Category: Despatches, Featured News, News, Uncategorized

Title: Despatches | 6 December 2022 — 2022-2023 McHenry Fellows

Dear Friends of ISD,

The Donald F. McHenry Global Public Service Fellows Program, named for Ambassador Donald F. McHenry, seeks to enhance Georgetown University School of Foreign Service’s (SFS) recruitment of exceptionally qualified graduate students from all communities within the United States and globally who are committed to careers in transformational global public service. It is open to students accepted by any of the eight SFS master’s degree programs.

The fellowship program features activities for the development of the fellows’ abilities to integrate lessons and tools across disciplines and to develop strategic intellectual skills. These skills in turn empower McHenry graduates to tackle both emerging and, as yet, unknown global challenges holistically. The fellowship provides a scholarship that covers full tuition and all mandatory fees.

The application for the 2025 cohort of McHenry Fellows is due on January 15, 2023. We welcome you to share this incredible opportunity with your networks and invite you to learn more about our current McHenry Fellows through their profiles below.


Barbara Bodine


McHenry Fellows Class of 2024

This year, four students have joined the Georgetown University community as McHenry Fellows. We asked the incoming fellows about their paths to Georgetown, courses of study, and advice for prospective students.

Natalia Simmons-Thomas

“I grew up in a small town in Connecticut and moved to Washington, D.C., for college about eight years ago. I graduated from George Washington University in 2019 with a dual degree in International Affairs and Chinese Language & Literature. After graduation, I worked at RAND corporation as a research assistant, conducting Chinese language research and analysis on Asia-specific security topics for government sponsors. I also completed full-text Chinese-to-English translations of technical military manuals and journals. After my time at RAND, I transitioned into a language-enabled analyst role at SOS International, LLC, where I served government and commercial clients, completing intelligence analysis on due diligence analysis and risk identification on Chinese state-owned enterprises. Presently, I am a senior consultant and open-source analyst at Guidehouse.

My path to Georgetown has been a rather serendipitous one. In 2019, I was accepted to GW’s Chinese Language and Culture master’s program; however, due to financial reasons, I decided to work instead. Although it was a tough decision to make, it ultimately led to me developing a passion for China-related security topics. I chose to attend Georgetown’s Security Studies Program (SSP) because I appreciated that the program emphasizes the practical application of themes from the courses and that many of the courses are taught by highly experienced practitioners themselves.

I began SSP this fall, and have chosen the intelligence concentration. I plan to continue to focus on China. After graduation, I intend to utilize my skills, including my Chinese language capabilities, to further integrate myself into the intelligence community.

My advice to those interested in the program is to apply! Do not let imposter syndrome keep you from applying for such a great opportunity. Trust in yourself and your ability to invoke global change if you set your mind to it.”

Aurora Lopez

“I grew up in the Bay Area, specifically East Palo Alto, CA. I’m a first-generation college student raised by a single-teen mother, her three sisters, and Mexican-immigrant grandparents. For college, I started at San Jose State University, then transferred to De Anza Community College, Foothill Community College, and ultimately ended up at the University of California Berkeley. At UC Berkeley, I got my first exposure to foreign policy at the British Embassy in San Francisco.

Shortly afterward, I started taking courses on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. I developed an interest in Saudi Arabia, so I completed the Critical Language Scholarship in Arabic. I also did research through the Cal-in-Sacramento Fellowship at UC Berkeley, where I interviewed Arab households to understand the barriers they face in the California public school system. These opportunities helped jump-start my career to pursue more intensive foreign policy internships.

Post-graduation, I completed an internship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory doing research related to Saudi nuclear latency. Although I have an interest in Saudi Arabia, I’m using this time [at Georgetown] to explore new interests. One interest I’ve begun to unravel is the relationship between domestic society and U.S. foreign policy. Americans, especially communities of color, tend to see foreign policy as irrelevant and want to know how the United States can fix problems at home. As a Latina raised in an immigrant household, I understand the sentiment of “what can foreign policy do to help me?” I hope to work in a congressional position post-graduation and use my background to help balance domestic and foreign policy.

