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2021 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program Snapshots

On December 17, the 2021 Pickering Fellowship selection panel chose 45 2021 Pickering Fellows.  The selection panel was extremely impressed by the new fellows’ experiences, leadership, and commitment to a Foreign Service career. The program received 1,301 applications, and the selection process was highly competitive. 

David Aguilar III is a first-generation student from North County San Diego and a recent graduate of the University of California, San Diego. David majored in political science and sociology, concentrating in international relations and law and society. He was a member of the Sociology Honors Program, participated in the Research Apprenticeship Program and the Rangel Summer Enrichment Program, and a became member of the Alpha Kappa Delta International Sociology Honor Society. He is proficient in Spanish and Italian.

Robert Allen Jr. grew up in Fort Valley, Georgia, and attended LaGrange College where he majored in political science. After graduating, Robert joined the Peace Corps, where he served as an English Education Volunteer in Komrat, Moldova. Robert is pursuing a graduate program that allows him the flexibility to focus on several different concentrations of international affairs, preparing him to enter the Foreign Service. His languages include Spanish, Russian, and Romanian.

Kendra Alvizures, a native of small-town Mitchell, South Dakota, graduated magna cum laude from South Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in Spanish, global studies, and political science. As a research assistant, she studied the political impact of the type and level of education of national politicians in the Western hemisphere. Kendra will pursue further studies on the theory and efficacy of public diplomacy in preparation for her career as a Foreign Service Officer. She is proficient in Spanish.

Bukola Anifowoshe is a Nigerian-American immigrant raised in the Washington D.C. metro area. She graduated from Cornell University where she studied international development sociology and inequality studies. She has worked domestically and internationally with underserved primary schools in the United States and Ghana, refugee resettlement organizations in Egypt, and human rights advocates in India. After graduating from Cornell, she worked at Oxfam America on the Aid and Development Finance team. Her languages include French and Arabic.

Soham Basu is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated from Dartmouth College in 2020. He interned with the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and spent a year in India on the Boren Scholarship studying Hindi and Urdu and serving as a research assistant at the Center for Social and Economic Progress in New Delhi. He is proficient in Urdu, Hindi, Bangla, and French.

Ngenyi Beja grew up in Forest Lake, Minnesota and obtained her bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Northeastern University. As an undergraduate, she participated in a study abroad program to Israel centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and volunteered for a semester in Cambodia. Ngenyi was also the recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Belgium. She is proficient in French.

Yabsera Bekele was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina. She graduated from Wake Forest University where she studied politics and international affairs with double minors in Middle East and South Asia studies and religious studies. Yabsera has held numerous leadership positions during her time as an undergraduate, including serving as a Global Ambassador, Vice President, and Community Service Chair of the African and Caribbean Student Association. She is proficient in Amharic, Spanish, and Arabic.

Khalil Bentley is from Chicago, Illinois and earned his bachelor’s degree in international studies from Denison University. Khalil has volunteered and worked for various organizations such as Trinity United Church of Christ’s Youth Church and Food Share ministries, West Virginia State University’s English as a Second Language program, and Denison University’s Paving-The-Way freshman pre-orientation program. Khalil has extensive cross-cultural experiences having studied and traveled abroad to Germany, England, and Cuba. Khalil’s languages include Mandarin, Spanish, and German.

Brianne Berry, a Jersey Shore native, graduated from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in English and Latin American Studies in 2017. She studied abroad in Valparaiso, Chile and conducted research on social capital and youth development. After graduating, Brianne was a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain, teaching Model UN to Spanish teenagers. Brianne currently works as an Immigration Services Officer at U.S. Citizenship and Services. Her languages include Spanish and Portuguese.

Mary Bohn grew up in Tennessee and graduated from Emory University where she studied East Asian languages and cultures and global development. She is passionate about intercultural education and empowering at-risk communities and has had extensive experience in the education sector working as an educator, researcher, and program director at multiple non-profit organizations. She is a proud alumna of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship programs. Her languages include Korean, Mandarin, and French.

May Braverman was born in China, adopted to the United States, and raised in New York City. A graduate of Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies, May recently spent two years abroad as a Critical Language Scholar in Taiwan and a Princeton-in-Asia Fellow in rural Xizhou, Yunnan, China. During her fellowship, May worked for the Linden Centre, a boutique hotel and cultural center, in the fields of education, marketing, and sustainable tourism. Her languages include Chinese and French.

Andrea Calderón is originally from Houston, Texas and obtained her degree in environmental science from St. Edward’s University. As an undergraduate, she served as a Congressional Intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Andrea’s other experiences include studying abroad in Italy, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Australia, presenting at the International Conference on Poverty and Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka, and attending the International Conference on Negative Carbon Dioxide Emissions in Sweden. She is proficient in Spanish and Italian.

