A version of this article was published in AACC’s 21st Century Center Blog

While completing their associate degree, two community college students were selected for the high-profile U.S. Department of State diversity recruitment program – the Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship. Now they are pursuing their bachelor’s degree with academic funding while preparing for a Foreign Service career.

They are amongst the 15 individuals selected for the 2023 cohort of the Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship, which provides up to $43,500 in academic funding per year for two years, two summer internships with stipend support, professional development, and mentorship. When they successfully complete the program and the State Department’s entry requirements, they will receive an appointment in the Foreign Service, launching their career as an Information Management Specialist (IMS).

Iyouel Endashaw – Northern Virginia Community College

Iyouel Endashaw, who earned two associate degrees from Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), is pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity program at George Mason University starting in fall 2023.

When he was applying for the FAIT Fellowship, Endashaw had doubts as to whether he would be selected. But, he says, “with prayer, hard work and perspective, it’s possible for anyone to achieve their goals, no matter how big and lofty they may seem.”

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Virginia, his family moved to the United States in 2002. Like many other students, Endashaw saw community college as an affordable way to earn a degree, but also recognized the opportunities and resources that NOVA provides to support student success. While at NOVA, he was Treasurer of the Student Government Association and an active member of the All Cyber Competition Training Team.

“Some of the most important and valuable life skills I have learned are about connecting with others, getting out of my comfort zone, and resolving conflicts without confrontation,” says Endashaw. “The FAIT Fellowship program is the intersection of my skills and passions: a love for helping people and promoting peace, a passion for STEM, and an eagerness to explore different cultures.”

Swechchha Shrestha – Montgomery College

Also a community college student when applying for the FAIT Fellowship, Swechchha Shrestha holds an Associate of Arts degree in Information Sciences and Systems from Montgomery College. She served as the Student Council chair and as a Montgomery College Foundation student board member. She was also vice president of the Student Senate, the chair of the Student Activities Board (SAB), and president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Montgomery College, Takoma Park-Silver Spring Campus.

For Shrestha, the FAIT Fellowship combined her desire to work in public service with her passion for technology. As a FAIT Fellow, she is now pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“I decided to apply for the FAIT Fellowship because I have always been passionate about service and technology,” says Shrestha. “The fellowship provides me an opportunity to serve the U.S. government and work in the Information Technology field. I will be able to achieve my career goals while serving our country and our people.”

Reaching Qualified Candidates at Community Colleges

With the FAIT Fellowship’s goal of attracting top technology talent to the Foreign Service that reflects the diversity of the United States, community colleges are a major focus of recruitment for qualified candidates.  According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more than 50% of community college students identify as persons of color and 46% are from the bottom income quartile of the U.S. population.

The FAIT Fellowship program values varied backgrounds, including ethnic, racial, gender, and geographic diversity.  Women, members of minority groups underrepresented in the Foreign Service, and those with financial need, are encouraged to apply.

“The FAIT Fellowship program truly sets students up for success, not only through the financial support to earn their degrees, but also through the hands-on experience in their internships and through the mentoring they receive,” says Patricia Boerner, FAIT Fellowship Program Manager with the State Department. “We want to attract the best technology talent from diverse backgrounds, and we know how important it is to provide ongoing training. It’s a win-win because diversity within our technology team makes our diplomatic efforts even stronger.”

Launched in 2016, the FAIT Fellowship is now accepting applications for its 8th cohort through January 16, 2024. Community college students applying for the 2024 cohort must be seeking admission to enter a full-time, IT-related bachelor’s degree program in fall 2024 and be on a timeline to graduate in spring 2026.

Find out more about the program and how to apply on the FAIT Fellowship website.