Prior to enrolling at the College of William & Mary, Jake Nelson had never traveled out of the country. By the time he graduated in 2011, Nelson had studied and performed in France, Tunisia, Costa Rica, Greece and Italy.
The experiences set Nelson, a Lafayette High School graduate, on a course that will lead to a life of international travel, as a diplomatic representative of the United States. Nelson was recently chosen as one of 20 recipients of a 2012 Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship.
As a Pickering Fellow, Nelson will receive financial support for his post-graduate work at Yale University, where he will begin pursuing a Master of Arts in European and Russian Studies this fall. He will also participate in two paid internships, with the State Department in Washington, D.C. and with an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate.
In return for fellowship support, Nelson will devote three years as a Foreign Service officer for the Department of State. It won’t be a stretch for Nelson, who has spent the past eight months working as a foreign affairs specialist in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. He has acted as the bureau’s lead on the United Nations Security and Human Rights councils, and works on issues related to human trafficking, human rights and religious freedom.
It was his time at William & Mary that prepared him for a life and career in public service, Nelson told W&M News. As an undergraduate, he studied abroad at Univesité Lumière Lyon II in France and as a James Monroe Scholar, researched orientalism in Tunisia. His involvement with campus music groups took him to Costa Rica, Greece and Italy. He also was active on campus, working as a student liaison between the Student Assembly and Board of Visitors and as a student representative on the college’s Committee for Equal Employment and Sexual Harassment.
“I wanted to take all the things I had learned in college, such as literature from Africa and music from the Middle East, and play a positive role in the world in my job,” Nelson said.
The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation has provided support for students to enter the U.S. Foreign Service since 1945. Former William & Mary Pickering Fellows include 1996 grad Demetria Scott; 2008 grad Harry Bethke; 2010 grad Shay Jannat; 2011 grad Gabrielle Arias; and 2011 grad Alexander Bellah.