Bella-Graciela Chavez is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley where she double-majored in Latin American languages and cultures and comparative literature. During her undergraduate career, Bella-Graciela studied abroad in Brazil, Italy, Portugal, and Spain; and, also volunteered in Medellin, Colombia where she completed her education minor practicum. She is also a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Her languages include Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.

Lilybeth Chavez was born and raised in Salinas, California. She will graduate from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Italian studies and political science with a concentration in comparative politics. She has studied abroad in Trieste, Italy and was also an asylum intern for the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. Her languages include Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. 

Maya Cotton, originally from San Luis Obispo, California, received her B.A. in religious studies from DePauw University. During her undergraduate career, she studied abroad in France and Morocco, and received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study in Thailand. Following graduation, she taught at the National School of Business and Management in Agadir, Morocco as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. Her languages include French, Spanish, and Darija.

Ariel Daniels is a native of Milledgeville, Georgia, and graduated summa cum laude from Mercer University with a double-major in political science and international affairs and a minor in French. Ariel received the Gilman Scholarship to study Arabic in Morocco in 2018. As a Pickering Fellow, Ariel hopes to pursue a joint MPA/MA in international relations. She is proficient in French and Arabic.

Chanel Diaz grew up on the Central Coast of California and is a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. She graduated summa cum laude from Pepperdine University and earned her bachelor’s degree in international studies, with an emphasis in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) affairs. Chanel completed a Critical Language Scholarship for Arabic in Morocco and was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Morocco. Chanel is proficient in Spanish, Darija, and Modern Standard Arabic.

Said El Bilani completed his bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University, concentrating in international affairs. He is the Chief Founder of The Bilani Foundation; a private non-profit conglomerate launched to globally promote peace, reduce poverty, eliminate disease, advocate for equity in all levels of education, and expand educational opportunities for all. He also has international experience and has consulted, negotiated, and advised local businesses, organizations, and international institutions. Said is proficient in Arabic, Haitian Creole, Spanish, and Patois.

Lesley Ells is originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands but grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her bachelor’s degree in global studies from Lesley University. During her undergraduate career, Lesley studied abroad in Hong Kong and Mexico and later participated in the USINDO Summer Studies Fellowship in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Currently, she serves as Assistant Director of Admissions at Lesley University and as a Committee Member for the Authentic Caribbean Foundation. Her languages include Spanish and Indonesian.

Joshua Fife hails from Atlanta, Georgia, where he studied journalism and minored in public relations at Georgia State University. While in college, Joshua served as editor for Georgia State’s university newspaper, The Signal, where he led the development of their digital media department. Following graduation, Joshua served as an AmeriCorps member in Philadelphia and was later awarded a Fulbright ETA grant to teach English in Salvador, Brazil. He is proficient in Portuguese and Spanish.

Annette Finnegan is originally from Cape Coral, Florida. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Columbia University in 2017. She has interned at the William J. Clinton Foundation, lived in France as an Au Pair, has been a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Spain, and most recently is completing her Master of Education Policy and Management at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She is proficient in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Daphne Flores, originally from New Jersey, is a senior at Rice University, majoring in political science, linguistics, and German studies. An alum of SEEDS – Access Changes Everything, she returned to the organization as an advisor to the college scholars program to support high-achieving, low-income students in their journey to higher education. Daphne has also interned in the Press and Communications Office of the French Embassy in the United States and studied abroad in France and Germany. Daphne is proficient in Spanish, French, and German. 

Nina Forest is originally from Pocatello, Idaho. She graduated from University of California, Davis in June 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. Nina studied abroad in France with a scholarship from the Embassy of France Cultural Services. She also served as a representative for the Miss America Organization and developed a passion for service and community development. Nina has worked for two U.S. Congressmen and currently works at New York PR firm, BerlinRosen. She is proficient in Mandarin.

Breea Gould is a first-generation college graduate from New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from Louisiana State University’s Ogden Honors College in 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in international studies and history and minors in German and political science. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad as a Gilman Scholar at Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, and completed internships with the U.S. Embassy Berlin and the U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi. After graduating, she served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Thuringia, Germany. She is proficient in German. 

Chris Hernández-Turcios is a Guatemalan-American who seeks to explore issues related to violence and human displacement. He is a first-generation college student who received his bachelor’s degree in government and legal studies from Bowdoin College where he was actively involved in LGBTQ activism, Residential Life, and Peer Health.  He has spent the past few years working as a political analyst for the U.S. Government covering Latin American affairs. He is proficient in Spanish, Italian, and French.

Ayele Kuevidjen is originally from Togo. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a B.A. in global studies. Ayele completed the Virtual Federal Student Service Internship with the U.S. Embassy in Niger. In that role, she mentored women entrepreneurs and advised Nigeriens high school students interested in studying abroad in the United States. She also studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic.  Her languages include French and Ewe.

