Martha Amaya, an Honors College senior triple-majoring in criminal justice, French, and political science, was one of just 30 students nationwide to be selected for the prestigious Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship.
The announcement of Amaya’s award comes quickly on the heels of fellow UNLV Honors College student Akaisha Cook’s news of winning the Pickering Fellowship — a sister program also funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University.
In addition to the annual $37,500 to cover a two-year master’s degree, the Rangel Fellowship Program will offer Amaya extensive professional development opportunities, including internships with the U.S. Congress and an overseas U.S. Embassy or Consulate, mentors and skills training. Amaya is also guaranteed placement in the U.S. Foreign Service after her completion of graduate school.
Amaya is the second student in UNLV history to receive the highly coveted national award. Amanda Zeidan won the award in 2014.
“The Rangel Fellowship opens the door to a career I’ve been dreaming of since I was 16 years old,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be a part of such a tight-knit cohort of politically ambitious young people.”
For Amaya, the Rangel Fellowship is a culmination of years of hard work. In order to complete UNLV requirements for her three different majors in just four years, she sought special permission to overload her class credits each semester. On top of her demanding course load, Amaya served as a research assistant in UNLV’s Tourism Science and Crowd Safety Lab, mentored younger students through the Hixson-Lied Success Scholars Program, and even spent a semester studying abroad in France where she taught French to refugees.
Last summer, Amaya completed the Public Policy & International Affairs Summer Institute at Princeton University. She is currently participating in the Running Start Congressional Fellowship, a program that selects only eight women from across the nation to intern on Capitol Hill.
Combine all this with working 25 hours per week at the Student Union, and you get a very busy four years.
“Earning straight A’s each semester with 21+ credits is remarkable in and of itself,” said Andrew Hanson, dean of the Honors College. “Add to that the fact that Martha accomplished this feat semester after semester while shouldering additional responsibilities and participating in high-profile programs … it is simply mindboggling.”
As the university’s coordinator for nationally competitive awards, Hanson helps high-achieving students like Amaya identify awards for which they qualify and offers guidance as they prepare their applications. Considering Amaya’s award alongside that of Akaisha Cook and other recent UNLV awardees, Hanson sees a growing academic and professional maturity in undergraduate students on campus.
“UNLV students are routinely competing and being successful on the national level,” Hanson said.
As a Rangel Fellow, Amaya hopes to work in Eastern Europe or Western Africa and put her French skills to use. But she will admittedly be happy wherever the Department of State needs her.
“I truly believe that there is no higher honor than a career in public service”, she said. “And being a Foreign Service Officer will allow me to serve the United States and fulfill my ambitions to change the world.”
About the Rangel Fellowship
The Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship aims to attract and prepare outstanding young people for careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State in which they can help formulate, represent and implement U.S. foreign policy. The Rangel Program selects outstanding Rangel Fellows annually in a highly competitive nationwide process and supports them through two years of graduate study, internships, mentoring, and professional development activities. This program encourages the application of members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service, women, and those with financial need. Rangel Fellows are committed to serving their country and promoting positive change globally.