Aja Kennedy, a 2012 Carolina graduate, is one of 30 candidates chosen as a recipient of the 2015 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship. The Rangel Fellowship is a prestigious and nationally competitive award funded by the U.S. Department of State that supports extraordinary individuals who want to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. The award is worth approximately $95,000 in benefits, including funding of a master’s degree, internships, and professional development.
“The Rangel is a fantastic opportunity for me,” Kennedy said. “My summer congressional internship in D.C. and my postgraduate placement in a U.S. embassy will help me to learn how our government works as well immerse me in the working culture of an embassy. The fact that I’ll also be provided with mentors to guide my professional and personal development means I’ll be given the best possible chance to succeed in a diplomatic career once I graduate.”
Kennedy, 25, of Charlotte, NC, is the daughter of Anthony Kennedy and Alma Kennedy. She is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who completed service to the Darien Province of Panama this April as an English Education Facilitator and as president of Peace Corps Panama’s Gender and Development Committee, where she oversaw management of PEPFAR funds allotted to Peace Corps Panama. She learned about the Rangel Fellowship while investigating opportunities to join the Foreign Service. She plans to promote economic development and prosperity as a Foreign Service Officer while working in the Far East and other locations around the world. After completing her internship last summer, Kennedy enrolled in her first semester Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs last fall and is studying for a master’s degree in public affairs.
Kennedy was first drawn to public service and international affairs during her secondary school interactions learning from first and second generation immigrants’ cultural backgrounds. “I decided to attend UNC after hearing about the UNC Study Abroad office’s accessibility,” she said. “I learned that many UNC students study abroad, and I wanted to grow by having more cross-cultural experiences.”
At UNC, she pursued a double major in romance languages focused on Spanish and in international studies focused in Latin America and global economics, trade, and development and a minor in Chinese. Kennedy was a Phillips Ambassador, a Freeman-ASIA Scholar, and a participant in the UNC Southeast Asia Study Abroad Fellowship for first year students. She also studied abroad in Spain and has served as an ESL tutor, teaching assistant, outreach educator, and education facilitator both at UNC and with community organizations and institutions from Carrboro to Panama. A member of the Dean’s list during all semesters, she also placed first in two Chinese speaking competitions in the Asian studies department, served in the Kappa Kappa Psi national honorary band fraternity, and was drum major for the UNC Marching Tar Heels.
The Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program began in 2003 and is a joint initiative between the U.S. State Department and Howard University that aims to enhance the excellence and diversity of the U.S. Foreign Service. The program includes a summer enrichment program for undergraduate students in addition to its graduate fellowship. Managed by the Ralph J. Bunche Center at Howard University, the program has enabled Fellows to serve as diplomats around the world who contribute to a more diverse representation and effective execution of U.S. foreign policy.