Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program
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Debbie Alfred
2018 Payne Fellow

Harvard University, Kennedy School, Masters in Public Policy (SIPA) 

Debbie Alfred was born in Haiti but spent most of her life in Orlando, Florida. She attended Florida State University where she received undergraduate degrees in Finance and Management Information Systems. While studying, she completed internships at the Florida Senate, the Florida TaxWatch Institute, and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. After finishing her bachelor's degree, she received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Cote d'Ivoire. Debbie regards this experience as one of the most transformative periods of her adult life and a solidifying reason to work as an Education Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Previously, Debbie was a Public and Policy and International Affairs Fellow where she learned the importance of quantitative and data-driven practices in the field of public service. Debbie is excited to apply her skills toward developing education solutions for children who have been affected by war and conflict. She will pursue a Master in Public Policy with a concentration in Political and Economic Development at Harvard Kennedy School. During her free time, Debbie is most likely running, doing yoga, or enjoying a good autobiography.



Caroline Carrasco
2018 Payne Fellow

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg University School of Public Health


Caroline Carrasco was raised in Mooresville, North Carolina by Peruvian parents from Lima and Ocobamba. As a child of immigrants, she grew up navigating Latin American, Andean Quechua, and Southern culture simultaneously. Her multicultural identity enabled her global perspective of world issues, which informs her belief that everyone, regardless of the place or condition they were born in, deserves access to healthcare, a healthy environment, and opportunities to thrive. This belief motivates her pursuit of a career in international development.
Caroline is proud to have been educated by North Carolina public schools from kindergarten through college. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar, graduating with a BSPH in Health Policy and Management from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and a minor in Sustainability Studies. The scholarship enabled her to spend summers working on global health projects. She worked to increase food security and improve the health of an HIV discordant community at The AIDS Support Organization in Jinja, Uganda; worked on Yaws and Buruli Ulcer eradication at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland; and contributed to evaluation reports for the Health Policy Project at a global health consulting firm in D.C.
After graduating, she worked in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as a Princeton in Asia Fellow with a road safety NGO aiming to reduce road deaths in six countries internationally. Caroline then spent almost two years in San Francisco, California, where she worked for a healthcare research firm to build tools for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. After working domestically, she moved to Arusha, Tanzania where she worked with an L3C to equip local social entrepreneurs to provide access to clean and affordable water to communities that would otherwise drink boiled or untreated water.
Caroline will study at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she will earn a Master of Science in Public Health in International Health with a concentration on Social and Behavioral Interventions. In her free time, Caroline enjoys film photography, curating music playlists, keeping up with the latest sneaker drops, and reading books by civil rights and immigrant activists. Caroline is honored and grateful to be a part of the 2018 class of Payne Fellows. She is excited to develop the expertise for a successful career as a Health Officer in the USAID Foreign Service.

Isabella (Bella) Genta
2018 Payne Fellow

American University, Masters in International Affairs: Natural Resources/Sustainable Development program

Isabella (Bella) Genta grew up in Sarasota, Florida where she attended Pine View School for the Gifted and interned extensively at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. She attended the University of North Florida in Jacksonville where she studied International Conservation and minored in Biology and International Business. While she was heavily involved with her campus community, serving as the Student Body Vice President, President, and a Board of Trustees member, Bella was also able to delve deeper into the field of marine science via research assistantships, working to quantify zooplankton density with an evolutionary geneticist and aiding in conservation driven epidemiological studies. More recently, Bella has used her joint interests in conservation and community education to host a Climate Change Communications Summit on behalf of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation.

Coinciding with her biological studies, Bella's affinity for travel pulled her towards study abroad opportunities across the world, implementing development work in its various forms in Peru, Morocco, Spain, Vietnam, and Cambodia. With every trip, Bella's perspective of the interdisciplinary nature of international development grew; but, it was not until she was exposed to a mangrove conservation project with a community-based tourism group in Kampot, Cambodia, that she saw the marriage that was possible between her two passions, marine conservation and international development. Through the Payne International Development Fellowship, she hopes to gain the theoretical framework and the practical experience to be able to not just find a net neutral solution to the dichotomy between social and economic development and environmental restoration and conservation, but rather cultivate comprehensive programs that by conserving marine ecosystems, enable developing communities to improve upon their standards of living and autonomy as well. Bella will pursuing a masters degree in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development via a dual-degree program with American University and the UN-chartered University for Peace. She is grateful and extremely excited for opportunity to serve as an Environment Officer in the USAID Foreign Service.



Anna Ghnouly
2018 Payne Fellow

Columbia University, MPA in Development Practice program at School of International and Public Affairs


Anna Ghnouly was born in Orange County, California, but spent the majority of her youth in St. Louis, Missouri. In high school, her interest in public service was sparked while working in Washington, D.C., on Capital Hill as a Page in the U.S. Senate. During a gap year before college she participated in Semester at Sea, circumnavigating the globe visiting eleven different countries, and taught English to Arabic-speaking students in the Republic of Maldives. Anna graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography (International Development emphasis) and Asian and Middle Easter Studies (India and China concentrations). At Dartmouth, she completed study abroad programs in China, India, and the Czech Republic and was a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, as well as a Great Issues Scholar and War & Peace Fellow at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding. During her undergraduate career she held two internships with the U.S. Department of State working both in Rome as a Public Diplomacy Intern at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and in New York at the UN Management and Reform Section of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Anna also was a summer intern in the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign relations think tank in New York. After graduation she was awarded a Lombard Public Service Fellowship and worked in Singapore at the World Toilet Organization, an NGO that focuses on improving toilet access and sanitary conditions in the developing world. After returning to the U.S., Anna worked in Sacramento, California, as the Director of Program Operations for Waking the Village, a non-profit organization providing transitional housing facilities and support to homeless youth. Anna has travelled to 40+ countries, completed a marathon, and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. In addition to travel photography, some of Anna's hobbies include reading and (hip-hop) dancing. She will attend Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), to pursue her Masters in Public Administration in Development Practice and is grateful for the opportunity to represent her country as a USAID foreign service officer as a Global Health Officer or Programs Officer.



