Student’s future in Foreign Service begins at NAU

Mawusi Malik

Embarking on a career in the U.S. Foreign Service takes initiative, integrity, cultural adaptability, good communication skills and a strong intellectual background. One Northern Arizona University junior demonstrates such promise in these areas that the U.S. Department of State this week announced it will provide support toward the completion of her undergraduate and graduate degrees as she prepares to enter the Foreign Service.

Mawusi Malik, a political science major minoring in international relations and Asian studies, joins an elite rank of 40 exceptional students nationwide who aspire to enter the United States’ diplomatic corps. These 20 undergraduate and 20 graduate students were awarded Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowships to support their training.

The realization that Malik could have international influence came last year while she was studying abroad in Morocco. There she said she came face to face with stereotypes about Americans that she wished she could change.

“I hoped I could one day represent America—particularly American women—as culturally sensitive, modern, intellectual and personable,” she said. A friend told her about the Pickering program, which she found to be perfectly in line with her interests.

After a nerve-wracking application and interview process, Malik learned she made the cut, and beginning this fall, the members of this diverse new class of fellows will begin their journey to represent America in world affairs.

“It is incredible to see that this program is much more than a scholarship,” Malik wrote in her blog recently while reflecting on her orientation to the program in Washington, D.C. “It is a network, a support system, a development group. Yes, they give us money for school, but there is so much more to it. Pickering provides mentoring, training, advice and support from Day One throughout our careers in the Foreign Service.”

Malik and her counterparts are the 19th class of Fellows named at the undergraduate level. Selected in their junior year, Pickering Fellows receive financial support toward tuition and other expenses during the senior year and during the first year of graduate study.

As part of the fellowship, Malik will participate in one internship in D.C. next summer and one to-be-determined overseas internship in 2014, which she hopes will allow her to explore her interest the Middle East. She also is committed to three years of service as a Foreign Service officer.

For right now, grad school is her main focus, with Georgetown as her top choice, among other schools she’s considering in D.C. and New York City. And among her even shorter-term goals are “killing the GRE,” training for a marathon and getting a nose piercing.

“As far as my career ambitions go, I would be lying to say that I don’t want to be an ambassador someday,” she said. She believes the Pickering program will help put her on that path. “They made it clear: we have been given this opportunity, and great things are expected of us. And they are behind us to make sure we actually achieve them.”