Melissa Sandoval ’13 and Maribel Vasquez ’09 have received 2012 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to help them prepare academically and professionally to enter the United States Foreign Service. Sandoval is one of 20 undergraduate fellows selected from a national pool of 200 applicants, while Vasquez is one of 20 graduate winners chosen from a national pool of 270 applicants.
Sandoval’s undergraduate award provides financial support for her senior year at F&M and first year of graduate study, while Vasquez (see profile in “Class Action”
section) will use the award to support a two-year graduate program in international affairs at American University. Fellowship winners commit to three years of service as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State, which funds the awards.
“The Pickering is one of the most prestigious government fellowships, with awards often going to students from schools such as Harvard, Stanford and Yale,” said Monica Cable, F&M’s director of postgraduate fellowships. “Having two Pickering winners proves that our top students and graduates are competitive with other top graduates across the country.”
Sandoval, a first-generation college student from Harlem, N.Y., calls the fellowship her “big break.”
“The Pickering award is truly a blessing because it sets me up for academic and professional success,” said Sandoval, a public health (government track) major at F&M. “It has already connected me with so many Pickering alumni and ambassadors.
I am planning my life for the next seven years with the program, which will mentor me through my senior year of college, graduate school, and help me transition into the foreign service. That is extremely unusual for a first-generation college student.”
Sandoval developed an interest in foreign service through an internship at the State Department in the summers of 2010 and 2011. She aspires to represent the United States abroad, “even in dangerous posts,” she said.