John Leake is from Memphis, Tennessee, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in Russian and Slavic studies from New York University. After graduating, he served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Kazan, Russia. In graduate school, John hopes to explore the intersection of public diplomacy and the post-Soviet space. He is proficient in Russian.

Derrick McAllister, a native of Chicago, Illinois, graduated from Skidmore College in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and German with a minor in French. He spent three semesters abroad during his undergraduate career in London, U.K., Paris, France, and Freiburg, Germany. His languages include German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

Natalie Medlock is from Wilmington, Delaware. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of Delaware, she spent six months in Chile with the English Opens Doors Program. Natalie served in the Peace Corps Dominican Republic for two years, then worked for the University of Delaware’s Institute for Global Studies before pursuing a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Brazil. She is proficient in Spanish and Portuguese.

Renelle Mensah, a Minneapolis, Minnesota native, is a senior at Cornell University, where she is majoring in government and a double minor in Arabic and French. She served was a Critical Language Scholar in Oman, a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, and served on the Board of Directors Co-President at Youthprise. Renelle has served as a volunteer English teaching assistant in Liberia and an Arabic teaching assistant with the Cornell Prison Education Program. She is proficient in Arabic, French, and Spanish.

Piyusha Mittal was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, where she focused on religion in society and advocated for interfaith cooperation. Piyusha taught English in Andorra on a Fulbright grant, learned Urdu in India as a Critical Language Scholar, studied global trends at Pew Research Center, and interned on Capitol Hill. Her languages include Spanish, French, Catalan, Hindu, and Urdu.

Jessica Moore, originally from New York City, obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science and Latin American studies from Vanderbilt University. During her undergraduate career, she interned at the City Council of Medellin in Colombia and studied abroad in Santiago, Chile. Following graduation, Jessica taught English at a university in Quito, Ecuador for nearly a year. She is proficient in Spanish and Portuguese.

Ashley Morefield, originally from Columbia, Maryland, graduated from Dickinson College with degrees in international studies and French and Francophone studies. She spent her junior year studying abroad in Toulouse, France where she studied at Institut d’Études Politiques de Toulouse. Following graduation, she spent a year in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant teaching English and American culture at Lycée Scientifique de Yamoussoukro. She is proficient in French.

Oliver Osuna Hernandez was born and raised in San Diego, California and attended the University of California, Berkeley where he obtained a bachelor’s in history focused on Modern Latin America. Through different NGOs, Oliver has worked with Latin American asylum seekers in the United States and North Korean refugees within South Korea. Upon graduating, Oliver worked abroad in Seoul, South Korea in the private education sector where he helped expand educational accessibility for marginalized communities. He is proficient in Spanish and French.

Isabella Paternostro, a native from Rockville, Maryland, obtained her bachelor’s degree in China and Asia-Pacific studies with a minor in international relations from Cornell University. Isabella has interned at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and the Baturu Centre. She is proficient in Mandarin, Russian, and American Sign Language.

Ameena Razzaque is from San Antonio, Texas and a senior at Dartmouth College. She is majoring in Women’s Health in the MENASA (Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian) region and Middle Eastern studies. Ameena studied abroad in Morocco and completed primary source archival research in Ireland and the United Kingdom as a Stamps Scholar. She has also completed several internships in the non-profit sector. Her languages include Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Modern Standard Arabic, and Darija.

Christopher Rich grew up in Franklin, Massachusetts and majored in government with a double-minor in Arabic and Asian studies at St. Lawrence University. Before working with the Peace Corps in Morocco, he interned for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Ankara, Turkey and has studied as a student in Amman, Jordan, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Christopher has also worked with the Catholic Charities refugee resettlement program in Washington, D.C. His languages include Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic.

Claudia Rivera Garcia is from Mexico and completed her bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University as a first-generation student in global studies, with a minor in Mandarin Chinese and a TESOL certificate. She has worked continuously with the Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program, helping more than 100 underrepresented high-school students prepare for collegiate STEM careers. Additionally, Claudia has worked with EMILY’s List and participated in the McCain Institute’s Policy Design Studio. Her languages include Mandarin and Spanish.

Jovany Romero is originally from South Central Los Angeles and completed his undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego with a double major in political science and sociology with a focus on international relations. During his undergraduate studies, Jovany served as a Research Fellow for the U.S. Immigration Policy Center, where he researched U.S. policy effects amongst immigrants and refugee/asylum seekers. He was also a research apprentice for the sociology department at UCSD. He is fluent in Spanish.

Abdulkadir Sharif graduated from Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a major in international relations and political science. He was a Boren Scholar in Tanzania, a Gilman Scholar in South Africa and Namibia, and participated in the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship at Princeton University. He has interned with the Namibia Institute for Democracy as a research assistant and interned at the Minnesota State Capitol as a legislative assistant. Abdulkadir is proficient in Somali and Swahili.