For anyone applying [to the McHenry Fellowship] that doesn’t feel they fit the D.C. mold — whether it be LGBTQIA+ members, people with disabilities, people of color, non-U.S. citizens, and those of low economic status — I really encourage you to lean into how these experiences shaped your perspective on international affairs. While doing global public service, one will inevitably encounter situations in which values, interests, and ideas don’t align with others at the table. How will you overcome this?

Asad Pabani

“My journey to Georgetown has been quite unpredictable. I grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, but then had the privilege of pursuing undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt thanks to a scholarship. I then went back to Pakistan to work as a journalist and freelance researcher for five years. Applying to Georgetown for a master’s degree appealed to me because of the exceptional quality of its faculty, as well as its location in Washington, D.C.

I am now pursuing a Master’s in Global Human Development at the School of Foreign Service. The aim of the program is to prepare students for a career in international development. Therefore, it was a perfect opportunity for me, as I plan on returning to Pakistan and working to improve development outcomes there. I am specifically interested in urban policy, and am hoping to learn about innovative urban practices from across the Global South during the course of my studies here.

I would advise prospective students to critically reflect on what public service looks like in 2022. It does not simply mean working for the government. It is instead a mindset of working to improve the quality of life of communities in an ethical, inclusive, and sustainable manner. If that sounds appealing, then this is the right program for you.”

Kai McGuire

“I was born and raised mostly in Tokyo, but also lived in New York City and London as a child. I went to college at Tufts University, where I double-majored in International Relations and Russian & Eastern European Studies. After graduating, I went to work at the Embassy of Japan’s Congressional Affairs Section, where I supported the U.S.-Japan alliance as a locally hired U.S. staffer. I then went to work at McLarty Associates’ Northeast Asia practice, where I advised corporate clients on policy and strategy.

The School of Foreign Service has always been a dream of mine. As an undergraduate student, I interned for Dr. Michael Green at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where I also worked alongside several SFS students and alumni. I was impressed by the depth and breadth of their expertise in international affairs — but I was most inspired by their deep commitment to service. They made me think more deeply about what I wanted to do with my career and how I wanted to make a difference. That ethos of service ultimately inspired me to apply to SFS and the McHenry Fellowship.

I am passionate about updating and enhancing U.S. alliances, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. My work on the U.S.-Japan relationship has impressed upon me that, firstly, alliances are critical to virtually every aspect of U.S. foreign policy. There are few global issues on which the United States can act independently of its partners and allies. On issues like climate change, the United States needs to tap into every resource at its disposal — its relationships with like-minded partners and allies are a natural foundation for cooperation and progress.

At Georgetown, I plan to use my experience in U.S.-Japan relations as a springboard to explore these and other thematic issues in the context of our alliances. Climate diplomacy, technological cooperation, economic competitiveness, and national security are all areas that I look forward to diving into throughout my academic career, and that I hope will prepare me for a career in public service working on U.S. alliances in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere.

My advice for those interested in applying for the Donald F. McHenry Fellowship Program is to get personal. Applying to graduate school is certainly an academic and professional exercise — but it’s also just as important to tell your personal story. Who are your heroes? What have you overcome? Why public service? These are just some of the questions that can help draw out the personal stories that make for a compelling fellowship application — and that will help focus your thinking about your career overall.”

McHenry Fellows Class of 2024

We spoke with the 2021–23 cohort of McHenry Fellows to learn about their summer internships.

Abdul-Washeru Alhassan

“This summer, I interned with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — the United Nations (UN) Migration Agency in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, where I served as a migration, environment and climate change (MECC) program consultant. I was based in the country office and worked with the mission in the West and Central Africa Regional Office. I coordinated and lead a high-level engagement with the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River (OMVS) — a regional organization comprising Senegal, Mauritania, the Republic of Guinea, and Mali — which culminated in a new strategic partnership between the organization and the IOM Senegal Mission for pipeline projects on migration, environment, and climate change in communities around the Senegal River Basin.

Through this project, I enhanced my research, strategy, design, and implementation skills on a variety of migration-related topics, including climate change and local development planning; continental labor mobility and mutual skills recognition; climate-smart community reintegration; legal identity for integrated border management; and pastoralism and climate resilience.

