samantha kuIt’s common to ask children what they want to be when they grow up. Answers typically range from things like pirate, superhero, or princess to doctor, veterinarian, and soldier. But Samantha Ku, ’18 political science, had a much more specific goal – she wanted to be a diplomat.

Fast-forward a decade, and the UCI alumna is well on her way to making her childhood dream a reality.

The recent graduate received news this month that she is the recipient of a 2019 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. Funded by the U.S. Department of State and managed by the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University, the fellowship supports extraordinary individuals who want to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“We are truly thrilled and excited that Samantha will be joining the Pickering Fellowship Program. She demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, leadership and commitment to service during her time at the University of California, Irvine,” said Lily Lopez-Mcgee, director of the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship Program. “These experiences bode well for her success through graduate school and in the Foreign Service as well. I look forward to seeing all that she will accomplish in her career.”

While a student at UCI, Ku was a Global Terrorism Database research intern at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. She also served as the nuclear non-proliferation intern at the United Nations House Scotland. Currently, she interns in APCO Worldwide’s Global Solutions practice. She was twice an undergraduate research fellow and worked as a research assistant to several professors. Ku cumulatively spent almost two years of her undergraduate degree abroad in the United Kingdom, with terms at the London School of Economics, the University of St. Andrews, and the United Nations House Scotland. She received several awards while an Anteater, including the David Rosten International Education and Service Scholarship and Elena B. and William R. Schonfeld Scholarship which funded her studies in Scotland. 

The Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship will support Ku through a two-year graduate program to receive a master’s degree in an area relevant to the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. It will also provide extensive professional development opportunities, including internships, mentors, and skills training. As part of the Pickering Program, Ku will have an internship based in Washington, D.C. working with the U.S. Department of State in summer 2020. In the summer of 2021, the U.S. Department of State will send her overseas to work and to gain hands-on experience with U.S. foreign policy and the work of the Foreign Service. Upon graduation, Ku will become a U.S. Foreign Service Officer where she will work to promote peace and prosperity around the world.



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