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Pickering Fellow

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CAS senior receives prestigious award for future Foreign Service career

​Delaware native Nasir Wilson says he looks forward to a career representing the United States abroad.

University of Delaware senior Nasir Wilson has been named the University of Delaware’s newest Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow.

Wilson, a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice in the College of Arts and Sciences, is only the second student in the University’s history to have received the prestigious award. (In 2011, alumnus Jullion Cooper, CAS '05, was awarded the fellowship.)

The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, a program of the U.S. Department of State administered by Howard University, prepares exceptional young people for careers in the Foreign Service.

“The fellowship is for students who are committed to international service, but it is also meant for students who are currently not represented enough in the U.S. government,” Wilson said.

“That is the most important part, that it allows those who are under-represented to earn a master's degree and build a career in the Foreign Service.”

As part of the program, Fellows pursue a fully funded master’s degree program related to international or foreign affairs. Wilson will study U.S. foreign policy and national security at the American University School of International Service and will receive exclusive mentorship and professional development through the fellowship. He will also intern twice with the U.S. Department of State, in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Upon successful completion of the program, Fellows have the opportunity to work as Foreign Service Officers at U.S. embassies, consulates or diplomatic missions around the globe.

It was family travel that first convinced Wilson to look outside of the U.S. for his future.

“In Jamaica, I saw that there was a significant amount of poverty, health disparities, gaps in infrastructure and a need for people to assist others internationally,” Wilson said. “I felt a compelling desire, and changed my focus a bit.”

He adjusted his political science concentration to global politics and began exploring options for study abroad.

Wilson ultimately landed on a UD semester program in Limerick, Ireland.

“I wanted to not only gain a new perspective of the world, but also to learn about the political system and culture of another country,” said Wilson, who learned about the Pickering Fellowship while in Ireland. “At the end of the semester, we were introduced to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ireland  Reece Smyth. He actually sat down, talked with us about our interests in diplomacy, and recommended that I apply for the award. I am beyond grateful for being able to have that opportunity.”

Before studying abroad, Wilson interned as a program analyst for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). After returning home from studying and traveling in Europe, he took on a new role at the State Department as a program analyst, formerly for the Bureau of Administration and currently for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.

Wilson said he credits his family and home community for his success.

“My family has always encouraged me to follow my dreams,” Wilson said. “They have supported me through every endeavor, even when I was unsure about my trajectory. I also grew up in the New Castle-Wilmington area. I attended Tower Hill School, which prepared me for college, and Delaware prepared me for the world.”

As he moves on to serve the United States on the world stage, Wilson said that he’s looking forward to helping change the face of the Foreign Service.

“When you are in the room with all of the other finalists, you see an incredible amount of diversity, talent and impact,” Wilson said. “You hear stories of people that are doing incredible things around the world. It’s a wonderful group to be part of, and we need a lot more representation of all the people who live and work in the U.S.”

For future applicants, Wilson advised, “Have confidence in yourself. When I first looked at the requirements, I thought that I wasn’t qualified enough and didn’t have adequate experience. The process was daunting, and the hardest part was convincing myself. But I did it. I let go of all of my inhibitions and just applied. Anyone interested in the Fellowship should take the leap of faith and apply.”

To learn more about the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, visit the program website and follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies (IGS) was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for a number of global opportunities, and administers internationally-recognized State Department-sponsored programs such as the UD Fulbright Initiative, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Institute, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders, and most recently the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership (SUSI-WL) program.

IGS sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and the Fulbright Lecture Series each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program.

Article and photo by Nikki Laws

Published May 31, 2019

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Senior Nasir Wilson has been named a Pickering Fellow, a State Department award that will support his graduate studies in preparation for a career in foreign service.
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