The Walter Roberts Endowment and the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication (IPDGC) is proud to congratulate Chaniqua D. Nelson for being the recipient of the Walter Roberts Award for Public Diplomacy Studies for 2020.
Each year, the Walter Roberts Endowment grants $1,000 to a GW graduate student who shows exemplary performance in public diplomacy studies, and has aspirations for a future career in this field. Ms. Nelson, a Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellow, shared that she had always wanted a job that involved building relationships between the United States and other countries. After her commencement, Ms. Nelson will launch her career as a Public Diplomacy Officer with the U.S. Department of State.
Here’s a short interview with our 2020 Walter Roberts PD Studies award recipient:
What experiences motivated/ inspired you to choose this career path?
In 2012, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). That volunteer opportunity led me to meet some amazing Foreign Service Officers who were working to assist the next generation of African Leaders. I remember interacting with both YALI participants and U.S. Foreign Service Officers at a reception hosted at the Meridian International Center, thinking: ‘this is what I want to do for the rest of my life’ – assisting with expanding and strengthening the relationship between the United States and other countries. Later, I had lunch with the Diplomat-in-Residence at the time, Ambassador Eunice Reddick. She shared her story with me, of what led her to the Foreign Service and encouraged me to take the Foreign Service Officer Test and apply to the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship. It took a couple of years after my encounter with Ambassador Reddick, to decide on pursuing a career in the Foreign Service. I honestly thought that I didn’t have what it takes to be a Foreign Service Officer – I didn’t know a lot of foreign languages and I didn’t participate in prestigious fellowships/scholarship programs like the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program or the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. However, it wasn’t until I participated in the Overseas Development Program for civil servants at the Department of State, where I served as an office management specialist in the Public Affairs Section at U.S. Embassy Beijing, that I realized that I could do this as well. I was extremely fortunate to have supervisors who cared about my development. So, when I got the courage to ask Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs Lisa Heller and the now Director of the Office of International Visitors Program Anne Grimes to write me a recommendation for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, both immediately said yes. I am extremely thankful to Ambassador Reddick, Minister-Counselor Lisa Heller, Director Anne Grimes, and a long list of others for their encouragement. Their belief and support had inspired me to apply for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship and attend the George Washington University!
What have you enjoyed about your graduate studies at GW?
I have enjoyed learning about the intricacies of public diplomacy on a micro and macro level. What is special about the George Washington University, in particular the Global Communication program, is its ability to merge theory with practice. In Dr. Patricia Kabra’s Public Diplomacy class, we did everything a public diplomacy practitioner would do including writing speeches, press simulations, and developing a public diplomacy strategy for our embassy. In addition, I have also enjoyed learning about becoming a more compassionate and effective leader through my elective courses at the Department of Management within the School of Business.
What will you be doing after graduation?
After graduation, I will join the Foreign Service as a Public Diplomacy Officer. As of right now, I am unsure where I will be stationed. However, I am excited to explain U.S. history, cultures, and values to foreign audiences and promote educational and culture exchange abroad.