ProFellow, an online resource for professional and academic fellowships, recently published this article featuring Tiffany Brown MPA ’23, on the pathway to becoming a foreign service officer.

Columbia University SIPA has a history of strong relationships with Rangel Fellows, and excerpts from the post is below. You can read the original article on ProFellow here.

On the benefits of the Rangel Fellowship:

The fellowship offers $42,000 annually in assistance for tuition, room, board, books and other related expenses. Additionally, there are paid internships the summer before and after your first year of graduate school. The domestic internship is on Capitol Hill and the overseas internship is at a U.S. Embassy of your choosing. Fellows also benefit from ongoing mentoring and professional development throughout their fellowship experience. Upon graduation, they enter the Foreign Service.

I just finished my Congressional internship at the end of July. It was a virtual experience, but I still learned so much in such a short time. In addition to learning about the role of Congress in shaping our foreign policy, I’ve gained so much more insight into the challenges that policymakers face in shaping and informing constituents about our domestic policy. My most memorable experience from this summer was drafting social media copy that was used by the Congressional Black Caucus commemorating the passing of Juneteenth legislation. As someone who didn’t have much formal exposure to policy or foreign affairs previously, this internship has been eye-opening!

Another major benefit has simply been the wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to meet this past summer. We are a cohort of 45 from diverse ethnic, social, and professional backgrounds. Despite meeting only virtually, we’ve still managed to cultivate a tight-knit and supportive group. Each week, we’ve had an exciting line-up of professional development workshops ranging from speaking with ambassadors and congressional staffers to preparing for our future careers through crisis management and writing exercises. Another memorable highlight was meeting  our program’s namesake, Congressman Rangel and learning how diversity and inclusion in public and international affairs has evolved over the years. The professional development has been intense, but it has been the crash course in all things foreign affairs and writing that I’ve needed. I haven’t written this much since I graduated undergrad in 2014! In the short time I’ve been a fellow, the program has already exceeded my expectations.

I look forward to expanding my knowledge through my graduate studies this fall!

Advice on applying to the Rangel Fellowship:

Here are 8 tips that helped me navigate the application process:

  1. Focus on mindset and believe in yourself. I was initially so intimidated by the process that I almost didn’t apply! I knew nothing about diplomacy and reading prior fellows’ bios gave me a serious case of imposter syndrome. I initially believed that I was at a disadvantage because it seemed like so many fellows majored in international affairs or political science and had a very clear “trajectory” so to speak. When I expressed my concerns with former fellows, they told me that the U.S. Foreign Service seeks people that embody the 13 Dimensions. In the U.S. diplomatic corps you can find people from a variety of educational and career paths, ranging from former zookeepers to former Peace Corps volunteers.
  2. Conduct informational interviews. This is especially important if you are not particularly familiar with the Foreign Service or the fellowship application process. I tapped into my personal networks and looked at the fellowship directories to connect with diplomats and former fellows before conducting informational interviews. Not everyone has time to speak with you, but oftentimes, they can connect you with someone who does. The contacts I made were incredibly reassuring and supportive throughout the entire application process. I’m still in contact with most of them and look forward to their mentorship as I progress throughout the fellowship and my career.
  3. Attend the webinars! Rangel hosted many webinars for prospective applicants during the 2020 recruitment cycle. I learned a lot about the fellowship as well as the application process just by attending and asking questions.
  4. Embrace the 13 Dimensions! This is how you are assessed in the application and interview process. Make sure your application tells a compelling narrative about your motivations to become a public servant and ensure that you embed each of these dimensions throughout.
  5. Have multiple editors! I always recommend reaching out to your undergraduate fellowships office and writing center to help with essay review.
  6. Reach out to your recommenders early. When requesting the letter, briefly explain the fellowship to them and share drafts of your application essays and your CV. I also shared a copy of the 13 Dimensions with them and asked that they emphasize appropriate examples that demonstrated them.
  7. Apply! You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Remember, it’s ok if you aren’t successful in this application cycle. Many fellows that were unsuccessful in previous application cycles were later able to secure the fellowship in a later year. Don’t forget to also apply for the Pickering and Payne Fellowships simultaneously.
  8. Bonus tip for those that are invited to the interview stage: Relax and breathe. You’ve made it this far and you can definitely do this. The most important aspect of the interview process is to know yourself, know your why, and know the 13 Dimensions!