2020 Snapshots | 2019 Snapshots

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 Americans Resident Overseas. Melanie currently works at the Federal 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 manager. 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 double-majored in international relations with a concentration in political science alongside education studies. In the past, she has interned at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Africa Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of International and Foreign Language Education. 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 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, Spanish, and Mandarin.

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.

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.

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.

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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