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University Relations

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September 14, 2005
Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

Derby junior at KU wins one of 20 Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowships

LAWRENCE -- Michelle Thi Tran, University of Kansas junior from Derby, is one of 20 students nationwide to win a highly competitive Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship for outstanding students planning careers in foreign service. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation administers the highly fellowship program and the U.S. State Department provides funding.

Tran is majoring in news and information journalism and in Russian and East European studies at KU. She is the daughter of Chinh Tran of Derby and is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, N.H.

A Pickering fellowship covers tuition, room, board and mandatory fees during the junior and senior years and during the first year of graduate study in an approved international studies program. The fellowship also provides reimbursement for books and one round-trip travel fare.

The value of the fellowship varies depending on where recipients are enrolled. Pickering Fellows must select domestic graduate schools with membership in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs.

Tran said she hasn't determined where she will pursue a master's degree. Pickering Fellows must commit to at least four and a half years service as a foreign service officer. The program includes an annual orientation in Washington, D.C.; a junior-year summer institute in a graduate school of public policy and foreign affairs; stipends for two internships, one in an embassy abroad and the other in U.S. State Department; and a foreign service officer mentor once admitted to graduate school.

As a first-generation Vietnamese-American with a strong interest in cultural studies and in public service, Tran said a foreign service career allows her to combine those interests. Her brother's entrance to the foreign service a few years ago alerted her to the potential career. He was a Pickering Graduate Fellow is now in the U.S. consulate office in Monterrey, Mexico

As a freshman, Tran had studied Russian for four years in high school, and Russian is one of her two majors at KU. She has also studied Arabic at KU for two years. This past summer, Tran traveled to China as a Kansas Asia Scholar, through KU's Center for East Asian Studies.

" I am interested in many different areas and will be happy to serve wherever I am needed," Tran said of the commitment she has made to serve in the U.S. State Department once she has completed graduate school.

Tran is in the Honors Program at KU and in University Scholars, a mentorship program for about 20 scholars selected in their sophomore year. She is also a Multicultural Scholar in KU's Multicultural Scholar Development Program. She is president of the new Dennis E. Rieger Scholarship Hall and serves as the cultural arts coordinator for Student Union Activities at KU.

The U.S. Department of State renamed its Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program to honor Thomas R. Pickering, one of the most distinguished and capable U.S. diplomats of the latter half of the 20th century. Pickering held the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service, career officer. He served as ambassador to Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, India, and the Russian Federation, finishing his career as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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