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A Rangel Fellow Prepares for a Career in the U.S. Foreign Service

Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith
MAIR '22
1. As a prestigious Rangel Fellow, why did you choose Johns Hopkins SAIS?I see international affairs as an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach to unpacking the world’s various historical, sociopolitical, and economic linkages. Within those linkages, there is a myriad of solutions to furthering human evolution and tackling complex challenges. I was drawn to SAIS for two reasons: the curriculum redesign of the MAIR program and the testimony of Sabrina Fulton (SAIS Class of 2021). SAIS’s commitment to reimagining the study of international relations intrigued me and affirmed that my interests in looking at the intersections of race, statecraft, cultural diplomacy would be welcomed.Although the first reason captured my attention, Sabrina Newton’s experience at SAIS led me to accept SAIS’s offer. Sabrina Newton, like me, is a graduate of a historically Black college and a Rangel Fellow that went to SAIS straight from undergraduate. She understood my concerns, doubts, and hopes about transitioning from the safety net of an undergraduate institution to the post-graduate world. Her experiences reassured me that I could holistically thrive and evolve at SAIS.2. What program are you in, and what do you hope to gain from it?As a first-year candidate in the Master of International Relations (MAIR) program, I hope to explore the complexities of statecraft and diplomacy in the Americas (in particular the Caribbean and Latin America), continue to research the potency within the intersections of art and diplomacy and further develop my quantitative lens. My goal is to leave the MAIR program as a dynamic, globally conscious leader.3. What were you doing before attending school?This spring, I graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of International Studies. After graduation, I served as a congressional intern in the Office of Congressman Joaquin Castro, spending much time attending briefings, writing policy memos, and working on bills to advance the Congressman’s work as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact. I also reported on Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley’s (SAIS Alumna) historic position as the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the State Department as a 2021 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow.4. What has been one of your favorite experiences or classes at the school so far?Although I love all my classes (even Statistics with Professor Harrington!), my favorite class this semester is News Media and International Affairs with Patrick Pexton. As someone with a journalism/media background, I chose this course because I wanted to learn more about how the media shapes the dynamics within the global political arena. I’ve enjoyed the course structure and the guest speakers Professor Pexton has invited to our course to share how they engage and influence the media and international affairs intersections. My favorite speaker was Washington Post’s lead Intelligence Correspondent, Shane Harris. His emphasis on how the media shapes perception and how perception impacts the intelligence community fascinated me!5. As a first year, what are some things you are looking forward to?I am looking forward to connecting with more of my colleagues outside of the classroom, joining leadership teams at SAIS, and taking more courses that intrigue me. I also hope that I can experience SAIS Bologna!6. How will your degree better prepare you for the U.S. Foreign Service?I approach a career in public service with humanity at the forefront, rooted in ethical practices and a commitment to proposing actionable policy solutions. This degree will equip me with the substantive knowledge and practical skills I need to ground my diplomatic path further.

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