Betty Thai, born and raised in Los Angeles, is a senior double majoring in political science and East Asian languages and cultures as well as pursuing master studies in legal studies at the University of Southern California. Her journey towards a Foreign Service career began with personal experiences of translating for her parents since she was a child, which eventually led her to intern at the Neighborhood Legal Services helping non-native speakers navigate the criminal expungement process. She is proficient in Mandarin.

Cameron Vega is a third-generation Arizonan completing his undergraduate education in classics and political science at Arizona State University. He has previously interned in the Office of UN Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Cameron is an undergraduate fellow at the Melikian Center and New America’s Center on the Future of War and a former fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and Barrett, the Honors College. His languages include Spanish and Serbo-Croatian.

Brittney Vevaina was born and raised in San Diego. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and she studied abroad at the University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. She has more than seven years of combined experience improving the effectiveness of federal agencies at Booz Allen Hamilton and the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. She is proficient in Spanish.

Abigail Wei completed her bachelor’s degree at Vanderbilt University and grew up in Maryland. As an undergraduate, she spent a summer living among and volunteering in Delhi’s Afghan refugee community. She moved to Delhi after college to work at a data-tech startup and is currently on the Talent team at Sidewalk Labs. Her languages include Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, and Spanish.

Mona Zahir is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University where she served as the 2016 to 2017 Student Body President and as an HBCU White House All-Star Ambassador. She has seven years of international experience having traveled to eleven countries. As a former teacher, Mona loves to encourage young students the value of self-discovery and global awareness through traveling. She is proficient in Arabic, Amharic, and French.

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2020 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program Fellow Snapshots

On November 7, the 2020 Pickering Fellowship selection panel chose 30 2020 Pickering Fellows. All accepted the fellowship offer. The selection panel was extremely impressed by the new fellows’ experiences, leadership, and commitment to a Foreign Service career. The program received 844 applications, and the selection process was highly competitive. 

Melanie Baca-Ortiz is from Alexandria, Virginia, and obtained her bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French from Lake Forest College. Melanie has held internships at the Consulate of Honduras, the American Bar Association, and the Association of American Residents Overseas. Melanie currently works at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. She is proficient in Spanish and French.

Erick Boone, originally from Kansas City, Missouri, graduated from Howard University where he studied legal communications and French. Erick previously worked with the Mandela Young African Leaders Program and later as an English instructor through the Teaching Assistant Program in France program. He currently serves as an intern for the Department of State and as a policy fellow for the U.S. Helsinki Commission, where works on human rights issues. His languages include Spanish and French.

Akaisha Cook is a recent graduate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the Honors College. Akaisha has studied abroad in Chengdu, China and is a 2019 Rangel Summer Scholar. She has also served as a legislative policy intern in the Office of the Governor of the State of Nevada and was actively engaged in student-based organizations at UNLV. She is proficient in Mandarin.

Lauren Dacus is originally from the Baltimore, Maryland area and graduated from Old Dominion University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and history. She studied abroad in Meknes, Morocco, where she volunteered at a women’s development NGO. Lauren currently serves as a Peace Corps School and Community Resource Volunteer in South Africa, where she promotes English literacy and community engagement in healthy lifestyle choices as an educator and project facilitator. Her languages include Arabic, Italian, and Zulu.

Hadja Diallo was born in Guinea and grew up in Senegal. Currently, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human development and a minor in economics at Binghamton University College of Community and Public Affairs. As a scholar of the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women SUNY Global Affairs Program, Hadja interned with the International Rescue Committee in New York City. She is currently volunteering with Citizen Action. Her languages include French, Fulani, and Wolof.

Joey Fernandez, originally from New York City, is currently a senior at Georgetown University, where he studies international politics with a concentration in international security. Joey was a 2017 Rangel International Affairs undergraduate scholar and has interned at the Bureau of Conflict Stabilization and Operation at the Department of State in Washington, DC and at the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau, Moldova. He is proficient in Spanish.

Alexandra Fognani, a Washington, DC native, received her B.A. from Tufts University in international relations and peace and justice studies. During her undergraduate career, Alexandra studied abroad in Madrid, Spain where she also completed an internship with the Spanish Commission of Refugee Assistance. She also interned with the State Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Center of Arabic Culture, and Accenture. She currently works at Accenture. Her current languages are Spanish and Arabic.

Autumn Herndon is a native of small-town Clifton Park, N.Y. She majors in international studies with a concentration in Latin America and the Caribbean at Manhattan College. Herndon has studied Spanish and Marine Biology in Panama, volunteering at an indigenous primary school to teach English. She also studied sociology in Colombia and lived with a homestay family in Paris to learn French. She is proficient in Spanish, French, Russian.

Nakeisha Jones is a native of Boston, Massachusetts. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Tufts University. Her commitment to public service has led her to work and volunteer in the public and humanitarian sectors within the U.S. and abroad, including Brazil, Jordan, and Iraq. She is a Fulbright Scholar and speaks Arabic and Portuguese.