Ashley Hamilton
2018 Payne Fellow

Georgetown University, Global Human Development Program

Ashley Hamilton is a proud native of Flint, Michigan. In her freshman year of high school, Ashley attended a global leadership training conference in Cairo, Egypt that ignited her passion for International Affairs. In pursuit of that passion, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from Spelman College. While at Spelman, Ashley spent a semester in Northern Brazil researching the role that natural hair plays in identity politics among self-identified Afro-Brazilian women. She later sought to improve upon her Portuguese language skills by participating in a cultural immersion program in Lisbon, Portugal. Additionally, Ashley served as a Captain on the Spelman College/Clark Atlanta University Debate team, as well as competed in the Harvard Model United Nations conference in Rome, Italy.

Following her undergraduate matriculation, Ashley enlisted in the Peace Corps. She served as an Education Volunteer in Mozambique where she taught English at the Secondary School level and gained invaluable knowledge in grassroots development. Outside of the traditional classroom, Ashley dedicated her time to cultivating a theater group comprised of local students who used the outlet to discuss pressing social issues in their community. She utilized that platform to encourage critical thought and discussions surrounding a number of prevalent issues, including malaria prevention, women's rights, and gender-based violence. The experiences that Ashley gained throughout her time in the Peace Corps helped guide her to a career in International Development.

Ashley is ecstatic to be pursuing her Master of Arts in Global Human Development at Georgetown University this fall. She is looking forward to the opportunity to build a career with USAID, helping to address pressing global development challenges. While living and studying in the Washington, D.C. area, Ashley is anticipating indulging her love for great books, new adventures, and fabulous brunch scenes.



Prathibha Juturu
2018 Payne Fellow

John Hopkins Univeristy Masters in Science in Department of Environmental Health and Engineering

Prathibha Juturu immigrated to the USA from India at the age of two and spent the majority of her childhood in Plano, Texas. Always having a passion to help developing communities, she chose to study Environmental Engineering and minor in Arabic at Duke University, where she had various international experiences that shaped her interest in international environmental issues. She participated in Duke in the Arab World, a summer study abroad program in Morocco, where she studied the Moroccan Dialect. Afterwards, she received funding for a summer internship with the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Amman, Jordan to work for the Regional Office of West Asia in the Gender, Livelihoods, and Drylands Program. During her last year at Duke University, she researched on an interdisciplinary team to understand the environmental and health effects of used motor oil pollution in an auto mechanic village in Kumasi, Ghana.

This past year, she took a break from academics to participate in the Critical Language Scholarship Program in Ibri, Oman and worked as a program assistant for CARE International in the Food Security and Livelihoods Program for South Syria based in Amman, Jordan. Her experience with CARE opened her eyes to the crucial humanitarian and resilience efforts in Syria and the need for environmental sustainability to maintain long term resilience of these efforts.

Prathibha is excited to begin her career in creating sustainable solutions to environmental and development issues, and will be studying Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Along with her language skills in Arabic, Prathibha can speak Telugu and is thrilled to learn more languages while working as a Foreign Service Officer. In her spare time, she loves to play touch rugby, watch Duke basketball, hike outdoors, and watch Telugu and Arabic movies.



Tenzin Namdol
2018 Payne Fellow

University of Virginia's Darden School of Business

Tenzin Namdol is from Dharamshala, India where the quote, “it takes a village to raise a child” encompassed her childhood. She was raised by her refugee parents alongside the community of Tibetan refugees who instilled in her values of compassion and demonstrated daily that refugees are change agents. She later moved to the United States with her parents with hopes for better access to education, giving her the opportunity to graduate from Bates College with a Bachelors in Economics and Environmental Studies.


As a third generation Tibetan refugee, Tenzin is driven to find long term solutions to problems faced by refugees both in the United States and abroad. Her conviction has propelled her into various leadership roles tackling issues faced by refugees from human rights, public health to education. She has worked for the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) interviewing and translating stories of political prisoners into English, many of which she later used as an intern at the US Department of State to advocate for human rights for minorities in policy briefs presented during the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue.


Her volunteer work in her current home state of Maine, evaluating safe housing initiatives and determining how financial literacy education can be more effectively and efficiently delivered to refugees and immigrants, reinforced the importance of private sector knowledge to address public sector challenges. This has inspired Tenzin to pursue an MBA at the University of Virginia with the intention of leveraging her private sector skill set to create opportunities for refugees to be their own change agent.



Vivian Olabamiji
2018 Payne Fellow

Duke Kunshan Univeristy: Master of Science in Global Health 

Vivian Olabamiji grew up in Savannah, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Vivian developed an interest in Global Health after studying abroad in Hong Kong as a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar. After learning about the health needs of migrant workers in Hong Kong, Vivian became a teaching assistant for a Global health course at her university. Her passion for Global Health grew as she worked on a Human Papillomavirus vaccine uptake project, served as an AmeriCorps member, and worked as an epidemiology intern. Vivian is extremely grateful and excited to be chosen as a Donald M. Payne Fellow. Vivian's motto is “life's direction is forward”. As a population/health/nutrition officer, Vivian will work toward making equitable healthcare access a reality for all. Vivian will be working toward a Master of Science in Global Health at Duke Kunshan this fall.



Michelle Olakkengil
2018 Payne Fellow

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Michelle Olakkengil is determined to become a formidable advocate for women's health and empowerment. Growing up as a first-generation Indian American gave her an in-depth and intimate perspective of the tremendous challenges facing women internationally and even more by women from developing countries. 

Michelle explored these issues affecting women during her undergraduate studies at Stony Brook University. In the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Medicine, she worked with a team examining how environmental stressors increased vulnerability to intimate partner violence among women living in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Michelle was also involved in UN Women's HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Initiative, developing awareness campaigns to engage the community on ideas of gender equality.

Her passion for women's issues brought her to Ranomafana, Madagascar in 2017, through the U.S. Department of State's Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, where she conducted an exploratory investigation on the sexual and reproductive health status of women in rural villages and presented her findings to researchers and government officials. After graduating summa cum laude with her Bachelors of Science in Sociology and Psychology, Michelle became a Global Youth Advocacy Fellow for Planned Parenthood. In this position, she lead trainings on the role of the U.S. in advancing global sexual and reproductive health and rights and assisted in developing an International Women's Day advocacy campaign for the 2018 UN Commission on the Status of Women. 

Michelle will be attending the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, pursuing a Master of Science in Global Health and Population. She is honored to be a part of the 2018 Payne Fellows cohort and is excited to become a Population/Health/Nutrition Officer in the USAID Foreign Service, helping empower communities to strive towards gender equality. In her free time, Michelle loves entertaining her friends through song and busting out some yoga moves to unwind.



