A Fully Funded Master’s Degree for Future Foreign Service Officers: The Rangel Graduate Fellowship

Feb 05, 2020
Emma Giron, a Rangel Graduate Fellowship recipient

For those who want to become Foreign Service Officers in the U.S. Department of State, the Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program provides benefits of up to $95,000 over two years toward a two-year master’s degree, arranges internships on Capitol Hill and at U.S. embassies, and provides mentorship and professional development support. Fellows can use the fellowship to attend two-year master’s programs in U.S. institutions where they can study any area of relevance to the Foreign Service. Applicants must be college seniors or graduates looking to start two-year graduate programs in the fall, have GPAs of at least 3.2, and be U.S. citizens. 

We talked to Emma Giron, a 2020 Rangel Graduate Fellow originally from Montana, to learn more about the program – which she discovered on ProFellow! – and get some application tips.  

1. What inspired you to apply for the Rangel Graduate Fellowship? 

Before graduating from college, I explored the Foreign Service Officers program, but never seriously considered it because it’s so competitive. I have family friends who are currently serving, and the work seems not only fulfilling, but allows them to travel the world, learn new languages directly in a target country, and gives a lot of financial and job security. When I saw the Rangel Graduate Fellowship, I initially had hesitations because of the level of competition. However, I did gain some service experience in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, where I worked to promote entrepreneurship in the state of Montana, specifically in Tribal and rural communities. I gained some international work experience as a citizen ambassador in the State Department-sponsored German program, Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. 

Through this program, I met friends who were incredibly supportive when encouraging me to apply for the Rangel Fellowship. After three months of applications and interviews, I got the notification that I’d been accepted. I hope to gain as much work experience in my field as possible. I’m most interested in the Economic Officer track; however, everyone serves as a consulate officer before specializing, which is an equally rewarding experience. There are five tracks, and you can take a fun quiz online that only 10 minutes to find out which path fits your personality and job interest best. I tested reasonably high in all the categories because I found something interesting in each position. I look forward to taking my time in these roles to see where I’m a good fit and where my skills can be best utilized. 

2. What are the benefits of the fellowship? 

The program promises $95,000 over two years of graduate school. The money goes to support not only your tuition but also your living expenses during school and the internship phase. Officially, I receive $21,500 per year for graduate school. As many people know, this is not enough to cover tuition. Many schools match this amount, so Rangel Fellows often attend graduate school with a full-ride or with minimal expenses. We receive $16,000 per year to cover rent and other living expenses. In the summers, we complete an internship on Capitol Hill and an international internship at an embassy or consulate. During this time, we receive an additional $10,000 to cover expenses, i.e., rent, food, plane tickets, etc. 

The part I am looking forward to the most is the mentorship aspect. The program assists us in finding a mentor in the State Department to guide us through everything from medical clearances to professional development. At the end of two incredible years in graduate school, Fellows will be guaranteed a job as a Foreign Service Officer, where we have the opportunity to launch our careers. 

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Rangel Graduate Fellowship?

Aside from the usual advice of gaining as much meaningful work experience as possible and putting yourself out there by applying, I would say know yourself really well. It wasn’t until I felt more rooted in my beliefs, heritage, and overall self that I began to speak confidently about my accomplishments and future goals. 

Additionally, be able to explain meaningful positions on your resume to people in a 30-second pitch. I would constantly have to explain my job role to people on the spot and answer detailed questions about it. This real-world experience served me well and made it easier to answer questions such as “tell us about your previous work experience” quickly and eloquently while under pressure. Being able to talk about previous job experiences articulately has helped me not only with Rangel but with all applications.

I also encourage applicants to find a scrupulous editor and to take their advice. I have three to four trusted people who I constantly lean on for support in this area; some are peers and others are professors. It’s important to diversify your resources so you don’t burn anyone out, including yourself. 

For those who are unable to find a job in their field after graduating, I recommend volunteering when you can. For example, after college, I had a tough time finding work that paid the rent and also satisfied my career goals. I ended up working as a janitor for a brief period of time. I don’t regret this job, and I learned a lot from it, but I wish I had volunteered more in my free time to give back to the community, something that is very fulfilling to me. I was very strategic about my employment. I worked a low-paying job for rent and saved money so that I could apply for AmeriCorps VISTA and gain more experience in my field. This might not work for everyone, but I believe the AmeriCorps VISTA program was a useful launching point for making me more qualified for the Rangel.  

Emma Giron was born in Browning, Montana and is a direct descendant of the Blackfeet Nation. She attended Willamette University, receiving a B.A. in economics and a minor in music. After graduating, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member through Accelerate Montana, a non-profit that promotes and supports entrepreneurship throughout the state. Currently, Emma is a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals Fellow, allowing her to live for a year in Germany studying German language and culture. She earned the Rangel Fellowship in 2020, and she is excited to prepare for her career in diplomacy. Currently applying to graduate programs, she hopes to study for a master’s in public policy with a concentration in International and Global Affairs. Afterward, she will work as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S State Department. In her spare time, she enjoys playing in local symphonies as a violist, rock climbing, and learning German.

Interested in applying? Bookmark the Rangel Graduate Fellowship to your ProFellow account.

© Victoria Johnson 2020, all rights reserved.