Many diplomats who are alumni or connected to Brigham Young University visit Provo each year. They take time to meet with students and talk about their path toward a diplomacy career. But a unique scholarship, only in its fourth year, helps undergraduates forge their own path toward public service in diplomacy.
In 2022, McKay Smith, a BYU undergraduate majoring in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Promotion and minoring in International Development, was awarded the Kennedy Center’s U.S. Diplomacy Scholarship. McKay’s ultimate career goal is to become an Environmental, Scientific, Technology, and Health (ESTH) officer for the U.S. Department of State, where he plans to advance US international health diplomacy and outreach. To achieve this, he has been actively seeking opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field.
Recently, McKay completed a Junior Summer Institute (JSI) PPIA fellowship with Carnegie Mellon University, a rigorous academic graduate-level preparation program for students committed to public service careers. He served as co-president of Students for International Development and completed an internship monitoring air quality in Kathmandu, Nepal, during spring term 2023.
“I found out about the scholarship through the Kennedy Center website. There were a lot of different opportunities—and that was one that stood out to me,” Smith says. "I think the Kennedy Center provides huge opportunities. You have to look for them. You have to be active."
In 2023, two new awards were given to Josh Stevenson and Adrianna Carter.
Josh Stevenson, a student from Purcellville, Virginia, said that the Diplomacy Scholarship will help support his ambition of becoming a Foreign Service Officer for the US government. It will enable Stevenson to acquire analytical skills crucial for federal civil service and bolster his candidacy for the competitive Foreign Service selection process. "When I received this scholarship, I was elated and honestly a little surprised," Stevenson says.
Hailing from the Washington, DC metropolitan area, Stevenson's interest in public service was sparked by witnessing the meaningful work of federal civil servants and Foreign Service Officers. Inspired by his experiences, he is learning how US foreign policy impacts domestic affairs. Having completed his Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Editing and Publishing at BYU, Stevenson is eager to join the Foreign Service after graduate studies. His dedication to diplomacy and public service has garnered praise from his community and through other awards. He will begin a master's program at the University of Virginia's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy starting this fall.
Adrianna Carter, a student studying Global Supply Chain in the Marriott School of Business, has also been awarded this significant scholarship, propelling her toward a career in diplomacy with the federal government. Carter has been driven by a passion for public service from a young age; her father's involvement in the Foreign Service inspired her, and summer jobs at embassies in Poland and Saudi Arabia solidified her interest. The scholarship will enable her to pursue crucial experiences, such as additional Department of State internships, easing the financial burden that often impedes such opportunities. Adrianna's determination and dedication to this career have earned her recognition, reinforcing her commitment to diplomacy.
"Because of financial considerations, there was also some uncertainty about the upcoming school year. Finding out about the scholarship gave me support that I would still be able to graduate with minimal student debt," Carter says. "In a way, it also felt validating. As a business school student pursuing a career in the Foreign Service, I sometimes felt out of place among all of the political science students. The scholarship, to me, was a recognition of the time and dedication I've put in as an officer and president of the Foreign Service Student Organization, helping other students on the same path."
The Diplomacy Scholarship is an endowment established by V Jordan and Patricia N. Tanner through the Kennedy Center. They hope to inspire BYU students from all majors across campus to participate in diplomatic service. "In the world we're living in today, diplomacy has never been so critical. Many American Foreign Service officers are working with refugee programs and other service programs in countries around the world. For me, there is no finer career than being a diplomat," says Jordan Tanner. "I strongly encourage students who have an interest in living abroad, and furthering diplomatic relations of the American government, to consider taking the Foreign Service exam and hopefully become a Foreign Service officer."
Applications will be open this fall semester for the next awards. Students who have taken the Foreign Service Exam, completed an internship, and demonstrated a commitment to a diplomacy career through service and leadership at BYU are encouraged to apply.