Shirley was raised in Westfield, New Jersey, and graduated from Westfield High School as a member of the National Honor Society. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Oberlin College and a Master of Divinity, specializing in systematic theology and culture, from Union Theological Seminary. Between her second and third years at Union, she studied the Indonesian language at the University of California at Berkeley and then taught for two years at Satya Wacana University in Central Java, where she directed a program on interethnic relations and development.
Shirley is Balkan Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League, a position that she has held since 1995, and Executive Director of the Civic League’s nonprofit, the Albanian American Foundation. The Civic League is the only registered lobby in Washington, DC, representing the concerns and interests of the Albanian people.
Shirley has written and lectured widely about U.S. foreign policy, especially about the Balkan conflict, and she made more than thirty trips to Southeast Europe, including fourteen to Kosova since the end of the war in 1999. Together with her husband, former Congressman and Civic League President Joseph DioGuardi, Cloyes lobbied members of the House and Senate to bring lasting peace and stability to the Southeast Europe. She has assisted House and Senate members responsible for U.S. foreign policy in preparing legislation on Balkan-related issues. In addition, she has testified before the Committee on International Relations in the U.S. House of Representatives on five occasions—in 1996, regarding contested elections in Albania, in 1998 in support of U.S. ground troop deployment to Kosova, in May 2003 on the future of Kosova, in October 2003 on the status of Albanians in Montenegro, and in May 2005 on the current and future status of Kosova. At the request of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she submitted testimony at the July 2004 hearing on “U.S. Foreign Policy toward Southeast Europe: Unfinished Business in the Balkans.”
In 1998, Cloyes developed the Civic League’s strategy to oppose the international attempt to criminalize the Kosova Liberation Army. During the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, she appeared, individually and with Joe DioGuardi, on more than fifty radio and television broadcasts. Cloyes is also the creator of “Besa: An International Albanian Oral History project,” which began in 2004 with the production of a videotape on the role that Albanians played in rescuing every Jew who made it to Albanian lands during the Nazi Holocaust.
Shirley is the former publisher of Lawrence Hill Books, specializing in domestic and international politics. In 1995, she published Yugoslavia’s Ethnic Nightmare, the first book on the causes and consequences of the Balkan conflict written from the perspective of Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Macedonian journalists at the forefront of opposing Slobodan Milosevic’s genocidal warfare in the former Yugoslavia. Some of the critically acclaimed titles that she published are The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy, Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur, Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Carribean by Jan Carew, and The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman by Ken Bugul, and M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America by H. Bruce Franklin. Before that, she was marketing director and editorial consultant at Orbis Books and an editor at The Seabury Press. While at Seabury, she coauthored a book, To Work and To Love: A Theology of Creation, with the late renowned German theologian Dorothee Soelle.