International business and Chinese studies senior Ryan Starkweather is the first University of Tulsa student to be selected for the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. Managed and funded by the Department of State and administered by The Washington Center, the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship offers talented students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Hundreds of applicants from more than 200 colleges and universities competed for this distinguished fellowship. Thirty graduate fellowships were awarded to a group of highly competitive candidates.
The fellowship provides graduate students with financial support, mentoring and professional development to prepare them academically and professionally for a career with the U.S. Department of State. Fellows also complete a domestic internship at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. and an overseas internship at a U.S. embassy.
During his time at TU, Starkweather also was accepted into the Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows Program, part of the alumni network of the Obama administration’s One Million Strong initiative. During the leadership conference he attended at Harvard, Starkweather learned about intercultural communication and how to organize events that bridge the cultures of U.S. and Chinese students.
Starkweather honed his foreign policy skills as an intern with the U.S. State Department the summer following his junior year. In the United States Foreign Service internship program, he worked for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of Public Diplomacy. The 10-week internship included three weeks of intense training to pass the Foreign Service Officer Test. “We met with Ambassadors Thomas Pickering, Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Prudence Bushnell and many other inspiring and incredibly intelligent people,” he said.
As member of the TU Global Scholars program, Starkweather gained a global perspective. “The program focuses on global challenges including population, resources, energy, conflict and governance, and all these topics are relevant to today’s world,” he said. “It expanded my perspective on how the issues are interconnected and how they might play into each other.”
Studying abroad in Nanjing, China, Starkweather tested his Mandarin skills. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., he committed to solely speaking Mandarin, which helped him live with a home-stay family. “They treated me like one of their children,” he said. “They made sure I was home before it got too late, and told me to put on more clothes because they didn’t want me to get sick.”
When Starkweather envisions his future, there is a host of multicultural experiences involving foreign policy and national security. “For any freshman who would like to travel abroad, the Global Scholars program prepares you to know some of the global challenges and to be familiar with intercultural communications techniques,” he said. “It connected me with all the resources I need to be successful.”
Following graduation, Starkweather will continue his internship with the Department of State in Seoul. He will then attend graduate school to study foreign policy. “Ultimately, my goal is to join the foreign service and represent America abroad,” he said.
Of his experience at TU, Starkweather said, “If I had not studied at The University of Tulsa, my perspective would never have been pushed beyond the borders of my home state or country. The university and professors like Dr. Foley, Dr. Collins, Dr. Zhang and Dr. Troilo — and many others — connect students like me to passions beyond their perspectives. I am grateful for a university so dedicated to exposing its students to worlds outside their own, and for supporting me and others in ways we never imagined.”