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The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

NMSU graduate becomes US Diplomat 

Photo courtesy of Nicole Johnson.

Imagine working with the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., receiving full-ride scholarships to multiple leading universities, and being sent overseas to work as a diplomat in foreign countries.  

This is the future of Nicole Johnson, a New Mexico State University student who was recently awarded the 2024 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, a program funded and administered by the U.S. Department of State for students pursuing careers in Foreign Service.  

Johnson was selected for this prestigious program out of 1,267 applicants. In addition to being the first New Mexican ever chosen, Johnson is the first member of the Comanche nation to enter the program. She is also a mother of two and will be able to take her children and spouse with her to wherever she is relocated — a “wonderful opportunity” for someone who has always wanted to work internationally. 

“I felt that I was kind of living in a movie script for the last several months because everything was moving so quickly and it still seemed so impossible that I had been selected,” Johnson said. “I think because I wanted this so badly, I felt sure that it wasn’t going to happen.” 

In addition to the intense application process, Johnson cited her own background of a difficult childhood and limited finances as her uncertainties of being selected. Now, she believes that her experiences growing up on the border in El Paso have given her a unique perspective and an appreciation for diversity. 

Johnson also believes that her studies abroad have helped prepare her for the Rangel program. She was able to do a work study for a government and social work program in Munich, Germany, as well as work with the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan the following year. 

“I think that the experience that I had there, the people that I met, being able to see how our policies here in the United States can learn from other countries and also how we can kind of work together as countries to address different global migration issues definitely fueled my passion to get into this type of work in the future,” Johnson said. “I definitely feel I have a lot to offer in local and state policy, maybe even in federal policy here in the United States, but certainly to help our country in working with governments in developing those partnerships overall.” 

Johnson believes that building up these international relations is “vitally important” in today’s world and political climate. She is particularly passionate about issues related to human rights and hopes to implement policies protecting the rights of both Americans and foreign citizens in her work as a diplomat. 

She also emphasized how vital the NMSU government department has been to her success. 

“The mentorship and support that I received from the faculty at the Department of Government has been life changing,” she said. “I would definitely say that NMSU is what made this possible for me.” 

Not only did the government department send Johnson to Germany and Jordan, showing her that a career in international relations was possible, but they also worked closely with her throughout the application process to the Rangel program. Department head Dr. Neil Harvey often works with students on these opportunities, which he says can change students’ lives, like the Rangel program will for Nicole Johnson.  

“It sets her on a track to have a kind of a stronger role within foreign service because of the prestige of the network of people that she’ll be interacting with,” Harvey said. “She’ll get a really good, strong academic foundation in international relations, U.S. foreign policy. And having those summer experiences in the agency will give a hands-on experience, and connections and networks.” 

While the prospect of working with Congress and becoming a U.S. diplomat can be daunting, Johnson said she is more excited than anything. She hopes that other NMSU students will follow in her footsteps and take this opportunity — especially first-generation college students, students of color, and those from underprivileged communities, all of whom the Rangel program is geared towards. 

“Don’t second guess it,” Johnson said. “Don’t feel like these types of things aren’t for us, because now we know that students from NMSU can get picked. It’s not only getting your master’s degree paid for, but essentially your life is set — you have a guaranteed career in government, in diplomacy, after you graduate with your masters. You’ll travel and experience the world on the government’s dime… It really is like a dream come true.” 

Whether or not Johnson chooses to stay at NMSU for her graduate studies, she will be cheered on by the connections she has already forged here, especially by her professors in the government department, one of whom proclaimed: 

The world would be a better place if we had lots of diplomats like Nicole!”

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About the Contributor
Adeline Triplett
Adeline Triplett, Staff Writer
Adeline Triplett is starting her second year with The Round Up. She is a senior at NMSU, majoring in Journalism & Media Studies with a focus in print/editorial and a minor in International Studies. Adeline was raised in Farmington, New Mexico. She has always had a love of writing and reading due to growing up with parents who are teachers. Adeline began writing creatively in elementary school and has continued ever since. She discovered her passion for journalism in high school and hopes to make a positive impact with her stories. Outside of school and writing, Adeline enjoys spending time with friends and family, binging movies and shows, and traveling as much as possible. Moving forward, she hopes that working at The Round Up will help her grow as a writer and in her future career.

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