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Former WSSU SGA president awarded the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship

Former WSSU Student Government Association President and Facebook Global Operations Analyst Mona Zahir'17 awarded a U.S. Department of State Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. (Picture: user submitted)

Mona Zahir, Winston-Salem State University’s 2016-17 student body president, was recently awarded the U.S. Department of State Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

Administered by Howard University, the fellowship invites applicants from minority groups, women, and those in financial need who are committed to pursuing Foreign Service careers. Zahir, a 2017 political science graduate from Charlotte, was one of 45 candidates out of an applicant pool of more than 1300 to be selected for this prestigious program.

“It feels surreal,” says Zahir. “I'm still processing this life changing direction. I've dreamed of being a diplomat since I was a child and to see its fruition in the initial stage, especially during a challenging year, has made me incredibly grateful, honored, and also proud of myself. The pool of candidates and application process were competitive, so I do not take this selection lightly.” 

Pickering Fellows receive financial assistance with two-year graduate programs; two summer internships: one domestic, one abroad; professional development; and mentorship from a Foreign Service Officer. Fellows also commit to a minimum of five years of service in the Foreign Service. The program begins May of 2021.

Zahir serves as a global operations analyst at Facebook. She was selected for Global Operations’ first racial justice workforce and worked the 2020 elections. Zahir says that after a few years in the workforce as an underrepresented professional, she understands how beneficial the Pickering Program experience will be to the success of her career.

Upon completion, Zahir, who is of Ethiopian and Sudanese descent, will have the opportunity to enhance prosperity and development, promote human rights globally, assist American citizens abroad and deepen ties between the United States and people around the world. Fellows represent the U.S. in Africa, East and South Asia, Latin America, Europe and Eurasia.

During her service, Zahir hopes to have the opportunity to work in Ethiopia and Sudan. “My parents would be so proud. A true "homecoming" experience,” she says. 

As a student, Zahir participated in several high impact opportunities offered to WSSU students including the S.G. Atkins Scholars Society, class council, community service and study abroad. She joins the ranks of WSSU alumna and former Miss WSSU Mignon Turner Cardentey‘04 as a Pickering Fellow. Cardentey has served as a U.S. diplomat in several countries including Mexico, the Philippines, and African nations.

Ambria Caldwell, a 2016 political science graduate, was also a finalist for the new class of fellows.  

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