Student Success Going global

A Window to the World

For years now, Trisha Camara has been blazing an international trail and exploring the world through politics—either literally or through her studies at Loyola University Chicago. A Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native and daughter of a Gambian immigrant, Camara has traveled a little and is currently interning in Washington, DC, with the Legal Services Organization, a nonprofit that provides financial support for civil legal aid for low-income Americans. So you could say she has a good sense of what it means to live on the road.

“I feel that once I’ve been in a place too long, I get too comfortable,” said Camara. “I like to expand my horizons.”

The political science and global and international studies major will have another opportunity to do just that through the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship in Foreign Affairs. “It’s very exciting. I’m still trying to figure things out,” said Camara, who is a member of Loyola’s Inside Government group that aims to prepare students for political careers and has also served on the College Democrats executive board. “I’ve been on cloud nine since getting the email notification from Pickering.”

In her quest to look ahead and plan for graduate studies, she discovered several fellowships with the help of Loyola’s Fellowship Office website and its advisor, Lisa Knepshield.

“Loyola’s website for fellowships is so good,” said Camara, who plans to graduate in May 2019. “That’s how I looked into so many different ones and thought about what I was interested in, both in political science and international studies. And this one—Pickering—really kinda hits at both.”

She is interested in the significant ways countries interact with each other, particularly through economies and trade. Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in public policy to study economic trade policies and human rights using quantitative analysis.

But the path to this fellowship was not a clear one. In fact, she almost did not apply.“It was about a week before the deadline and I thought maybe this is a waste of my time. Maybe I should transfer this energy into graduate school applications as opposed to this fellowship that is highly competitive."

"Then, I told myself ‘Just Do It.’ I found myself to be the biggest obstacle. In that moment I realized, I needed to get out of my comfort zone.”

About the Pickering Fellowship

The fellowship provides tuition funding for two years towards a master’s program, a stipend, and fulfillment of Foreign Service entry requirements. Upon completion of their graduate work, fellows have the opportunity to work as Foreign Service officers, serving in Washington, DC, or at a U.S. embassy, consulate, or diplomatic mission around the globe.


Pickering Fellows chosen each year from hundreds of applicants

Discovering the Foreign Service

For Camara, Foreign Service hadn’t initially been on her radar. She had an interest in politics, economics, and world affairs but this was different. That was until she began to do some digging.

“If you had asked me last year, Foreign Service wouldn’t have been on my mind. You know a lot of people who came to the interviews had the advantage of working previously for the State Department or working for the United Nations as an intern. I, on the other hand, did a lot of research on what it is they exactly do and I really came to understand the work of a foreign officers as a lifestyle.”

It’s a lifestyle that mirrors Camara’s own interest in moving around. Under the terms of the Pickering fellowship, she must commit to a minimum of five years in the Foreign Service.

Camara said she owes a lot to Loyola faculty who helped her expand her interests and guided her on this career path. As part of her Rudis Fellowship, she worked under her mentor Tofigh Maboudi, PhD, assistant professor of comparative politics. Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz, PhD, associate professor of anthropology, and David Doherty, PhD, associate professor of political science, are two other faculty members Camara has kept up with even after finishing courses with them. So much so that she regularly visits with them to gain advice and guidance. Loyola’s size makes people feel comfortable, she said, which also students to build relationships such as the ones she has with faculty.

“Loyola definitely does a good job of hiring faculty who care about you as a student, and who care about your interests. Having people like Lisa Knepshield and the professors I have had, has really opened doors to a lot of different things I’ve never thought about.”

But she does say that her family also provide her a wealth of support as well, although most are in the health care industry and aren’t always familiar with her interests. The combination of the two gives her strength to pursue interests beyond her comfort zone.

“Having the Loyola community and my family together has really helped me get where I am today.”

Exploring the world

Loyola's Rudis Fellowship fosters student interest in the comparative study of constitutions from countries around the globe. Camara's project focused on four Middle East countries: Bahrain, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. And the perspective and identity of her mentor Tofigh Maboudi as a person from Iran drove her interest in the topic.