Ojani-Pierre Walthrust, a George Washington University senior studying international affairs, has been awarded a 2020 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.
Funded by the U.S. State Department and administered by the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University, the program assists individuals who want to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
The fellowship will support Mr. Walthrust through a two-year graduate program to receive a master’s degree in an area relevant to U.S. foreign policy. It will also provide professional development opportunities such as mentorship, a summer internship at the State Department and an overseas internship.
“After the program, I will be well positioned for life in the U.S. Foreign Service,” Mr. Walthrust said. “I am grateful to soon be embarking on a new way of life as a public servant, and I am grateful to the GW Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research for giving me the fundamentals to succeed and pursue this program.”
Upon completing his graduate program, Mr. Walthrust will become a U.S. Foreign Service officer.
He said he hopes to become a public diplomacy officer so he can dedicate his service to cultural and educational exchanges that will strengthen international relationships and improve foreign insight into American society.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to serve overseas, help decrease global literacy gaps and use my language skills to foster better relations between the U.S. and other countries to keep Americans safe,” he said.
He said his interest in international affairs was driven by learning Haitian Creole and Spanish as well as participating in debate in high school.
Mr. Walthrust was one of about 30 students to receive the Pickering Fellowship this year. Winners were selected following a rigorous and competitive process that drew more than 800 applications from students nationwide.
“We are truly thrilled and excited that Ojani-Pierre will be joining the Pickering Fellowship Program,” said Lily Lopez-McGee, the program’s director. “He demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, leadership and commitment to service during his time at George Washington University. I look forward to seeing all that he will accomplish in his career.”
Mr. Walthrust, a member of the Nu Beta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and former executive vice president of the GW Student Association, has interned at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Office of English Language Program.
During his junior year he also traveled to the Dominican Republic for sustainability volunteer work.
He learned he received the Pickering Fellowship upon his return from Peru, where he studied abroad during the fall semester applying critical race theory to explore how blackness was represented in the country’s indigenous Andean communities.
In the future he hopes to return to his hometown of New York City.
“I may return to New York to work on school boards and educational policy, eventually aiming to become the mayor,” Mr. Walthrust said.