Alexandra DeWeese ’22, Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Winner

Alexandra DeWeese

Tell us a little bit about the Pickering Fellowship and where it will be taking you!

The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program is a program funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University that attracts and prepares outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State. The program offers substantial graduate school assistance and opportunities, one domestic and one international internship with the U.S. Department of State, and a direct pathway into the Foreign Service after graduation. I will be attending one of the program’s partner schools, Johns Hopkins SAIS, this fall in the heart of Washington, DC, where I will be working towards a Master of Arts in International Relations. After graduation, I will join the Foreign Service as a Foreign Service Officer specializing in either the Political or Public Diplomacy cones. 

What (or who) are the major influences in your life that have inspired you to pursue this path?

I grew up hearing stories from my mom about her adventures living in different countries such as France, Russia, and Spain as a young adult. Growing up as a black woman in America in the 60s with a widowed mother at just 2-weeks old, it was quite unusual for my mom to have had the experiences that she did. It’s my mom who taught me to go out into the world and seize opportunity as if there was no tomorrow. Her outlook on life inspired me to apply for a Rotary Youth Exchange in high school, which gave me the opportunity to go to the Netherlands for a year and live with several host families, attend the local high school, and learn to speak Dutch. My experience in the Netherlands inspired me to pursue a career in diplomacy, as the true purpose of being a Rotary Youth Exchange "Ambassador" is to create connections with people from other cultures and share new perspectives to create a more peaceful and tolerant world.

How did your time at Wellesley shape your interests, or encourage you along this path?

Professors? Career Education? Studying International Relations and Political Science at Wellesley really laid the foundation for me to continue my higher education at Johns Hopkins SAIS this fall. Incredible professors such as Lidwien Kapteijns and Christopher Candland were sources of strength and inspiration for me at Wellesley, pushing me to keep going even when the times were tough. Additionally, the study abroad program, Wellesley-In-Aix, gave me the opportunity to live in the south of France for my senior year and study at Sciences Po Aix. There, I learned yet another language and way of life that I would have never had the opportunity to do if it weren’t for the financial and administrative assistance provided by the program. Last but not least, it was Katherine Dalinger from Career Education who listened to me talk about my interests in international relations and diplomacy and encouraged me to apply to the Pickering Fellowship. 

What did you learn or gain from going through the application process?

I originally wanted to apply for the Fellowship during my senior year at Wellesley, but being abroad in France was hectic and I found myself no longer able to complete the time consuming application. I was disappointed in myself for a long time afterwards for not planning far enough ahead to have done both, but it was a valuable lesson in time management and accepting that not everything can be done at once. Luckily, I was in a better situation the following year and applied for the 2023 application cycle and was selected as a fellowship recipient! Not only was I better prepared the second time around with timing, but I also reached out to several Wellesley alums and former Pickering/Rangel recipients to help me prepare for the finalist interviews and essays. If I can give advice to anyone wanting to apply for this fellowship in the future it is to do the same thing! I couldn’t have done this without their guidance and encouragement.