Mai Yer Xiong
2018 Payne Fellow

Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Mai Yer Xiong is from Saint Paul, MN. She is proud of her dual identity as a Hmong-American, which inspired her aspiration to work with high-impact poverty alleviation and economic development efforts that target marginalized communities. At Wellesley College, Mai Yer majored in Economics and Spanish. She specifically focused her studies on inequality, women's empowerment and social policy. Mai Yer strives to contribute to the achievement of the 10th Sustainable Development Goal by dedicating her career to reducing inequality within and among countries. She is a trilingual development practitioner with four years of experience working for multilateral and non-profit organizations. Her professional endeavors have spanned from the US to Latin America to Asia. After graduating from Wellesley College in 2014, Mai Yer moved to Panama to master the Spanish language and work in poverty alleviation as a Princeton in Latin America Research Fellow at the United Nations World Food Programme. She then completed a Princeton in Asia Fellowship in Laos with the desire to build community in her parents' home country and foster mutual understanding between the two countries. After her Fellowship, Mai Yer served as a Monitoring & Evaluation Associate for Population Services International where she led a regional initiative in Asia to demonstrate the value of evidence-based decision-making and teach field staff how to interpret data. In her spare time, Mai Yer enjoys reading novels about immigrant experiences, discussing privilege and feminism, as well as improving her salsa and bachata skills. Mai Yer hopes to leverage her graduate education to support USAID's efforts to ensure that by 2030, inequality within countries is significantly reduced.



Charles Bentley
2017 Payne Fellow

Tufts University, The Fletcher School, Masters in Law and Diplomacy

Charles "Charlie" Bentley grew up in Springfield, Missouri in a family that struggled to make ends meet. When he was 10 years old, his mother underwent brain surgery to survive a rare and incurable brain disorder, a procedure which resulted in his mother's lifelong battle with chronic pain and disability. At a young age, he understood what it meant to be part of a family facing crisis. He graduated magna cum laude from Carleton College and has committed his professional life to protecting and supporting low-income families with disabilities. After graduation, he was awarded a Watson Fellowship, where he designed and pursued a year-long, independent passion project. He lived and worked in South Africa, Togo, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Indonesia exploring how deaf people access aid and opportunity. When he returned to the US, he partnered with Boston hospitals and local government agencies to create a new counseling and employment program for people with disabilities who have experienced psychological trauma. Concurrently, in the evenings, he worked as a research assistant for a law firm, helping to write cases that protected low-income families from corporate abuse. He will attend the Tufts Fletcher School to obtain a Masters of Law and Diplomacy, focusing on human security.


Rashida Hawa Kabba
2017 Payne Fellow

Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, Masters in International Affairs

Rashida Hawa Kabba is from Freetown, Sierra Leone and spent the first few years of her life there during the country's civil war. Her family escaped the conflict to neighboring Guinea where she lived as a refugee before moving to the United States in 2005. Rashida is a 2015 graduate of Gettysburg College earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs & Africana Studies. At Gettysburg, Rashida was a student leader and involved in many groups and activities promoting diversity and inclusion. She spent three years as Diversity Peer Educator, two years as a Program Coordinator with the Center for Public Service, and two years as a Career Outreach Assistant for the Center for Career Development. She has also held internships with Equal Justice Works in Washington, D.C., and with the Kisumu Medical and Education Trust in Kisumu, Kenya. Rashida is a passionate advocate for education and the socioeconomic empowerment of women and girls across the globe. She will be pursuing a Masters of International Affairs at Columbia University's SIPA for the Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy, specializing in Gender and Public Policy. Rashida hopes to use her degree and skills to advocate for human rights and gender equality.


La'Nita Johnson
2017 Payne Fellow

American University, Masters in International Training and Education

La'Nita Johnson is a native of Powder Springs, Georgia but was raised as a citizen of the world. She completed her undergraduate studies at Pepperdine University, where she earned two Bachelors of Arts degrees in Hispanic Studies and International Studies, with a specialization in Intercultural Communications. While completing a study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, La'Nita had the unique opportunity to work as a freelance journalist for the ADN Agua y Medioambiente Magazine. Throughout college, La'Nita was also the Program Coordinator for an ESL program at the Malibu Labor Exchange, leading Pepperdine students in language teaching with the Hispanic day-laborer population. Upon graduation, La'Nita sought to influence intercultural communication gaps in the corporate sector. Thus, she joined the Commercial Leadership Program at GE Capital, and later went on to be a District Sales Leader at Frito-Lay North America. After a near death experience during an armed terrorist attack while on a mission trip to Burkina Faso in 2016, she decided to propel her love for public service by pursuing a Master's in International Training and Education at American University. She is excited to join the 2017 cohort of Donald M. Payne International Fellows and strives to spark change within educational diplomacy as USAID Foreign Service Officer. Some of La'Nita's hobbies include: learning foreign languages, brunching, doing Zumba, and jet-setting across the globe. La'Nita has travelled to over 20 countries and can't wait to add to the list!


Kathleen Kirsch
2017 Payne Fellow

University of California, Berkeley, Masters of Public Policy and Master's of Science in Environmental Engineering

Kathleen Kirsch grew up in Cooper City, FL and attended the University of Florida. During her undergraduate studies she interned at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Superfund program and worked as a Climate Change Adaptation intern in the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Kathleen also volunteered as the Engineers Without Borders Design Team Leader, developing a water supply project with a community in Bolivia before graduating in 2014 with her Bachelors of Science in Environmental Engineering. Upon graduation, Kathleen served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Cameroon, where she taught math and physics at a local high school and implemented youth health projects focused on HIV prevention, water treatment and hygiene habits. After completing her Peace Corps service, Kathleen accepted a position as the Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist for SEED Madagascar, managing a community-led total sanitation project in Tolagnaro, Madagascar. She will be attending graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, concurrently pursuing a Master's of Public Policy and a Master's of Science in Environmental Engineering. Kathleen is thrilled to be selected as a USAID Payne Fellow and to work as a Foreign Service Officer helping to provide clean water and sanitation for communities around the world. 

