Kansas State University student from Lenexa receives national fellowship to become US foreign service officer
Friday, May 22, 2015
MANHATTAN — Kansas State University student Shai Washington, junior in political science and international studies, Lenexa, is one of 10 students nationally to receive a 2015 Thomas R. Pickering Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship with the U.S. State Department.
The fellowship, administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, provides financial support for students' senior year as an undergraduate and first year of graduate school. In addition, students participate in one domestic internship and one overseas internship; receive mentoring from foreign service officers in the U.S. State Department; and after completing a master's degree, are expected to become foreign service officers.
"This has been my career goal since high school," Washington said. "I'm excited to meet and get to know all the people who are involved in this program, including some really incredible people I met during the interviews."
Washington, a first-generation college student, became interested in a career in foreign affairs when she spent a summer in Morocco after high school as part of the State Department's National Security Language Initiative for Youth.
"I became passionate about international and governmental relations after living in Morocco with a host family that was so different from my own," Washington said. "My favorite part is learning about a new culture that can be very different, but then realizing that our basic desires are the same — we all want happiness and security for our families."
The fellowship will help Washington reach her goal to aid in communication between the U.S. and other countries and to help create a better understanding abroad of the diversity of cultures and ideas in the U.S.
"The Foreign Service is highly selective, and the Pickering Fellowship offers Shai an incredible opportunity to prepare for a career in international diplomacy," said Jim Hohenbary, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. "I think she will represent K-State, Kansas and the United States very well in that role."
Washington is the president of the College of Arts & Sciences Ambassadors and secretary of the university's Model United Nations. She is a student blogger for the Office of Admissions and a member of the university's Student Foundation. She is a McNair Scholar and a member of Mortar Board Senior Honor Society and Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. In addition, Washington is a 2015 Public Policy and International Affairs Program fellow, allowing her to take courses at Princeton University this summer. She is a graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School and the daughter of Stephanie Grigsby, Lenexa.
Washington also participates in undergraduate research as part of the McNair Scholars Program. She has researched factors influencing foreign public opinion of U.S. drone strikes and why the U.S. uses drones instead of other policy options.
"I want to thank Jim Hohenbary for telling me about this opportunity and for encouraging me to apply, and Tom Roesler, communications coordinator for the College of Arts & Sciences, and Dr. Andrew Long, associate professor of political science, for being mentors to me throughout my years at K-State," Washington said.
The fellowship program is named in honor of an American diplomat and career ambassador. Pickering served as ambassador to Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, India and the Russian Federation, finishing his career in the Foreign Service as undersecretary of state for political affairs from 1997-2000.