JoAnn Jung immigrated to the United States from South Korea and currently lives in River Edge, New Jersey. As an undergraduate at Wellesley College, she majored in International Relations and Education Studies. She has prior experience working at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Africa Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education, overseeing programs and policies that serve as bridges between the U.S. government and countries all over the world. She has experience teaching abroad in Thailand and South Korea, and her languages include Korean, Spanish, and Chinese.

Oumama Kabli is a native of Toronto, Canada, where she lived until she moved to Northern Virginia in 2010. She graduated from George Mason University in December 2017 with a B.A. in global affairs, with a double concentration in the Middle East and North Africa and global governance. In 2018, Oumama completed her service with the Virginia Army National Guard as a Sergeant. She was also the recipient of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Morocco, where she served at a stand-alone instructor at a public university. Her languages include Darija, French, and Modern Standard Arabic.

Sydney Kamen is a senior at Dartmouth College studying human geography and global health. Sydney is a Truman Scholar, Boren Scholar, and the founder of an internationally acclaimed non-profit. She has spent semesters abroad in India, Jordan, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kosovo. Her languages include French, Swahili, Hindi, and Arabic.

Jin Kim, born in Korea and raised outside of Chicago, is a political science student at the University of Rochester. As part of his fifth-year scholarship in urban Latin American studies, he recently studied and volunteered in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has spent time interning for the Korean American Resource and Cultural in Chicago, with Senator Durbin’s office in Washington D.C., and the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He is proficient in Korean and Spanish. 

Heberto Limas-Villers previously worked with Goldman Sachs as an investment banking analyst until January 2019. Before then, he graduated cum laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied economics. In college, Heberto was affiliated with the Leeds Consulting Group, the Presidents Leadership Class, and the A.E.I. Student Network. His languages include Spanish and French.

Anna Lipscomb grew up in San Jose, CA. She recently graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California, where she studied international relations and East Asian languages and cultures. During her undergraduate studies, she was an undergraduate research fellow at the Korean Studies Institute, the editor-in-chief of the Southern California International Review, and the managing editor at US-China Today. Her languages include Mandarin and Spanish.

Nathaniel Maekawa graduated from the University of Michigan with his bachelor’s degree in international studies with concentrations in medical anthropology and sustainability. Nathaniel has worked as an aquaculture and sustainable livelihood intern for the N.G.O., ReefDoctor in Madagascar, and now serves as a health education volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Mongolia. He is proficient in French and Mongolian.

Kadidiatou Magassa was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. She graduated from Southwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science. Less than a year after graduation, she began her service with the Peace Corps, where she served as a Preventive Health Volunteer in Senegal, West Africa. She is proficient in French, Malanke, and Bambara.

Tracy Magooba, born in Uganda, Kampala, currently lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota; where she is completing her undergraduate degree in communication at The College of Saint Benedict and St John’s University. Currently, she works as a coordinator with the College of Saint Benedict’s Center for Global Education. Her languages include Lusoga and French.

Jasmine McClam will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and Spanish from Spelman College in 2020. Originally from Houston, Jasmine has had opportunities to travel across Latin America through her undergraduate institution and as a participant in the Department of State’s American Youth Leadership Program. During the summer of 2019, Jasmine interned with the Department of State within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and was selected as a Council of American Ambassadors Fellow. She is proficient in Spanish.

Christian Navarro-King is a senior, international studies major at Morehouse College. In the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, Christian has worked for A.M.B. Sports & Entertainment Group as an Event Day Host, Wells Fargo as a Commercial Banking Intern, and Morehouse Student Services Department as an Intern for the Dean of the College. In his junior year, Christian had the opportunity to study abroad in Dubai, U.A.E., as a William Jefferson Clinton Scholar. His languages include Spanish.

Elizabeth Pantaleon served as the first Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the West Bank/Palestinian Territories. She earned a B.A. in international studies, a B.S. in public relations, and minor in Arabic Languages and Literature from the University of Florida. Elizabeth speaks Arabic and Spanish.

Uri-Biia Si-Asar was born and raised in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. She graduated Cum Laude from the illustrious Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in international relations. In the past, she has interned at the office of Congressman Keith Ellison, Federal Reserve Bank, and worked as a program instructor with the Close Up Foundation. Currently, she is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served as a secondary education English teacher in Benin, West Africa. She is proficient in French.

Shaheed Stevenson is from the small town of Roseboro, North Carolina. He is completing his final semester of undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Before becoming a student at UNCW, he served in the U.S. Army for six years as a member of N.C. National Guard. He took part in two NATO missions in Germany and Kosovo as a communications and intelligence specialist. He is proficient in French.

Lauren Truong, the daughter of Vietnam War refugees, was born and raised in Metro Detroit, Michigan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor with a B.A. in Asian studies. As an undergraduate, she received the Heiwa Nakajima Foundation Scholarship and studied at the University of Tokyo. After graduating, she served two years with the Peace Corps in Armenia. Lauren speaks Japanese and Eastern Armenian and is currently studying Egyptian Arabic.

