International Affairs Major and ASLC President Earns Rangel Fellowship
Following a highly competitive nationwide process, Mikah Bertlemann BA ’21 became one of 45 students to be awarded a Charles B. Rangel Fellowship, named for the long-serving New York congressman who represented Harlem for half a century.
The fellowship provides a unique opportunity for new graduates to begin careers in foreign service through the U.S. Department of State. Fellows are supported through two years of graduate study, mentoring and professional development activities, along with two prestigious summer internships: first, an internship on Capitol Hill working on international issues for members of Congress, and later, working in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.
After successfully completing the program, fellows receive appointments as Foreign Service Officers, and often go on to represent U.S. foreign policy in countries around the world.
“Rangel is for diverse opinions and experiences,” he says. “It spoke to me because it gives underrepresented communities the opportunity to be represented in policy decisions, in the Foreign Service, and to provide perspectives that have been missing from the field of diplomacy for so long.”
Before he arrived at Lewis & Clark, Bertlemann had zeroed in on the international affairs program, eager to learn about new places and ideas. A Kailua, Hawaii native, Bertlemann says that the early days of college were a “culture shock,” but also a window into future possibilities.
His first semester, he enrolled in an introductory class with Joseph M. Ha Associate Professor of International Affairs Elizabeth Bennett, who would later become his advisor.
“I once asked her ‘How do you see the world in terms of the paradigms we’re learning in class?’ and she said ‘I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t want to change how you see the world. I want this class to be about how you see the world and how it functions’,” Bertlemann says. “That stands out to me to this day.”
From the beginning of his college career, Bertlemann made it a point to immerse himself into on-campus opportunities, using student government as a way to learn more about the students around him. His first year, he joined the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) as a senator, and he now serves as president, advocating for the interests of the student body.
“It gives you an opportunity to see conversations from the other end,” Bertlemann says. “You get to hear from the administration about why decisions were made, and oftentimes they include students in those conversations to make sure that there are compromises on issues. It’s a really great way to make the experience what you want it to be for yourself and for your peers.”
Once he has completed his time as Rangel fellow, Bertlemann hopes to begin his career in public service with a focus on the Asian-Pacific region. In summer 2020, his internship with the State Department was cancelled due to COVID-19, and he transitioned to work with the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, sparking an interest in Cross-Strait relations.
“Growing up in Hawaii, having a diverse mix of cultures is part of my childhood,” Bertlemann says. “But knowing that there’s so much more beyond that is really important. A career where I get to travel extensively and meet new people is huge for me, and foreign service provides that.”