NAU alum wins prestigious Rangel fellowship

Gabriel Cortez portrait photo

Dec. 14, 2018

Northern Arizona University alum Gabriel Cortez has had a world of experience, quite literally. From youth exchange programs in Japan to working as a foreign service consular affairs intern in Italy for the U.S. Department of State, he has cultivated an impressive resume working cross-culturally in government sectors.

His extensive international and federal government experience helped with his most recent accomplishment: winning one of 30 Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship awards.

The Rangel program is designed to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State in which they can help formulate, represent and implement U.S. foreign policy.

After graduating from Central Arizona College, Cortez headed to Milan, Italy, to begin an internship with the U.S. State Department at the General Consulate, which led him to pursue public administration for an undergraduate degree. NAU was already on Cortez’s list, and when he discovered he could get the educational emphasis he wanted, he knew it was a perfect fit.

NAU, Cortez said, provided support from the start with a grant that helped him pay for the program that continued throughout his time as a Lumberjack in the form of flexible evening classes and exceptional professor guidance.

“For me the best part of the program were the professors, nearly all of whom were working professionals who brought their expertise and experience to the classroom and were always willing to discuss their journey in the public sector,” Cortez said. “Their support helped me to get where I am today.”

Since graduating with summa cum laude honors in 2016, Cortez has worked for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office of Civil Rights, Diversity, and Inclusion and currently serves as an education volunteer leader in Ukraine as part of the U.S. Peace Corps. These experiences helped him decide to apply for the Charles B. Rangel Fellowship, and his Lumberjack family was still there to lend a helping hand.

National scholarships coordinator Melissa Riggs and other faculty members assisted Cortez through the application process, including helping him craft a statement of purpose and conducting mock interviews. The process was competitive, Cortez said, but fun and he could not be happier with the way it turned out.

Included in the Rangel fellowship is up to $37,500 annually toward tuition, fees and living expenses for any two-year master’s program in the U.S. to study areas relating to foreign service, internships on Capitol Hill and with U.S. embassies abroad and professional development and support activities. Upon completion of the two-year fellowship, fellows are appointed as foreign service officers with the U.S. Department of State.

With the help of the Rangel Graduate Fellowship, Cortez is excited to continue building global cultural bonds and putting his education and experience to good use.

“For me, the Rangel Fellowship is a dream come true. The fellowship’s incredibly generous financial and professional development support is unbeatable, and I am thrilled to work alongside an amazing cohort of dedicated future foreign service officers,” Cortez said. “The summer internships in Congress and one of our embassies abroad will be wonderful opportunities to get hands-on experience with the development and implementation of US foreign policy.”

“As a Rangel fellow I plan to obtain a graduate degree in international relations and security studies and join the Foreign Service as a consular affairs officer. I look forward to representing the incredible diversity of the U.S., Arizona and NAU all over the world.”

Students interested in applying for the Rangel fellowship should contact Riggs at

Cheyenne Jarrette