Steve Dylan Vest is a first-generation college student from Princeton, West Virginia. He will graduate in May 2020 with a B.A. in French and a B.A. in political science with a concentration in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and National Security from West Virginia University. He is proficient in French.

Shirin Vetry graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in political science and minors in international development and French. Shirin’s experiences include piloting a social enterprise in France with Middle Eastern refugees, implementing an anti-radicalization project at the International Organization for Migration in Uganda, and creating a non-profit for sustainable fashion designers in Colombia during her Fulbright grant. Her languages include Spanish, French, Persian, and Luganda.

Collin Walsh was born, raised, and educated in New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated from Southern Connecticut State University as a political science undergraduate. Shortly after graduating, he enrolled in the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he studied abroad in India. The next phase of his journey in public service involved him becoming a Police Officer and teaching law at the Connecticut Police Academy and is currently a Foreign Affairs Officer with U.S. Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He is proficient in Bengali.

Ojani-Pierre Ruphin Walthrust is from Queens, New York. He received his bachelor’s degree at George Washington University in international affairs in December 2019. In his junior year, he traveled to the Dominican Republic and, for his final semester, he studied abroad in Cuzco, Peru. His languages include Haitian Creole and Spanish.

Donald Williams Jr., a Columbus, Georgia native, is a senior international business and economics major at Mercer University. He has previous international experience in Japan and Spain as a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar, Fund for Education Abroad Scholar, and a Kakehashi Fellowship Recipient. He is proficient in Spanish.

Johnny Zapata is a native of Houston, Texas. He graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. in history and Spanish and a B.A. in political science During his undergraduate career, he studied abroad in Baku, Azerbaijan, and interned at the Houston History Magazine and the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston. He is currently an English Teaching Assistant in Turkey. His languages include Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Azerbaijani Turkish.

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2019 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program Fellow Snapshots

On November 16, the 2019 Pickering Fellowship selection panel chose 30 2019 Pickering Fellows. All accepted the fellowship offer. The selection panel was extremely impressed by the new fellows’ experiences, leadership, and commitment to a Foreign Service career. The program received 822 applications, and the selection process was highly competitive. 

Jawaad Ali graduated summa cum laude from George Mason University with his bachelor’s degree in global affairs concentrating on the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia in 2014. He served as a Consular Applications Training Instructor for the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute and as a Program Support Specialist within the Office of Criminal Justice Assistance and Partnership (CAP). Currently, he is provides training to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff. His languages include Dari, Pashto, and Urdu.

Erin Bourque will graduate from Northeastern University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and political science with minors in Russian language and history. As a recipient of the David L. Boren Scholarship and the Department of State’s Critical Language and National Security Language Initiative for Youth Scholarships, she has lived and studied in Kazakhstan and Russia. In graduate school, Erin hopes to further explore the intersection of security/resilience studies and post-Soviet space. She is proficient in Russian.

Adriana Bowman will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Economics with a minor in Chinese from the University of South Carolina in 2019. She has studied in Chengdu, China through the Gilman Scholarship and in Shanghai, China where she studied economics, political science, and Chinese, and in Xi’an, China through the CLS Program. Currently, Adriana is studying Hindi, economics, and political science in India on the Boren Scholarship for nine months. Her languages include Chinese and Hindi.

Ashley Brooks is a self-proclaimed Washingtonian, though she has lived all over the world including Nigeria, Morocco, Jordan, Honduras, and Peru. She will graduate from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, and minors in Arabic and Portuguese. Ashley has interned in the House of Representatives and been awarded a CLS Program and Boren Scholarship to study Arabic. She currently works as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Miami Department of Political Science. Her languages include Arabic, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Trisha Camara is a Milwaukee native and a senior studying political science and government at Loyola University Chicago. As a student, she has had the opportunity to intern for the Anti-Defamation League, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, Local 881 United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and as an education policy research intern for a school network in Chicago. Trisha is currently an intern for the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C.Her languages include French, Spanish, and German.

Jordana “Monet” Clarke was born in Jamaica and raised in Windsor, Connecticut. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Harvard College in 2017 where she majored in East Asian Studies. Most recently, Monet spent a year in Nanjing studying Sino-American relations at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. Jordana hopes to enroll in Georgetown’s MASIA program. In addition to being fluent in Mandarin Chinese, her languages also include Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Alina Clough graduated in 2018 from Westminster College with a bachelor’s degree in international politics. During her undergraduate studies, she served as a Congress-Bundestag Fellow, where she volunteered with refugees and researched economics at a think tank in Berlin, strengthening her Germanic language skills.

