Posted May 6, 2024

Global studies alum becomes Temple’s first Payne Fellow

Lauren Ross, CLA ’23, has received a Payne Fellowship, which funds master’s degrees leading to careers with the U.S. Agency for International Development Foreign Service.   

Lauren Ross leaning against a building
Photography By: 
Zamani Feelings
Lauren Ross, CLA ’23, is Temple’s first Payne Fellow. This fellowship supports graduating seniors and young professionals through two-year graduate programs leading to a career with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Foreign Service.

After witnessing her tenacity and passion for international relations, Lauren Ross’ professors and mentors at Temple encouraged her to apply to the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program. So she was especially disappointed when she didn’t get it.  

But Ross applied again. What helped the most this time was a mock interview with staff and faculty from Temple, including Director of Scholar Development and Fellowships Advising Barbara Gorka and Chair and Professor of Political Science Mark Pollack.

With this support and preparation, Ross became Temple’s first Payne Fellow. The fellowship, open to graduating seniors and young professionals, funds master’s degrees leading to careers at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Foreign Service, with a required minimum of five years of service with the organization. USAID is an agency that leads humanitarian efforts, such as reducing poverty and promoting resilient democratic societies worldwide. Ross will begin as a junior program officer and aims to climb the ranks within the organization to eventually become a senior foreign service officer.

“Being the first is a blessing and unbelievable, knowing how many great students go to Temple,” she said. “I want to make an impact and feel excited to do vital work with USAID.” 

For 2024, the selection panel chose 30 Payne fellows who embody the program’s mission of promoting excellence and representing diversity. In addition to graduate school, fellows complete domestic and overseas internships; participate in activities to strengthen their skills; and meet with USAID officials as well as representatives from Capitol Hill, executive branch agencies, nongovernmental organizations and foreign diplomats.

Ross is pursuing a master of arts degree in security policy studies with a concentration in conflict resolution at George Washington University this fall. And in June she’ll begin an internship with the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Her love for traveling fueled an interest in international relations. So far, she’s been to 17 countries across five continents. “Absorbing different cultures and learning about their histories, especially in older countries, has been super fun,” she said. “On the flip side, I’ve also seen disparities in how Black and brown people are treated on the international stage compared with white individuals. This interest pulled me into studying Middle Eastern politics.”

At Temple, she majored in global studies with a minor in Arabic. Additionally, she participated in the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Awards with Professor of Political Science Orfeo Fioretos on a project about multilateralism in the United States after the Cold War. And during the summer before her senior year she interned at the Foreign Service Institute, which she also credits for helping her earn this fellowship.

“With all the opportunities Temple provides, I always recommend this school, especially to those from Pennsylvania who want to stay here. I don’t think there’s a better option than Temple,” said Ross, who transferred from Saint Joseph’s University during her sophomore year. “I am Temple Made and Temple proud.”

Thanks to Temple, she feels well-equipped for this Payne Fellowship. “The diversity at Temple is what has most prepared me. Here I wasn’t the only Black student in the classroom anymore. That was life-changing for me," said Ross. “My experience at this university prepared me for the international arena because you need to be adept at interacting with people from all walks of life. What I’m doing next feels like a natural progression.”

Ross also encourages others from the university to apply to the Payne program, which welcomes individuals from any undergraduate major: “Let’s make sure I’m not the first and the last Payne Fellow from Temple.”