Elaine Li
2017 Payne Fellow

University of Chicago, Harris School, Masters of Public Policy

Elaine Li was raised in New York City by parents who immigrated from China. Elaine graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in International Politics and a certificate in Asian Studies. Her focus on Asia brought her to Qingdao, China in 2013 through the State Department Critical Language Scholarship where she studied Mandarin and became keen on a career in public diplomacy and international education. In 2014, she interned with the State Department's Office of Foreign Assistance and Resources and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations where she focused on identifying gaps in foreign assistance and on conflict monitoring. Through this experience, she recognized the importance of education access and platforms that enable individuals to achieve their fullest potential as a means of alleviating poverty. Following graduation, Elaine worked as an education consultant for two years in Shenzhen, China where she mentored youths and led soft skills development curriculum and workshops for students and for local staff training. Elaine will be attending the University of Chicago (Harris) to pursue her Masters in Public Policy. She is eager to link her newfound passion in human capital development with her role as an Education Officer in the USAID Foreign Service. 


Phelisha Midy
2017 Payne Fellow

Johns Hopkins, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Masters in International Development

Phelisha Midy is originally from East Meadow, New York, and graduated from Howard University in 2013 with a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and a minor in Sociology. Phelisha developed a passion for international service and development when she organized twenty Howard University student volunteers to work on a community development project in Haiti. In this role, Phelisha created a series of projects focusing on microfinancing loans, health, and local capacity development for a Haitian NGO. With the support of her team of volunteers, the NGO improved their microfinancing program, which led to the start-up of seven women-owned businesses. Currently, Phelisha serves as a core team member on a USAID evaluation project and recommends ways to improve and better implement Feed the Future programs for the USAID Global Food Security Strategy. Phelisha will attend John Hopkins SAIS and obtain a Masters of Arts in International Development with a focus on Economics. During her free time, she enjoys dancing salsa, Afro-Cuban, Samba, tap, jazz, kampa, asa, zouk, kizomba, and other international styles of dance. 


Jesse Okwu
2017 Payne Fellow

University of Michigan, Masters of Public Policy

Jesse Okwu is from Chicago, Illinois and graduated from Knox College where he majored in Anthropology, Sociology, and Economics. During his undergraduate career, he studied abroad in both Tanzania and India. After his time abroad, Jesse went on to intern at Parmarth Niketan, an environmental NGO in India. These experiences made him interested in public policy. In the summer of 2016, Jesse became a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellow and attended the Junior Summer Institute at the University of Michigan. This experience furthered his interest and in the fall of 2017, Jesse will return to the University of Michigan to pursue a Master's in Public Policy.


Jacqueline Rojas
2017 Payne Fellow

Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Masters in Global Human Development

Jacqueline Rojas will be working towards a Master of Arts in Global Human Development at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, where she will develop the quantitative and experiential skills necessary to be a professional in the field of development. Fulfilling her commitment as a 2017 Donald M. Payne International Development Fellow, Jacqueline expects to enter USAID's Foreign Service as a Program/Project Development Officer upon graduation. In 2016, she received a Fulbright Research Grant to Portugal, through which she completed a qualitative analysis on the impact and effectiveness of Portuguese development cooperation policy, particularly in Portuguese-speaking African countries, like Mozambique. Jacqueline also served as the UNICEF USA's 2016 Community Engagement Fellow in Miami, FL, where she engaged more than 4,500 constituents in Miami's community on issues of global concern and UNICEF's life-saving work for children globally. Her role included local partnership development, program implementation of UNICEF USA initiatives like TeachUNICEF and the End Trafficking Project, and organizing advocacy efforts in the region. She continues to engage with UNICEF USA as a member of UNICEF Next Generation. Jacqueline is a graduate of Florida State University (FSU) with a B.A. in International Affairs and a B.S. in Political Science. While a student, she was also selected as a 2014 Boren Scholar to Mozambique and participated in FSU's Social Science Scholar program. Jacqueline grew up in Florida, and enjoys traveling, cultural and language exchange, and anything fitness-related.

Susana Rojas-Quico
2017 Payne Fellow

Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Masters in Global Human Development

Susana “Susie” Rojas-Quico is originally from Peru and grew up in the outskirts of Washington D.C. Her interest in the international development field began early on. Hearing stories about how her grandparents benefitted from international aid programs left a lasting impression. She was inspired to join the Foreign Service by the Foreign Service Officers she met while working in the Management Bureau's Office of the Assistant Administrator at USAID. Prior to joining the Payne Fellowship program, Susie also worked in the Office of Food for Peace at USAID, the White House Council on Environmental Quality and for former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). She graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in International Relations and Anthropology. She is fluent in Spanish and has a limited working proficiency of Mandarin, after studying abroad and later becoming foreign language teacher in China. Susie is excited and honored to be part of the 2017 Payne Fellowship class. She will be pursuing a M.A. in Global Human Development at Georgetown University and looks forward to joining the USAID Foreign Service.


Hung Vo
2017 Payne Fellow

Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Masters in Urban Planning

Hung Vo was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, although he spent seven transformative years in Vietnam as a child. A graduate of Cornell University in Urban and Regional Studies, Hung was the first in his family to graduate high school and attend college. He was originally drawn to issues of social justice after a chance offer to intern at Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law while protesting a racially-charged bill at the Nebraska State Capitol. In college, Hung became interested in how cities can serve as ontological sites for creative adaptations and interventions through policy and design; his thesis explored how well-intentioned planners navigate contentious political and social workplace terrains. He is currently the North American Representative on the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) Youth Advisory Board and a Fellow at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), helping to produce the “Global Environment Outlook” report. He is also an editor of the upcoming UN-Habitat “Cities of Youth: Cities of Prosperity” report and a contributor to its “State of the Urban Youth 2016/2017” report, along with a recently published UN-Habitat Working Paper on youth rights and a peer-reviewed article on the California drought. At Harvard, Hung hopes to hone his skills in urban design and explore how cities can be more beautiful, equitable, and sustainable. In his free time, Hung reads novels, paints, and writes for The Huffington Post. The Payne Fellowship is enabling Hung to pursue a life of purpose by enabling him to help deliver aid and technical assistance to marginalized communities on behalf of the American people.


Jolisa Brooks
2016 Payne Fellow

Yale University, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Masters of Environmental Science MESc.

Jolisa Brooks' interest in development was cultivated by the gross inequity and cyclical poverty that plagued her beloved city, Detroit, Michigan. While her love for humanity and pride in her hometown ignited a passion for development, a journey to Madagascar in May 2012 clarified her life's purpose: to advocate for issues of environmental justice and development both domestically and abroad.   Jolisa is a product of Detroit Public Schools and proud alumna of Detroit Renaissance High School. She received her Bachelors degree from Michigan State University, where she studied Political Theory and Science, Technology, Environment & Public Policy. During her undergraduate career she conducted geological research in Antarctica and Argentina where she analyzed sustainable industrial fishing policies to protect keystone species. Jolisa will be attending the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies to pursue her Masters of Environmental Science. She feels blessed and grateful to become a Payne Fellow and is eager to enter the Foreign Service at the USAID as an Environment Officer.