Bryan Cronan, Jr. is originally from Griffin, Georgia and graduated with a B.A. in international studies and journalism from Emory University. After graduating, he received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Northern Malaysia. Bryan is now working in Washington D.C. at The McManus Group, a health care policy firm and has previously worked as a reporter at several media outlets, including The Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Atlanta Magazine. His languages include French, Wolof, and Malay.

Brandy Darling is a native of Chicago, Illinois. She is a current senior and double major in economics and East Asian studies with a minor in applied statistics at Connecticut College. She has interned at the African Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, China and also studied at the Harbin Institute of Technology where she researched Sino-African Relations. Brandy aspires to continue working on her research in graduate school at the Monterey Institute where she plans to study International Trade and Economic Diplomacy. 

J. Ashley Fox is a West Virginia native and obtained bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies, with minors in English and philosophy from West Virginia University in 2013. She previously served as press assistant to Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), communications and digital content coordinator at the Center for International Private Enterprise, and digital media coordinator at the Brookings Institution. Ashley plans to attend a public policy program, with an emphasis on technology policy. Her languages include Spanish and Dutch.

Catherine Haseman is currently studying Arabic and Middle East Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and will graduate in 2019. On campus, she served on the Baylor Migration Project Team, developing local projects to assist unaccompanied minors from Central America. Additionally, Catherine has volunteered in refugee communities in Greece, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories. In graduate school, Catherine hopes to study public policy with a focus on global affairs. She is proficient in Arabic.

Zhanna Imel, born in Kazakhstan, graduated Magna Cum Laude with her bachelor’s in international business from Fort Lewis College in Colorado in 2018. As an undergraduate, Zhanna has served in various capacities such as Orientation Leader, Junior Admission Counselor, and Vice-President of the International Club. She also developed and participated in her own study abroad program in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She is proficient in Russian.

Christian Jacobson will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a Japanese Studies Minor from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in December 2018. Christian has served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard since 2013. Christian has also participated in an exchange in Tokyo, a language internship program in Nagasaki, and several other volunteer teaching roles in Japan. Christian participated in an internship for the Viessmann Group’s Digital Innovation Management team in Germany. His languages include Japanese and Tagalog.

Quimberly Jasso is from Houston, Texas and studied international relations and global studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She has participated in both the CLS Program to study mandarin in Dalian, China, and the U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program to intern at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through the U.S. Department of State. Her languages include Mandarin and Spanish.

Matthew Jernstedt is a proud senior at Arizona State University, where he will obtain a degree in Political Science. He was the recipient of the prestigious Gilman fellowship in 2016 and studied European integration in the Czech Republic. In 2018, Matthew interned on Capitol Hill while studying under two ambassadors in the McCain Institute Policy Design Studio. He is proficient in Mandarin Chinese.

Bethany Johnson, born and raised in San Diego, CA, moved to Northern California to attend the California State University Maritime Academy. She will obtain her bachelor’s degree in global studies and maritime affairs with minors in law and marine science in 2019. Bethany has held internship positions at the Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Her languages include Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.

Spencer King is from Independence, Oregon but grew up for most of his life in Kijabe, Kenya. In 2019, he will graduate from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania with his bachelor’s degree in international affairs and economics and a minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and Peace and Justice Studies. He has spent extensive time abroad including his time in Kenya, an internship in Morocco, study abroad in Jordan, and language study in Oman with both the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center’s SALAM program and CLS Program. Spence is proficient in Arabic.

Samantha Ku received her bachelor’s degree in political science with honors from the University of California, Irvine in 2018 where she had an emphasis in international relations and a minor in conflict resolution. Samantha was a Global Terrorism Database research intern at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism and also served as the nuclear non-proliferation intern at the United Nations House Scotland. Currently, Samantha interns in APCO Worldwide’s Global Solutions practice. Her languages include Mandarin Chinese and French.

Javan Latson is a proud Commodore, currently attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where he is studying human and organizational development with a concentration in international leadership and development and minoring in political science. During his time at Vanderbilt, Javan was a research fellow for the Latin American Public Opinion Project, helped promote literacy in Metro Nashville, and served as a client advocate at the Tennessee Justice Center. His languages include Spanish, French, and Darija.

Aleia Maculam received her Bachelor’s in Near Eastern Studies and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. During her undergraduate career, she undertook intensive Arabic study in the region, spending a semester in Cairo, Egypt, and a year in Rabat, Morocco as a Boren Scholar. After graduating, Aleia returned to Morocco to teach English at the American Language Center in Tangier. She currently works with the U.S. Department of Defense, where she supports initiatives that promote study abroad and critical language and culture acquisition. Her languages include Moroccan Arabic, Arabic, and Spanish.

Maria Moscoso, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, was raised in Miami, Florida. She graduated cum laude from Smith College in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in Global South development studies. Her recent experiences include fellowships with the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria, the Atlantic Expedition in Germany, and the KAKEHASHI Bridge Project in Japan, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Maria is currently a Program Specialist for Stabilization and Development with Creative Associates International. Her languages include Spanish, Portuguese, and German.

