A Typical Pickering Fellowship Experience
The Fellows’ experience begins with their selection in the fall prior to the year in which they plan to start graduate studies. Pickering Fellows include both graduating seniors and individuals with post-undergraduate work experience. Following selections, Pickering Fellows are expected to sign agreements with the Department of State and begin their security clearance process. The Pickering Program assigns each Fellow a Foreign Service mentor who supports the Fellow throughout the program serving as a resource for Fellowship and the Foreign Service. Participation in the Pickering Program is conditional upon successful completion of pre-employment procedures specified by the Department of State, including background investigations for a security clearance, suitability determinations, and medical examinations.
All new Fellows arrive in Washington in early-June to participate in an orientation program that introduces them to the program and the Foreign Service career. The Pickering Program covers the cost of domestic travel and housing for the week-long orientation. In mid-August/September, the Fellows begin their graduate school work in approved programs throughout the United States. Fellows must obtain master’s degrees in international affairs or a related subject, such as economics, history, political science, public administration, business administration, or public policy.
They receive up to $37,500 annually in assistance for tuition, room, board, books and other related expenses. Pickering Fellows have studied at a variety of universities including Johns Hopkins University, University of California-Berkeley, Georgetown University, University of Denver, Harvard University, Texas A&M University, Tufts University, Syracuse University, American University, and many others. A number of universities provide supplemental financial assistance to Pickering Fellows. Other universities provide financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. While in the program, Fellows must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale.
In the summer between their first and second years of graduate school, Fellows begin domestic internships working at the Department of State in Washington, DC for ten weeks. This internship provides them with a deeper understanding of how the State Department operates. In addition, the Fellows take part in various professional development sessions at Howard University to hone the skills needed for success in graduate school and the Foreign Service. They meet with State Department officials at many levels, as well as with representatives from other executive branch agencies, non-governmental organizations, and foreign diplomats. They participate in activities to strengthen skills such as writing and oral communication needed for their Foreign Service careers. The Pickering Program covers the costs of domestic travel and housing and provides a stipend to cover fellows’ costs for the domestic internship.
In the summer after completing their graduate degree, Pickering Fellows participate in a 10-week overseas internship at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Each internship experience is different, with Fellows working on a variety of issues and projects in different sections of the Embassies. In the past few years, Pickering Fellows have served in Nairobi, London, Tegucigalpa, Dakar, Singapore, Tokyo, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Seoul, Hanoi, Singapore, Tiblisi, Moscow, Vienna, Guatemala City, Quito, Santo Domingo, Lima, La Paz, Cairo, Tunis, Rabat, Muscat, and Doha. Fellows report that the internship has a dramatic impact on them, providing them with hands-on knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, conditions in specific countries, and the work and lifestyle of the Foreign Service. It sharpens their professional focus and enhances their language and communication skills. The Pickering Program provides a stipend, airline travel, and emergency medical insurance for this internship and reimburses for certain internship-related expenses such as visas. Housing is provided by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the Fellow will be interning.
Upon successful completion of the Pickering Program and State Department entry requirements, Fellows receive conditional appointment to the Foreign Service, with a required five year of service in accordance with applicable law and State Department policy. Upon being tenured, Fellows receive a career appointment to the Foreign Service.
The Pickering Fellowship, reflecting a collaborative effort among the State Department, Howard University, and universities nationwide, helps ensure a Foreign Service that represents the diversity of America and enriches the experience for everyone.