Hoang Bui
2016 Payne Fellow

Harvard University, Master in Public Policy at the Kennedy School

Hoang Bui grew up in Minneapolis after his family fled from Vietnam in 1991. In 2008, he became the first person from his family to enter college. At the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, he was initially drawn to medicine until his first study abroad experience in Thailand. There he discovered a passion for languages and international service. After earning a B.S. in biology in 2012, he was awarded a Boren Scholarship to study in Taiwan. Following his return to Minneapolis, he began to serve as a public health advocate for Asian Pacific-Islander communities in Minnesota and California. He worked in this capacity until 201, when he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach English in Thailand. Kayden believes in Congressman Payne's goal to alleviate extreme poverty, and in the fall he will begin the MPP program at Harvard University in hopes of fulfilling that goal in the spirit of the American people.


Ellexis Chapman
2016 Payne Fellow

Johns Hopkins, Paul H. Nitze SAIS: Master of Arts with concentration in International Economics & Conflict Management

Ellexis Chapman was raised in Paducah, KY. She is a graduate of Xavier University, where she earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and International studies with a concentration in post-colonial studies and a minor in Peace studies. As an undergraduate student she examined the roles of international actors and their response to genocide. During which time she earned the Gilman International Scholarship to study post-genocide restoration and Peacebuilding in Rwanda. In Rwanda, she researched the effects of foreign aid in Rwanda, in particular that of the USAID.  She will continue studying conflict management and stability in post-conflict societies and is most interested in the crisis, stabilization, and governance backstop at USAID. Ellexis is confident that the USAID Foreign Service is a direct response to the journey she has been on and that with the support of the Payne Fellowship she will be able to acquire the theoretical insight and practical tools offered in graduate school. She will pursue a Master of Arts with concentration in International Economics and Conflict Management at Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze SAIS.


Suegatha Kai-Rennie
2016 Payne Fellow

Boston University, Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.

As an immigrant in the U.S. who escaped the gruesome
civil war of Liberia, Suegatha Kai-Rennie always felt the sense of responsibility to represent the best of the United States and to be a part of change in Africa. She grew up in Trenton New Jersey, where she completed high school and went on to study at Saint Peter's University. While in college, her international study experiences incited an interest for international development issues. She joined Peace Corps to fulfill her passion for service. She served 27 months in rural Zambia and worked on malaria prevention and reproductive health issues surrounding women and girls. She later worked with John Snow Inc., as a health logistics officer. She believes it is a blessing to receive the USAID International Development Payne Fellowship which will allow her to be a voice for the immured girls and women she came to know in Zambia.

Mariela Medina Castellanos
2016 Payne Fellow

Tufts University, Master of Arts of Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School

Mariela Medina Castellanos grew up in Tijuana and after high school, she volunteered as a teacher in an indigenous community in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her experience growing up in Tijuana followed by a year teaching in Oaxaca ignited in her a fascination and curiosity about different cultures and people. In college, she joined Engineers without Borders through which Mariela designed and built a slow sand water filtration system that provided clean drinking water to a community in Thailand. Mariela graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Cal Poly because she wanted to help solve problems and provide solutions to improve ways of living. Since, she has worked as an engineer designing and managing renewable energy projects. At this point, she is excited to apply the problem-solving skills learned as an engineer to a larger scale. Mariela is ready to earn her MA in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University and work as a USAID Foreign Service Officer to foster positive change in disenfranchised communities across the world.


Brittany Ayana Thomas
2016 Payne Fellow

Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Masters of Environmental Science MESc.

Brittany Ayana Thomas is a resident of Woodbridge, VA. During her undergraduate studies in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Brittany studied abroad in Uganda, Northern Ireland, and Brazil to gain an understanding of sanitation and human rights. In Summer 2014, she interned at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) with the WASH-Benefits Project, promoting hygiene interventions to prevent childhood growth-stunting. Following her graduation in May 2015, Brittany received JHU's Meg Long Walsh Award to volunteer with the Gender and Waste Project, a leadership empowerment effort for women waste pickers in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. “Observing the impact of environmental challenges on the futures of families has inspired me to serve my country in the USAID. With the mentoring support of the Donald M. Payne Fellowship, I am excited to expand my public health background into a career advocating for global sanitation equity as an Environment Officer.”


Stephanie Ullrich
2016 Payne Fellow

Columbia University, MPA in Development Practice

Stephanie Ullrich  went to the University of California, Berkeley where she studied Peace and Conflict Studies and Global Poverty and Practice. After graduating, she joined the United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Finance unit (UNDP-GEF) as a John Gardner Public Service Fellow and consultant. Over the last three years Stephanie has worked with UNDP-GEF on evaluations and results-based management, supporting energy, environment, and poverty reduction projects in over 75 developing countries. Stephanie has also worked in India on a water resource management project with the Tata Group; in Uganda conducting public health assessments and education sessions; and in Ghana on an electronic-waste management research project. She has also studied in Guatemala and Spain, and speaks Spanish and French. In her free time she enjoys yoga, hiking, and experimenting with Thai cooking. Stephanie is veryexcited to be selected as a 2016 Payne Fellow and to become a USAID Foreign Service Officer.


  Berhan Hagos
2015 Payne Fellow

Berhan Hagos hails from the Bay Area by the way of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She completed her undergraduate degree at Duke University where she studied International Comparative Studies, Global Health and minored in Cultural Anthropology. Although Berhan had initially been interested in pursuing medicine, after a summer internship at the Ethiopian Public Health Association, she became focused the practice of public health. While at Duke, her coursework in global health and development informed her fieldwork on the perception of HIV/AIDS stigma in urban communities within Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Furthermore, as an International Comparative Studies major, her region of concentration was the Arab World, which led her to study abroad in both Turkey and Egypt analyzing the geopolitical and economic histories of those nations. In Egypt she worked with an organization that provided services for refugees from across Eastern Africa and Syria. This experience exposed her to the realities of an especially vulnerable community, the challenges refugees faced in access to healthcare and the international policies that governed their movements. She delved deeply into her study of the Arabic language in Cairo, which she continued in Tangier, Morocco through the Critical Language Scholarship program. Prior to her last year at Duke, she worked for a legal counseling and advocacy firm that provided its services to women across the Kilimanjaro region and lobbied for gender rights preceding the referendum of the Tanzanian constitution.

