Second-year named Pickering Fellow

By Emily Bell

Vanessa Tantillo, a second-year in the College, has been named a recipient of the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. The fellowship, co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the United States State Department, is offered each year to 20 rising third-year students selected from 1,000 applicants nationwide.

Pickering Fellows must attend classes at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and complete two internships in the summers following their third and fourth years, according to Tantillo. Fellows are expected to pursue graduate degrees in international relations at an institution approved by the program. After completing the education requirements, each fellow is guaranteed a position as a foreign service officer and commits to working for the State Department for four-and-a-half years. Each Pickering Fellow is compensated with grants to fully cover tuition, room, and board expenses for the final two years of college and one year of graduate school, as well as money to pay for expenses while completing the summer internships.

The application process is competitive and intense, according to Tantillo. “It was a lot like applying for college,” she said, referring to the forms and recommendations required. Of the initial 1,000 applicants only 40 students were invited to interview with the Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington, D.C. this spring. Tantillo said of the other applicants she met during the interview, “Everyone had studied abroad at least once and spoke at least two languages.”

Tantillo’s interest in foreign service is not a new one. “My whole life I have been obsessed with other cultures and languages and wanted to travel the world,” she said. Tantillo’s interest was also fostered by her experience as a foreign-exchange student in Spain during her junior year of high school. “I was abroad during September 11 and after that I got really interested in foreign policy,” she said.

Tantillo said that what appeals most to her about foreign service is the diversity of experiences available. “While working at the State Department, I will have the opportunity to live all over the world and be a representative of the U.S.,” she said. “Before each post assignment, the State Department will train me for the language spoken in that country […] I also get to be a part of public diplomacy around the world—something that has become, and will continue to be, increasingly more important to the future of our country.”