Community is an essential part of any college or graduate school experience, but it is not always easy to find. Often, it must be built.
Fostering collaboration and community is one of the primary missions of the newly formed Diplomatic Fellows Association (DFA), composed of current recipients of the fellowships named for Thomas R. Pickering, Charles B. Rangel, and Donald M. Payne who are pursuing their graduate studies at SIS.
Each year, a combined 120 fellows are selected to participate in the Pickering, Rangel, and Payne fellowships. These highly selective fellowships aim to attract a diverse group of candidates interested in careers with the Foreign Service at the US Department of State and USAID. Fellowship recipients receive financial support through two years of graduate study.
As of fall 2023, 10 fellows from the three fellowships combined were enrolled as graduate students at SIS. Inspired by their experience at AU, three of those fellows—Roger Reyes, Mona-Mae Juwillie, and Alessandra Del Rosario—have also worked together to form the Diplomatic Fellows Association.
The DFA’s mission is to build collaboration between current fellows and alumni and promote knowledge and skills exchange. In practice, members of the DFA want to build a community at SIS that shares knowledge and experiences with one another, builds connections with alumni, and acts as a friendly resource for incoming fellows who may be considering SIS for their graduate studies.
Reyes, SIS/MA ’25, is a Rangel fellow in the Intercultural and International Communication program. As part of the DFA, Reyes said his goal is to “highlight and underscore the many benefits that come with being an AU student and being an Eagle.”
“DC is a city that networks, and I want to be able to showcase what makes AU a great school, especially at the graduate level,” Reyes said.
With its top-10 ranking as a school of international relations, SIS boasts a range of master’s degree programs taught by faculty who are experts in their fields of study while also providing a vibrant community of scholars interested in foreign affairs.
“One of the things that has really energized [the fellows] has been finding each other and feeling like there's a strong sense of community here—and that they're valued here from the beginning,” Rebecca Coughlin, associate director of graduate enrollment management at SIS, said. “I think they’re really interested in sharing that with future fellows who are considering SIS.”
In addition to connecting with each other, current fellows at SIS can also connect with former ambassadors on SIS’s faculty, including SIS professor and former US ambassador to Mongolia Piper Campbell and Distinguished Diplomat in Residence and former US ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony “Tony” Wayne. Reyes said the ability to meet with former ambassadors and hear their perspectives is a level of access unique to AU.
“I've spoken to a lot of my peers, and some people don't even know that they have ambassadors working at their schools, but here we are at AU with ambassadors on a first-name basis,” Reyes said.
Mona-Mae Juwillie, SIS/MA ’25, is a Payne fellow in the Development Management program at SIS. As someone interested in working with USAID after graduation, Juwillie says the DFA provides a place to learn from the experiences of her peers, which will continue to grow as new fellows join SIS.
“When new fellows come in, they get added to the community, and we get to leverage each other’s resources,” Juwillie said. “Knowing that there are so many people who have been to so many different places or have experience in different regions of the world is helpful.”
Building on the knowledge of the other fellows can be extremely helpful when pursuing a global career because “sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into,” said Del Rosario, SIS/MA ’25, a Pickering fellow in the Global Governance, Politics, and Security program.
“The DFA is a way for people to connect those who have experience with those who don’t have experience—and to connect with people who are interested in the fellowship and just don’t know where to start,” Del Rosario explained. “I think the DFA is a great community and a great association to have at SIS because DC can be a little lonely, and I think if you have this group of people who are interested in the same things, there’s great leverage there.”
Prospective fellows interested in learning more about the graduate experience at SIS can get in touch with current fellows by visiting the DFA’s website.