Berhan's work with various global communities on issues concerning public health, education and gender rights, inspired her interest in completing a yearlong fellowship with Princeton in Africa. She spent her gap year in Gaborone, Botswana where she was a member of the teaching staff at the Maru-a-Pula School. During her fellowship year she has been honing her skills as a public speaker and facilitator as well as indulging in travel across Southern Africa. Berhan is thrilled and eager to return to academia through her pursuit of a Master's in Public Health (MPH) at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. She looks forward to beginning a career of service with USAID as a health officer.

  LeaJean Claye
2015 Payne Fellow

Lea Claye was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Beltsville, Maryland. Her family is from Sierra Leone which has been an important factor in choosing a career in international development. Lea first began her work experience with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2008, as a Biological Science Aid with the Agricultural Research Service. It was here that she became interested in agriculture and subsequently became a USDA/1890 National Scholar.

As a USDA scholarship recipient, Lea worked with the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) on projects primarily with the Nutrition Marketing and Communication Division during her undergraduate years. She served as a Dietary Guidelines Public Comments Organizer, White House and USDA Blog drafter for Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative and the Apps for Healthy Kids competition, Super Tracker Test Case Organizer, and a tracker for MyPlate Media Coverage at the time of its release.

Lea's adventurous spirit has led her abroad numerous times for academics, research, and personal travel. In 2011, she studied International Agriculture and French at the University of Quebec at Montreal. Later, she traveled to Seoul, South Korea and took public health courses at Korea University as a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar. Her academic focus was maternal nutrition, epidemiology, and health policy in addition to Korean language courses. The following summer, Lea was accepted into the Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) program through the National Institutes of Health and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After her experiences abroad, Lea's interests in international development and public health expanded.

In May 2013, Lea graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with the highest honors for a Bachelors of Science in Food and Nutritional Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics and a certificate in Global Studies. That summer, she began working at USDA as a Nutritionist at the Food and Nutrition Services' Child Nutrition Programs.

Fall 2015, Lea began her studies at Tulane University where she will earn a Master's in Public Health with a concentration in International Health and Development. Lea is ecstatic to begin for career in Foreign Service with USAID and looks forward to improving the health of people in developing nations. 

  Keisha Herbert
2015 Payne Fellow

Keisha Herbert is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and a graduate of Howard University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. After college, Keisha worked for City Hall in Cleveland as a Research Aide, before joining the United States Peace Corps. Keisha served in Peace Corps Guatemala for three years, as an Integrated Youth Promoter assigned to the Youth in Development Project. Her role involved integrating and teaching a Life Skills Curriculum in four middle schools by working with approximately 30 teachers and more than 500 Guatemalan youth. Keisha has extensive experience in non-formal education; cross-cultural integration; project design, management and evaluation; and community analysis. She has served as a SustainUS youth delegate, which led to advocating for intergenerational equity at the 19th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland.

Prior to joining the Payne Program, Keisha worked as an Inclusion and Diversity Training and Programs Specialist at a hospital to address cultural competency, encourage equitable practices, and manage a high-school mentoring program. Most recently, Keisha completed a congressional internship with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration in Development Practice at Columbia University. Her desired USAID Foreign Service Officer backstop is a Program/Project Development Officer.

  Jeanne Choquehuanca
2015 Payne Fellow

Jeanne Natalia Choquehuanca has called many places home, but holds Lakeland, Florida especially dear. She was raised to take great pride in her Native American Quechua and Ukrainian heritage, and it ultimately motivates her interest in international development. She earned a B.A. in Political Science and Intercultural Studies from Saint Mary's College of Indiana. An active student leader, she was awarded the college-wide Saint Catherine's Medal for community service and received a SISTAR Independent Research grant to examine the politicization of mestizaje and indigenous identity in Ecuador and Peru.

Following graduation, Jeanne served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Arizona 4-H and led a community asset mapping initiative that empowered youth to illustrate and address community issues through the use of global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS). She then worked at the University of Arizona on the USDA-funded Stealth Health project, which utilized mobile technologies and social media to increase youth physical activity and civic engagement. Jeanne also volunteered with the Nonviolence Peace Legacy Project as an advanced level Trainer of Kingian Nonviolence.

She continued to employ data visualization and participatory assessment methods in her work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nebaj, Guatemala. In Guatemala, she partnered with the Ministry of Education on the development of an integrated youth development program, organizing four youth leadership groups and a regional intercultural youth leadership conference. She also served on Peace Corps Guatemala's Gender and Development Committee as the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Program coordinator. She has since worked in freelance graphic design and in Financial Systems at Peace Corps Headquarters. 

Jeanne is pursuing a Master's of Community Planning and International Development at the University of Maryland, College Park. She plans to harness the dynamic approach of Urban Planning to facilitate more inclusive, community-driven development. Deeply inspired by the late Congressman Payne's work, she is honored to be a Payne fellow and hopes to continue his legacy throughout her career as a USAID Foreign Service Officer.

  Marvin Crespin-Gamez
2015 Payne Fellow

Marvin Crespin-Gamez was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of California at Riverside in June 2012. At UC Riverside, he majored in Latin American Studies. Shortly after graduating, he was accepted into Peace Corps as part of the team designed to re-launch Peace Corps' operations in Nepal. As a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) Marvin was assigned to implement a USAID funded food security project in the Western Hills of Nepal. In collaboration with Nepali counterparts, he designed and executed agriculture, malnutrition, and maternal and child health projects. By the culmination of his experience with Peace Corps he had aided in the establishment of a Nutrition Education Center designed to meet the community's health and agricultural needs.

As a 2015 Payne Fellow, he completed a Congressional internship on Capitol Hill in Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) office. Marvin aspires to obtain his Masters of Public Health degree from the University of California, Berkley and enter the Foreign Service as a USAID Health Officer within Bureau of Global Health.


  Emma Din
2014 Payne Fellow

Emma Din is an adventurous traveler committed to public health. The child of Cameroonian immigrants, she grew up with a global perspective on most issues. Her life has been a story of embracing new experiences, experiencing new cultures, and improving the lives of those in developing countries through the lens of health. "When I discovered the program, I immediately thought it was a perfect fit and exactly what I wanted to do. The opportunities and support it provides are unbeatable and I feel so fortunate to have this professional entry into international development. The more I learn about USAID's Foreign Service, particularly the work of Health Officers, the more convinced I am that this is the right path for me."

