From busy students on campus to Diplomats at the U.S. Department of State, we are delighted to profile various members of the agency about their decision to study at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and how that decision led to a career in foreign policy. Inspired by professors, study abroad programs, and their innovative and relevant programs of study, the following State Department employees discovered a foundational, positive and lifelong appreciation for their respective HBCU – empowering them to achieve excellence as a student and beyond.
I arrived on the campus of Howard University attracted to its legacy as a top producer of African American doctors and confident my destiny was to join the ranks of medical professionals. Little did I know volunteering in Haiti my sophomore year would ignite an inextinguishable curiosity for the world and U.S foreign policy. This curiosity would lead me to study abroad in Ghana, switch majors to English and Economics, and seek guidance from the diplomat-in-residence about a career in the Foreign Service. For more than 12 years I have worked for the Department of State, feeding my curiosity for new cultures and languages while also advancing top U.S. foreign policy goals. If you too have a desire to serve your country and explore the world, I encourage you to consider the Foreign Service.
I chose Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) because it afforded me the opportunity to have the HBCU experience, get a quality education, and remain close to home. I majored in Accounting because I wanted a field that would always keep me employed, while allowing me the opportunity to ‘work with numbers’, which I love! MVSU has such a close family community, it’s like your home away from home. You’re welcomed and included by both fellow students and the faculty and staff. My decision to attend an HBCU indirectly impacted my career journey to the US Department of State because I felt compelled to apply and show that a black female from the Mississippi Delta could compete with others from around the world and serve in a capacity within the State Department that directly impacts others all over the world. I can’t speak for everyone from MS, but for me, I’ve always felt the need to prove myself because Mississippi, unfortunately, ranks last in education. I want people to know that Mississippi produces talented students that contribute to society in a positive manner. I am overjoyed to see that MVSU now participates in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program and the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program to introduce the students at MVSU to other cultures and societies. I look forward to seeing more students from MVSU advancing foreign policy at State and encourage every HBCU student to strive for their goals, no matter what the current landscape may look like.
As a graduate of the illustrious Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), I am proud to carry on the tradition of our motto “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve”. My role as an Information Technology Manager (ITM) in the Foreign Service, allows me to embody this ethos. It is the responsibility of an ITM to oversee all Information Technology activities at an Embassy or Consulate. By ensuring that our systems are properly administered, modernized, and have 24-hour availability we are guaranteeing that U.S. foreign policy is communicated in a timely and efficient manner anywhere in the world.
WSSU welcomed me in 1995 as a wide-eyed freshman prepared for the world, or so I thought. Throughout the next four years, my professors and fellow students would continue to push me and force me to look beyond the classroom.
I graduated from WSSU in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems. I chose the university because it had a strong Computer Science program, and I knew a few students who had graduated from the institution. After doing more research, I realized that WSSU was a place I would thrive both academically and personally. Everyone treated you like family and made sure you succeeded.
Students should never underestimate the power of thinking big. Doing so will motivate you to achieve your aspirations because you can see beyond the situation in which you are currently positioned. Remember there is more than one way to accomplish a task and there is a lesson learned in everything that you do.
Deciding to attend Virginia State University will always be one of the strongest developmental pillars in my foundation and it has been a positive force in my career journey at the State Department. Working in Consular Affairs for over 7 years, I’ve had a direct impact to advancing U.S. foreign policy from ensuring entitlement to a U.S. passport to now being responsible for the protection of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad. I constantly remind myself and encourage others to be intentional with maintaining a healthy study/work/life balance.
The illustrious North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, NC, is where I decided to finish my college career. It was a big change from my original college, but a great decision that I made. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from NCCU in 2019, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management, and a minor in Mass Communication. My education and degree plays a big role in what I do in my life outside of the Department, but my education in Mass Communication has prepared for my role as a Public Affairs Specialist. While attending NCCU I had an opportunity to work in the school’s radio station, write a published article for the campus newspaper, and be a part of many media internships. One particular internship was at one of the largest radio stations in the North Carolina area. Having a great passion for media, and learning more about it, came from attending NCCU.
Moving forward to working at the U.S. Department of State, as a Public Affairs Specialist, in the office of Global Social Media has allowed me to gain more hands-on experience, and apply the knowledge and skills that I’ve learned at NCCU. I am applying my knowledge, as well as my creativity to help advance U.S. foreign policy by getting out information, and messaging on foreign policy on the official social media platforms of the Department.
My advice to current students at my alma mater, and HBCUs nation-wide, would be to continue to learn, and apply what you learn through various internships. Never give up, never be afraid of an opportunity, and always go after what you want, because you never know what the outcome may be.
Save the Date!
It is with great excitement that we announce the dates for the 13th Annual Virtual HBCU Foreign Policy Conference, February 17 and 18, 2022.
As we begin our countdown for the HBCU Foreign Policy Conference – stay tuned for the 2022 session and speaker details, sign up to be kept up to date here. Follow us – , , and . Make sure to include your institution or organization. We look forward to hearing from you.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a speaker or to request that someone visit your HBCU.