Each year thousands of prospective graduate students from across the nation apply for the highly competitive Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship program. The Rangel Program provides outstanding young people with financial support through two years of graduate study, internships, and professional development activities during their time as graduate students. Most importantly, Fellows who successfully complete the program and meet Foreign Service entry requirements will receive appointments as Foreign Service Officers with the Department of State.
Thirty applicants are chosen each year and this year, three of them are Mason alumni. This alone is a huge success for Mason and the team in the Office of Fellowships. This team, led by Dr. LaNitra Berger, provides guidance and support for undergraduate students and recent alumni applying for a broad range of nationally competitive awards, including the Rangel Fellowships. With three fellows in the 2017 cohort, Mason is represented more than any other institution.
This is also an important level of recognition for Mason students, like Tanya Donangmaye, who completed her BA in global affairs in May of 2015. Donangmaye says she was motivated to apply for the Rangel Graduate Fellowship on several levels. Donangmaye, of Falls Church, Virginia, explains, “My commitment to public service and my desire to work in various communities around the world were two of the biggest driving factors that motivated me to apply for the Rangel fellowship. Additionally, I aspire to eventually become an ambassador, so securing the fellowship has been a critical first step towards realizing my career goal.”
She feels her undergraduate degree and the support of the Office of Fellowships made the critical difference in her application, saying, “The [fellowship] application itself is very simple and straightforward. However, I spent weeks on my personal statement alone, even though it was only 600 words. The undergraduate fellowship office provided critical support. Suzanne Rigdon-Williams and Dr. LaNitra Berger looked over numerous drafts until I was content with my statements.” Additionally, “I believe that the [global affairs] degree program I pursued at Mason played an integral role in getting me this far. The education I received greatly strengthened my knowledge in foreign affairs and reaffirmed my desire to pursue a career in international affairs.”
Rigdon-Williams, also with the Office of Fellowships, exchanged many emails with Donangmaye in the late summer and early fall. She explains that “revision and reflection were key to crafting a successful application for the Rangel. With so few words to express her life experience and future goals, we worked hard to draw out exactly what she wanted to say. Tanya took my feedback to heart and consistently improved her work. I’m thrilled she was selected for this fellowship.”
Donangmaye will be able to use her Rangel Graduate Fellowship funding at the graduate institution of her choice when she enrolls this fall. She is currently applying to several Masters of Public Administration programs on the east coast. Currently a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Yeongcheon, South Korea, Donangmaye has plenty to keep her busy when she’s not working on applications.
She’s only been in Korea for a couple months, but Donangmaye shared, “It's been an overall great experience so far! Since the school's inception more than 100 years ago, I am the first black person to teach at Yeongcheon Elementary. I was taken aback by how welcoming and open-minded many of my fellow teachers and my students are. I am enjoying immersing myself in the Korean culture and exposing my school to the diversity of American experiences.”
With the combination of Donangmaye’s passion, commitment, education and experience, it seems she’s already well on her way to a successful career in the foreign service with the Rangel Graduate Fellowship as the perfect next step. Already an excellent ambassador for the Mason Nation, we look forward to watching her path toward being appointed an ambassador for the United States.
December 19, 2016