A proud product of the Atlanta Public School system, Emma attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain scholar. The scholarship provided her the opportunity to spend summers doing health work and health systems research domestically and abroad in Africa and Latin America. After graduating from UNC in May 2011 with a BSPH in Health Policy and Management from the Gillings School of Global Public Health and a BA in International Studies, she moved to Cali, Colombia in July 2011 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. During her Fulbright year, Emma taught English conversation classes at the Universidad Santiago de Cali to students studying language and business. Outside of the classroom, she volunteered with a nonprofit organization called Corporacion Viviendo, which promotes community empowerment and conducts social work in the poorest neighborhoods of Cali, and she embraced Latin American culture by taking dance classes and becoming a salsera.

Emma lived in Washington, DC, where she worked for the American Public Health Association for almost two years in their Center for Public Health Policy. She actively volunteers in the Latino community and will pursue an MPH from Harvard School of Public Health for her two-year graduate program in Global Health and Population. She spent the summer of 2014 interning in the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13), which taught her a lot about the appropriations process, Congress' relationship with USAID and the executive branch, and US national interests and objectives in global health and foreign affairs. "The Payne Fellowship is honestly a dream come true," Emma said, "And I cannot wait for the adventures to come."

  Tracey Lam
2014 Payne Fellow

Tracey Lam was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, where she grew up an active member of the Bay Area's vibrant Chinese and Vietnamese communities. She earned her B.A. in Economics and Asian Studies from Rice University and while there, also captained the Division I volleyball team as a two-time All-America performer, Rice's female student-athlete of the year, and three-time Conference USA volleyball scholar-athlete of the year. Tracey has been involved with immigrant communities her whole life, including at Rice, where she worked with first generation Chinese immigrants in the Houston community to break ground for the Houston Asian American Archive, the first Asian American historical archive in Houston. She also led Japanese tutorials and volunteered with battered women as a member of Rice's Students In Free Enterprise chapter.

As the child of Chinese-Vietnamese immigrants, Tracey has always felt pulled towards refugee resettlement work. Her two years as a Fulbright Korea ETA solidified her interest in working in international development, with refugees and displaced peoples in particular. Tracey had volunteered extensively with Chinese immigrant children in her San Francisco community and upon arriving in South Korea, sought the opportunity to serve in a similar capacity. She helped start her local branch of Fulbright Korea's North Korean Defector English Education Program and represented the program at the American Studies Association of Korea's Annual Conference. She is excited to continue working with refugees, displaced peoples, and in human security as a USAID Foreign Service Officer.

As a Payne Fellow, Tracey is pursuing a Master in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is honored to be part of the 2014 class of Payne Fellows and looks forward to developing the skill and expertise for a successful career in the USAID Foreign Service.

  Anthony Medeiros
2014 Payne Fellow

Anthony Medeiros, originally from Fall River, Massachusetts, is a 2014 Payne Fellow. Anthony received a BA in Politics and International and Global Studies from Brandeis University in 2011, with minors in Legal Studies and Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies. Before the Payne Fellowship, Anthony worked for the International Dissertation Research Fellowship at the Social Science Research Council, a program that supports global research for U.S. doctoral candidates in the social sciences and humanities. As an Executive Recruiter with Objective Solutions International, Anthony recruited for projects ranging from expanding retail banking in China and Brazil's emerging markets, to Dodd-Frank regulatory compliance. He is a certified mediator, and has also worked with the Community Dispute Settlement Center in Cambridge, MA, the American Friends Service Committee's program on Peace and Economic Security, and political action committee ActBlue.

While studying in Jaipur, India, Anthony's longstanding interest in international development evolved into a career choice. Anthony conducted field research in the northeast Indian state of Sikkim, where he examined the impacts of the Teesta hydroelectric dam project on the community it displaced. "The experience in Sikkim showed me that poverty not only causes suffering in the present, but also makes communities more vulnerable to losing what little property they already have. Poverty and the distribution of land and natural resources drive conflict, and land tenure interventions can go a long way in preventing it. USAID's Foreign Service is a unique opportunity to dedicate my career to serving vulnerable communities as they face problems like these."

Anthony is deeply grateful to be a part of the Donald M. Payne Fellowship Program. He looks forward to preparing for the Foreign Service at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he will pursue a Master's in City Planning and International Development.

  Krina Patel
2014 Payne Fellow

Krina Patel is a first-generation graduate student from Falls Church, Virginia. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with bachelor's degrees in Political Science and International Studies, as well as a minor in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. Krina's interest in international development stems from her family's roots in rural India.
As a college student in the United States, Krina completed a Semester At Sea study-abroad program focused on the Millennium Development Goals. As she traversed Central America and the Caribbean, she had the opportunity to volunteer with USAID health projects in the region. These experiences solidified Krina's desire to join USAID's Foreign Service, as she observed the lifesaving impacts of USAID's work on the ground.
After graduation, Krina interned in the Capitol Hill Office of Congressman Gerry Connolly, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Krina used this opportunity to better understand the role of Congress in US-funded international development efforts.
More recently, Krina worked at the US Department of State, within the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator. Here, Krina worked alongside USAID and other interagency personnel to implement the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This opportunity further enriched her desire to pursue a Foreign Service career in global health.
Krina feels honored and thrilled to be selected as a 2014 USAID Payne Fellowship recipient. She plans to use her fellowship to pursue an MPH with a global health focus at Columbia University. Krina is grateful for the immense support she has already received from the Payne Fellowship, and she is excited to launch her career as a USAID Health Officer.

