Prestigious Rangel Fellowship launches alumna toward foreign diplomacy
One recent graduate earns the Rangel Fellowship, a highly competitive award for individuals interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy.
Mary Kamikazi ’21 has always had an aptitude for taking on new challenges.
A native of Burundi, Kamikazi has made the most of every opportunity — from her lived experience as a refugee in Africa to immersing herself in college and service as a Bonner Scholar, to post-Centre leadership experiences with General Electric and Amazon. Now, she’ll make the move from a corporate position to become Centre College’s first ever Rangel Fellowship recipient.
The Rangel Fellowship will support Kamikazi through a two-year master’s degree in an area of relevance to the Foreign Service, providing extensive professional development opportunity, internships, mentors and skills training. As part of the program, Kamikazi will work this summer for a member of Congress focusing on issues related to foreign affairs.
“I've always been interested in international relations, especially during my time at Centre,” Kamikazi said. “After graduating, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. After a while, I was able to put it together — I would really enjoy working in diplomacy. I had thought about it while at Centre, but I didn't know how to get there. Then I landed on the Rangel Fellowship.”
The Rangel International Affairs Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University, is as prestigious and highly competitive as they come in foreign service fellowships: In 2022, the program awarded just 45 fellowships. This year, there were 1,267 applicants.
In the summer of 2025, the U.S. Department of State will send her overseas to work in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to get hands-on experience with U.S. foreign policy. Upon successful completion of the program, Kamikazi will take the Foreign Service Officer Test with plans to become a U.S. diplomat in the summer of 2026, embarking on what the Rangel Fellowship describes as “one of the most challenging and rewarding careers of service. She will work to promote peace, prosperity and human dignity around the world.”
“Mary embodies what Rangel is looking for: strong motivation to enter the U.S. Foreign Service and the skills and aptitudes necessary to succeed at graduate school and as a Foreign Service Officer,” said Robert Schalkoff, director of the office of fellowships at Centre. “Successful candidates, like Mary, have overseas experience as well as international exposure within the U.S., internship or work experiences in the public or corporate sector and show dedicated commitment to public service as students and beyond.”
Kamikazi first arrived at Centre with biology as an intended major and medical school down the line, but she quickly switched to international studies. Professors like Robert Bosco and Lori Hartmann cultivated Kamikazi’s love for the subject, and an abroad experience in Shanghai cemented her passion — particularly for foreign relations.
“Mary was an intellectually curious student in class; moreover, she was able to effectively integrate the theories and material we were learning in class with her lived experience as a refugee in Africa,” Hartmann said. “In my African Politics class, she provided amazing insights and perspectives that enriched the discussion and helped our domestic students better understand the history and politics of the continent.”
Service as a Bonner Scholar played an important role for Kamikazi’s life outside of the College — she noted that her time with the local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) branch helped integrate her into the local community.
Kamikazi’s complete experience at Centre — from studying abroad to developing a love for International Studies and service as a Bonner Scholar — paints the ideal Rangel Fellow, Schalkoff said.
“Mary is a great example of someone who made the most of her Centre experience, both in and out of the classroom, and understood how practical leadership experience in the work environment could help further prepare her for a career in the Foreign Service,” he said.
During the interview, Kamikazi highlighted her willingness to tackle new opportunities and integrate with her community — and her body of work resulted in a door opening in her field of study.
“I was really excited to get the good news,” she said. “I think the Rangel program really liked the various backgrounds I have had. I’ve interned with refugee offices, worked in finance and operations — really just a wide variety of perspectives that I was able to showcase what I have learned from each.”
Her experience at Centre was instrumental in finding her passion, Kamikazi added.
“Dr. Hartmann and Dr. Bosco really pushed me to be more curious about international studies,” she said. “Through their support and push, it prepared me to think of a career in the field, instead of just studying the subject. Dr. Schalkoff was a treasure to work with — he was more than happy to help me with the application process.”
Students interested in exploring the world of fellowships are encouraged to contact Robert Schalkoff at email@example.com to start a conversation about their goals and passions. The office also shares information via email about opportunities that are specific to class cohorts from first-year students to seniors.