fell in love with Africa.”

Brewer said she wants art of the Indiana Dunes on the wall in her new home in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, so she can show visitors what her hometown is like. She said she’ll also take along her Midwestern values of being rooted in reality, yet optimistic.

At her July 26 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Todd Young noted the extent of her service.

“You have valuable experience, Ms. Brewer, related to the Ebola crisis as well as Boko Haram and the al-Qaeda threats,” Young said.

Brewer served in Sierra Leone from 1999 to 2001, near the end of that country’s civil war. Brewer was part of the international mission involved in peace negotiations.

In most countries, State Department employees informally adopt orphanages by providing clothes, supplies and gifts for children. Brewer and her husband went beyond that service by adopting a child of their own. Their daughter is now 8 years old.