Becca Brown ’16 spent her childhood in landlocked Fort Wayne, Indiana, but she always had big dreams of experiencing the world. “I liked travel and learning about different cultures,” she said. “When I was 16, I asked my parents if I could go abroad for the first time. So I spent a month in Spain.”
That worldly ethos, coupled with a track record of stellar achievements as an international relations and economics double major at William & Mary, is perhaps what attracted the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an esteemed global affairs think tank, to her resume.
Brown is one of just 14 students nationwide (from a pool of almost 200 applicants) to have recently been awarded Carnegie’s Junior Fellowship, a one-year program in which recent graduates spend a year in Washington D.C. researching international aid, security and development within a specific region or policy. Brown’s focus will be on security and development in South Asia.
“The Carnegie Fellowship is perfect because it allows me to spend one year focusing intensively on one region, which I haven’t had much experience doing,” said Brown. “I think having a deeper knowledge of one area of the world is something that’ll help me in my career later on.”
Brown is the fifth W&M student to be awarded this opportunity in the program’s 25 years of record-keeping. Lukas Haynes ’93 was the first W&M student to receive the fellowship. Today, Haynes is the executive director of the David Rockefeller Fund, a philanthropic grantmaking organization, and he credits the Carnegie Junior Fellowship with solidifying his path to graduate studies at Oxford University, and subsequently, a career in philanthropy.
“I would tell Becca to not be shy about making connections and taking advantage of the opportunities created by her supervisors or colleagues,” he said. “Among others, I met the current U.S. Ambassador to the UN – a fellow intern – and those relationships have endured.”
During her time at W&M, Brown has already taken many opportunities to advance her knowledge of global affairs. As a research assistant at W&M’s TRIP (Teaching, Research, and International Policy) project (a position she’s held since her sophomore year), Brown has spent much of her time researching journal articles and conducting surveys among international relations professors nationwide.
“We’re trying to measure the gap between international relations research and practice,” she said. “So we’re looking at what is actually being researched versus what’s being taught and what policy makers actually care about.”
Brown also spent a summer as an intern with the State Department, where she learned about international aid, and a year as a PIPS (Project for International Peace and Security) fellow, where she was tasked with finding and researching an emerging international security challenge and composing a white paper with original policy recommendations. Brown chose to focus on political unrest resulting from an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants fleeing to India – a foreshadowing of her Carnegie placement later on.
“Because India is such a huge strategic partner to us, anything that messes with their national security is a worry to us,” she said. “This migration was causing growing violence in the country, so my whole paper was about using foreign aid to solve that problem. I’m drawn to projects where issues of security and aid overlap.”
When Brown begins her fellowship August 1, she will be working closely as a research assistant to Carnegie senior associates Ashley J. Tellis and Milan Vaishnov, both experts in issues such as international security, defense, corruption and politics in South Asia. Her responsibilities could include everything from research for books and journal articles to attending meetings and seminars with high-ranking officials.
“I’m genuinely surprised and excited to have been given this opportunity,” she said. “I hope the fellowship helps me decide where I want to focus my career long-term—whether it’s on security, development or within a specific region.”
Current and rising seniors who are interested in applying for the Carnegie Fellowship next year should contact Lisa Grimes, director of fellowships in the Charles Center.