Ever since taking a UCF honors diplomacy course at The Burnett Honors College, Amanda Fleming ’15 dreamed of working as a diplomat.
Armed with a 4.0 GPA and international work experience, the political science major took steps to make herself competitive for a position in the U.S. Foreign Service, but with the current hiring freeze in the State Department, this goal seemed impossible – until now. Fleming recently received a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which will provide her the opportunity to work with the State Department’s Foreign Service.
Fleming recently received a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which will provide her the opportunity to work with the State Department’s Foreign Service.
This highly competitive fellowship provides academic funding up to $75,000 for its recipients for tuition, housing and books during a two-year master’s degree program focused on a field related to the Foreign Service. During the summer months between academic years, fellows also participate in two State Department internship programs, one in the United States and one abroad. After graduate school, fellows complete a minimum five-year service commitment in the Foreign Service.
Discovering a Love of Diplomacy
Fleming said her inspiration to begin this journey started at UCF. Her honors diplomacy course with Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas sparked her interest in public diplomacy and the Foreign Service. Elam-Thomas was the U.S. ambassador to Senegal from 2000-2002.
“In the ambassador’s class, I learned about the value of creating mutual understanding between people from different countries through international exchange programs,” Fleming says.
“In the ambassador’s class, I learned about the value of creating mutual understanding between people from different countries through international exchange programs,” Fleming says. “I later had the opportunity to work on public-diplomacy initiatives through internships at the World Affairs Council of Central Florida and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.”
After graduation, Fleming felt she needed to gain international work experience. She had earned a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate at UCF, so she spent five months teaching English in Thailand before she was awarded a Fulbright English teaching assistantship. From there, she spent 10 months teaching English in Vietnam.
“Living in Vietnam was a life-changing experience because I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in the country’s vibrant culture,” says Fleming. “My students were wonderful, and I deeply cherish the memories and relationships that I made there. The experience solidified my resolve to pursue a career bridging cultures.”
Providing a Global Perspective
Fleming works in the Global Perspectives Office at UCF. As the senior program assistant, she helps run programs that sharpen UCF’s international focus.
Fleming submitted her application for the Pickering fellowship in January 2017. She was selected as one of the 60 finalists, and completed a final interview and writing assessment through Skype while she was teaching in Vietnam.
In February, Fleming was informed that a spot had opened up and she was offered the opportunity to be a Pickering fellow. Now, she is preparing to start her journey with the State Department.
She has been accepted to two master’s programs, and her first hurdle will be deciding to attend either the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver or the School of International Service at American University. Once she finishes her graduate education, she will start her five-year service commitment in the Foreign Service.
Excited for the possibilities for service, Fleming is also grateful for the role that UCF has played in her journey.
“I would not be in this position today without the help and support of my mentors at UCF,” says Fleming. “The Global Perspectives Office and the Office of Prestigious Awards have been instrumental in helping me to achieve my goals, even as an alumna. These two offices teamed together last spring to help me prepare for the Pickering interview, and I am so grateful for their guidance.”