  Sofia Quesada
2014 Payne Fellow

Sofia Quesada is honored to be a member of the 2014 Payne International Development Fellowship. Sofia was privileged to grow up in Costa Rica, a country known for its legacy of peace. She moved to Rhode Island in 2008 to attend Brown University, where she received a Bachelor's degree in International Affairs and Middle East Studies.
As a student at Brown University, Sofia worked with development organization Caritas in Lebanon, and shortly after, conducted field-based research on food security in Jordan following the 2008 economic downturn. She additionally worked as a research assistant for the Costs of War project, which explored the true costs of U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Exploring the aftermath of conflict, both academically and on the ground, motivated Sofia's interest in working to prevent and mitigate conflict. "In our highly interconnected environment, every country is burdened with the aftermath of war—from hosting refugees to combating weapons proliferation and organized crime. I believe conflict prevention is the best and most cost-effective space for U.S. foreign policy today, and hope to contribute to this much-needed work."
Sofia continued to work on peacebuilding issues as an international intern with the Alternatives to Violence Program in Guatemala, and later as a mediator and case manager with the Conflict Resolution Center in Minneapolis. Most recently, Sofia was the External Affairs Coordinator for World Savvy, a national non-profit dedicated to building global competence within mainstream education.
Following her Congressional Internship with Congressman Vargas' office, where she focused on International Affairs Committee issues and education, Sofia will attend the Harvard Kennedy School for Government, where she will pursue a Master's degree in Public Policy with a concentration in International and Global Affairs. She looks forward to deepening her knowledge of conflict management and negotiation, as well as honing the management, analysis and leadership skills critical to work with USAID.
As a Payne Fellow, Sofia looks forward to contributing to the Foreign Service's conflict management efforts as a Crisis, Stabilization and Governance Officer with USAID. She is humbled to be part of a fellowship named after the late Congressman Payne, and strives to honor his legacy of advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable international communities.

  Taylor Adams
2013 Payne Fellow

Taylor Adams is from Riviera Beach, FL. She received a B.S. in Economics, Psychology, and Leadership Studies from Florida State University in 2013. While at Florida State University, she spent one year working with Jumpstart Americorps and three summers working with Camp Boggy Creek, a SeriousFun Network camp that serves children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. “As a childhood cancer survivor myself, Camp Boggy Creek is my community and it was incredibly rewarding to volunteer there.  However, I quickly learned I also had an interest in working in more diverse communities and settings.”

Her interest in international development began after teaching elementary students in Mombasa, Kenya in 2011. There she developed a citizenship and service unit that allowed her elementary students to volunteer in a neighboring village's school.  After leaving Kenya, she worked in Maseru, Lesotho consulting in the staff training of Camp ‘Mamohato a Global Partnership Program that works with children living with HIV/AIDS. She then received a Social Entrepreneurship/Leadership in Public Service Moellership grant from Florida State University, which she used to work with a children's rights NGO in Cambodia during the summer of 2012.

Taylor Adams will begin the Payne Fellowship in 2014 after deferring to complete a U.S. Fulbright grant in Taiwan. During her Fulbright year, Taylor is working in Luodong Township on the eastern coast of Taiwan. She is teaching English and taking classes in Mandarin Chinese.  

Taylor will attend Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy. She looks forward to building her skills in economic and policy analysis. She will also continue studying Mandarin Chinese and Spanish in preparation for working in USAID. “I am grateful for the opportunity the Payne Fellowship has given me. It is an incredibly supportive program that is investing in creating quality public servants. Becoming a USAID FSO will allow me to face complex challenges and be of service around the world. I am excited to begin this journey.” 

  Jacob Morrin
2013 Payne Fellow

Jacob was always interested in a career as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO), but it was only during his Peace Corps service in Madagascar that he found out about USAID's international development work.  “The USAID FSO I met with was doing work similar to what I was doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer,” Jacob said, “but on a much grander scale.  I knew then what I wanted to study in graduate school and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

Working with USAID will give Jacob the opportunity to build on his education and work experiences.  In 2010 he graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Political Science and fluency in Mandarin Chinese.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar he helped to develop educational resources and to initiate community projects.  Now, with the help of the Payne Fellowship, he is at Johns Hopkins SAIS working toward a master's degree in international development and international economics.

Jacob plans on entering USAID as an FSO in the economist backstop.  Jacob is excited about the international development work he will be doing. “Working with USAID entails a unique combination of diplomacy, field expertise, and philanthropy. A position as a USAID FSO is truly an exceptional opportunity to represent my country while at the same time working to solve some of the global community's most pressing issues,” he stated.

Jacob benefited immensely from the multifaceted and comprehensive Payne Program.  He had the opportunity to meet USAID Foreign Service Officers, current and former diplomats, development experts, and Members of Congress.  Through his internship in the office of Senator Barbara Boxer, Jacob honed his writing abilities, developed new professional skills, and learned about the role of Congress in shaping US foreign operations.

Jacob is humbled and honored to be part of the inaugural class of Donald M. Payne Fellows.  The Fellowship has had a huge impact on Jacob's graduate studies.  Free from the pressure of worrying about paying for school and finding a job, Jacob is able to focus on his graduate studies and tailor his classes to develop the skills he needs to be an effective and successful FSO at USAID.  Above all, however, Jacob is grateful for the support and guidance he has received from the Payne Program.  He is excitedly looking forward to a long and fulfilling career with USAID.

  Hervé Thomas
2013 Payne Fellow

Herve Thomas joined the Payne Program in the 2013 inaugural class.  Born in Orange, New Jersey, Hervé grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where his passion for public service andinternational affairs evolved.  Hervé holds a BA in Arabic and Development Studies from The Ohio State University.  As a Boren Scholar, Hervé studied at The American University in Cairo in 2002 – 2003.  In addition, Hervé spent academic summers in Syria and Jordan and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East.

As a Payne Fellow, Hervé currently attends Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs where he is pursuing a Master's in Public Affairs and a certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy.  While at Woodrow Wilson, Hervé plans to further build on his international experiences and deepen his background in environmental policy and economic analysis.  He is looking forward to a career in the USAID Foreign Service. Asked about his experience thus far, he said, "Over the last year, I learned a lot about our namesake and I am honored to be one of USAID's two inaugural Payne International Development Fellows.  I am inspired by late Congressman Payne's advocacy against genocide and on behalf of poor communities.  As a USAID Foreign Service Officer, I hope to channel his passion for public service as I work to sustainably improve the livelihoods of poor and underserved communities."

Prior to joining the Payne Program, Hervé worked in Hohenfels, Germany where he developed training materials and supported various training events for the Joint Multinational Readiness Center.  Before this he spent nearly two years and a half in Afghanistan with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  In his capacity as Acting Water Team Leader there, he led and coordinated the agency's water portfolio.  Additionally, Hervé took on various duties including Lead Civilian Representative for Zormat District, a remote, dangerous,  poverty-stricken area of Paktya province in Southeast Afghanistan.

Before serving in Afghanistan, Hervé spent three years and a half in Iraq as Principal Consultant for Displacement and Migration with the U.S. Department of State, Senior Program Officer for the National Democratic Institute, Deputy Country Director for International Medical Corps, and Director of Assessments and Evaluation at RTI International.



Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program . 2218 6th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20059
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