National Fellowship Provides Path to Career in Foreign Service

“I’m so honored to be a part of such a talented group of young people who share a passion for addressing global challenges.” — Marianna Smith

Marianna Smith, a 2017 Alma College graduate from Ludington, has been awarded the post-graduate Donald M. Payne Graduate Fellowship by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The fellowship, valued at $96,000, provides support for two years of graduate school, internships and professional development activities as a pathway to a career in the USAID Foreign Service.

Payne Fellowship “I’m so honored to be a part of such a talented group of young people who share a passion for addressing global challenges,” says Smith, who adds she was “absolutely ecstatic” when she learned that she had received the award.

“I applied to this fellowship because it’s a springboard for a career I’ve wanted to pursue for a long time,” she says. “Working as a foreign service officer, I will be able to foster relationships with other people and nations through development work ultimately impacting economics, diplomacy and working toward affording everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Smith plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy this fall. As part of her fellowship, she will serve for five years as a USAID foreign service officer, working on development programs on issues like climate change and food insecurity.

She credits her Alma College experience for preparing her for a career in foreign service. She spent four years on Alma’s highly successful Model United Nations team and took advantage of numerous international study and service opportunities.

“People used to joke that I was off campus more than I was on campus,” says Smith. “My Posey Global experiences in Costa Rica and India, study abroad in Chile and internship in Bolivia supported by the Donald J. Yehle Scholarship helped shape my intercultural communication, language skills and the ability to create and implement projects.

“Alma’s dedication to service demonstrated the importance of serving at home and abroad in collaboration with local communities,” she says. “The support system of Alma professors, the Center for Student Opportunity and my peers provided constant guidance and motivation to continue working toward my goals. I’m forever grateful to the Alma community.”

The USAID Payne Fellowship Program annually awards 10 fellowships. Fellows who successfully complete the Payne Program and USAID Foreign Service entry requirements receive appointments as foreign service officers with USAID.

Smith graduated from Alma College with majors in communication and Spanish. A graduate of Ludington High School, she is the daughter of Gerald and Diane Smith.

Story published on March 07, 2019