Bridget Nicholas from Covington, Kentucky and graduated from the University of Kentucky with degrees in Chinese studies and international studies with a minor in French studies. Currently, she is a 2018-2019 Princeton in Asia Fellow serving in a new post with the Dunhuang Research Academy in China. During her undergraduate career, Bridget participated in the CLS Program in Changchun, China, and studied at the Inter-University Program for Chinese Studies and the Mandarin Training Center. Her languages include Mandarin Chinese, French, and Russian.

Ruth Ann Philip makes her official residence in Frisco, Texas, but she has grown up in India, the U.A.E., South Korea, and California. She will receive her bachelor’s degree in international relations and a minor in French from Oral Roberts University. Ruth Ann has worked as a marketing intern with a nonprofit law firm focusing on religious freedom, tutored middle and high school aged Burmese and Syrian refugees, and volunteered for Senator Van Taylor. Currently, she is a Diplomatic intern with the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation. Her languages include Malayalam, French, and Spanish.

Sofia Ramirez graduated summa cum laude in 2017 from the University of San Diego with a degree in international relations and Asian studies. Sofia studied Chinese in Taiwan through the CLS Program and had the opportunity to intern for Congressman Scott Peters. After graduating, she worked as a Research Associate for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. Sofia speaks Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese, and plans to study international trade and development in graduate school.

Melissa Rubalcava is from Tucson, Arizona and graduated from the University of Arizona as a first-generation student with a B.A. in political science with an emphasis in international relations, and a minor in Middle Eastern and Northern Africana Studies. She has interned for several organizations including the Police Reform Organizing Project. Melissa is passionate about the advocacy of human and labor rights throughout Latin America. She is proficient in Spanish.

Charles Santiago was raised in central Florida and southern North Carolina. In 2016, he completed a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and a minor in Russian Language at George Washington University. During his undergrad career, Charles participated in internships with the Community of Democracies for the Leaders Engaged in New Democracies initiative, the AIESEC in Kazakhstan, and the e-Governance Academy in Estonia. After his undergraduate studies, Charles served two years with the Peace Corps in Ukraine. His languages include Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish.

Marshall Sherrell attended the University of Washington-Seattle Campus where he graduated bachelor’s degrees in Japanese and Creative Writing in 2018. While a student, he participated in the CLS Program to Japan in 2017 and studied at Keio University. While in Japan, Marshall wrote English-language articles for two Japanese publications: Japan Spotlight, of the Japan Economic Foundation, and Samurai Meetups, a nonprofit organization focused on facilitating cultural exchanges between Japanese people and visitors from abroad. He is proficient in Japanese.

Oluwasimidele Shonibare, known by many as Lola, grew up in Columbus, Atlanta, and Lagos. She graduated from Rutgers University, New Brunswick in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in public health and a certificate in health disparities. Previously, she worked as an intern at the Center for Humanitarian Emergencies and Hubert Department of Global Health, an intern with the Middlesex County Office of Health Services, and fundraising and Event Planning Officer for the G.O.Y.A. Project. After graduation, Lola served as an AmeriCorps member in California. Her languages include Yoruba and French.

Lucia Solorzano is from Amherst, Massachusetts and graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University in 2017 with a degree in political economics and a minor in Spanish and Latin American Cultures. Currently, she is the Public Partnerships Officer for Asia and Latin America at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Lucia has also interned at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, and Girls Incorporated. Her languages include Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian.

Samantha Tafoya will complete her undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas in 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in political science, journalism, African and African-American studies, and a minor in anthropology. Samantha has experience working on West and East African programs for Search for Common Ground and implementing youth development programs for a local NGO and writing political news stories for the Sunday Times in Cape Town, South Africa. Her languages include French, Spanish, and Zulu.

Estrella Vargas will complete her undergraduate studies at Elmhurst College in 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in Political Science, Urban Studies with a specific focus in Public Administration, and Intercultural and International Studies. She has worked on campaigns for Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Congressman-Elect Sean Casten, and State Representative Deb Conroy. Estrella plans to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration at American University. She is proficient in Spanish.

Sasha Whitley is from Concord, North Carolina and attends Vanderbilt University where she will receive a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and another in Medicine, Health, and Society in 2019. Sasha studied abroad in Vienna, Austria where she completed an internship with Radio Afrika. Currently, she is a Program Assistant with the Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth in Nashville, Tennessee. Her languages include Spanish and German.

Nasir Wilson is from Delaware and is currently at the University of Delaware double majoring in political science and criminal justice and double minoring in Africana studies and legal studies. Currently, he works for the Department of State processing and responding to global non-FOIA legal demands and special projects in Information Programs and Services. Nasir previously interned at the US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency creating the Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) College Outreach Framework (COF). He is proficient in Spanish.

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