Picture of Nina Forest in graduation robes
Nina Forest, who graduated in June 2020 with a major in international relations and minor in Chinese, is headed toward graduate studies and a future career in the U.S. Foreign Service with the support from a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. (Photo courtesy Nina Forest)

Young Alumna Awarded Prestigious US State Department Fellowship

By Kathleen Holder, UC Davis College of Letters and Science

"Recent graduate Nina Forest is unsure where in the world her UC Davis bachelor’s degree in international relations will take her. But after receiving a prestigious national scholarship, she knows how she’ll get to professional destinations around the globe — via a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Forest is the recipient of a 2021 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State and managed by the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University. She is the first UC Davis Aggie to receive the highly selective award since the program was launched in 1992 to diversify the nation’s diplomatic corps.

The fellowship will provide Forest up to $42,000 annually for two years to complete a master’s degree in international affairs — followed by the chance to work at least five years as a Foreign Service officer in Washington, D.C., or at U.S. diplomatic missions around the globe.

“It’s kind of crazy to have the next seven years of my life planned out,” said Forest, who graduated last June. “I felt like after graduation I had nothing planned out. All of a sudden, I have so much planned.”

Daughter of immigrants and former Miss Idaho

A first-generation American, Forest said she would especially welcome Foreign Service assignments in Europe and China where she has family ties. Her father, a physics professor at Idaho State University, is from England, and her mother, also a physicist, hails from Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province. “But I’m pretty open. I just want to go where there is a need,” she said.

Forest’s experiences as Miss Idaho 2018 and a Miss America contestant (she finished in the pageant’s top 10) fostered her interest in public service. She took 2018-19 off from her UC Davis studies to serve as Miss Idaho. “Getting to serve my community and my state as Miss Idaho, making a small impact, has really led me to want to create even broader impacts as a diplomat,” she said." 

Read the full story at the UC Davis College of Letters and Science website

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