Promoting Diversity in the Foreign Service

  • Mikah Bertlemann BA ’21

Following a highly competitive nationwide process, Mikah Bertlemann BA ’21 became one of 45 students to be awarded the State Department’s Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship, named for the long-serving New York congressman who represented Harlem for half a century.

“Rangel is for diverse opinions and experiences,” says Bertlemann. “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.”

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.

“Growing up in Hawai‘i, 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.”

Bertlemann, who serves as the current president of ASLC, the student government at L&C, will graduate with an international affairs major and a political economy minor. Once he has completed his time as a Rangel fellow, he hopes to begin his career in public service with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region.