One highlight for me during this internship was co-leading the development of a concept note/proposal on humanitarian challenges confronting pastoralist communities in the Sahel territory of Senegal, which was shortlisted for overseas humanitarian innovation funding. Additionally, I also lead the design of a strategy, terms of reference, and budget for a diagnostic study in the Matam and Kédougo regions of Senegal. This work informed the development of a toolkit for the mainstreaming of MECC into local development planning across communities in Senegal. I further contributed to several concept notes, proposals, and theories of change on a wide range of issues related to migration. The key lesson for me from this summer is that soft skills, such as teamwork, personal resilience, diplomacy, and foreign languages, are as important as thematic expertise for a successful international affairs career.

Carlos E. Chacón

“This summer, I worked at the Ethics and Business Conduct Department of the World Bank. It is my first experience at a multilateral organization. The department is in charge of the promotion, training, and development of the highest ethical standards to the bank’s staff members. I gained valuable quantitative and facilitation experience while learning from multidisciplinary colleagues from all across the world.

My first project involved working with the staff members responsible for training all the bank employees on ethics. I designed and executed a training module for over 30 members and created a 50 Best Practices for Facilitation guide to provide more engaging and meaningful learning experiences.

The second project I worked on is about long-term impact evaluation. With the help of colleagues, I designed a framework to foster and evaluate the effectiveness of the department’s products that aim to generate behavioral changes over time.”

​​Juan Fernando Gomez Lopez

“I was touched by the story a Gambian migrant shared with me. After he embarked on a journey to Italy, looking for better job opportunities, migration officers stranded him in the middle of the Saharan border between Libya and Niger.

This account is a good overview of my summer experience as an information management intern at IOM-UN Migration in The Gambia. My objective was to help their data-heavy reports give justice to the unique human experiences they intended to portray. My main task was to introduce technology and human-centered design principles to visualize data that resonates with IOM’s audience. As a result, I conducted workshops on storytelling using Power BI, a data visualization software available but not used by the IOM staff. On the other hand, I used the R programming language to automate their data cleaning process. In addition, I designed a data quality management checklist to help them monitor and trust data processes.

I hope these activities will help IOM-UN humanize their reports. This experience was a fantastic opportunity to practice technical skills while learning about migration.”

Maria Paula Mercado

“This summer I had the opportunity to complete an internship at the U.S. Department of State. I was an intern in the Public Diplomacy Bureau of the Global Engagement Center (GEC). I supported the GEC’s mission to direct, lead, and coordinate efforts of the federal government to understand, expose, and counter foreign state and foreign non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining the interests of the United States, its allies, and partner nations.

It was a life-changing experience to be at the forefront of the world’s most pressing challenges involving the information environment. I received an inside look at current lines of efforts between interagency and international partners, including the private sector, civil society, tech industry, and the media, to counter malign influence activities. I also met with high level officials, conducted open-source research, and reported on Russia’s war on Ukraine, Chinese efforts to influence public opinion, and influence campaigns aimed at the Global South.

My time at the Department of State was invaluable. I developed a deeper understanding of the challenges ahead and critically analyzed frameworks aimed at addressing these threats. It strengthened my interest in strategic communications and the power that messaging will continue to play in foreign policy.

Nabeel Saleh

“This summer, I joined Human Rights Watch (HRW) as an intern in the Middle East Division. During my sojourn, I had the opportunity to remain deeply immersed in everyday hardships in my home, Iraq, where people are rapidly facing a reality in which, as one of the most vulnerable lands to climate change, their country is gradually becoming unlivable. Besides environmental issues, examined from the angle of the oil industry, I worked on absent accountability for protesters slain for joining a protest that decried the loss of the country in 2019, which I had the honor of covering and photographing at the time. I also worked on human rights concerns regarding the now-in-effect constitution in Tunisia, as well as human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

That aside, I resumed my work on my first poetry collection, of which four poems appeared in Jadaliyya. An opinion piece of mine appeared in Middle East Eye, in which I resorted to the poetics vis-à-vis a devastating status quo. Another opinion piece on the political and journalistic discourse in Iraq is coming out soon. Beyond the sad state of today’s world, I spent the summer wandering around Washington, D.C., with my camera, researching, and studying art whenever I had the chance to do so.”

Apply to the McHenry Fellows Class of 2025