Grace Yoo and Wendy Zheng will finish interdisciplinary UCLA bachelor's and master's degrees under the fellowships, which provide additional support for graduate school and domestic and overseas internships with the State Department.
By Letisia Marquez for the UCLA Newsroom
Grace Yoo and Wendy Zheng, two UCLA students who have traveled extensively and speak several languages, have been awarded Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowships.
The fellowships pay up to $50,000 of tuition and other expenses for students' senior year and first year of graduate study. As part of the fellowships, Yoo and Zheng will each be placed in one overseas and one domestic summer internship with the U.S. Department of State.
The Pickering Fellowships, which are funded by the State Department and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, seek to attract to the U.S. Foreign Service talented candidates from all ethnic, racial and social backgrounds. The program develops a source of trained men and women who are dedicated to representing America's interests abroad.
Yoo, 20, who is majoring in East Asian studies with a concentration on Japan, will spend her senior year studying at Keio University in Tokyo. The daughter of Korean immigrants, Yoo speaks Korean fluently and has also studied Japanese and Mandarin.
As a freshman, Yoo attended a State Department information session at which she heard Foreign Service officers speak about their experiences.
"I was excited to discover a path that was both meaningful and captivating," Yoo said. "Since that day three years ago, I have not looked back."
Yoo, who practices kendo, or Japanese fencing, boasts a long list of internships and extracurricular activities. She recently completed an internship at CJ Entertainment America, a leading Korean film company and distributor.
Last fall, she participated in the UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy program in Washington, D.C., which organizes courses for students and also places them in high-level internships. Many of the students who have been a part of the center have obtained prestigious fellowships and gone on to study at top-level graduate schools.
Yoo interned with the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington–based think tank, where, among other things, she conducted research on military spending by the six nations targeted as part of the institute's Pacific Freeze campaign. The campaign seeks to freeze and then reduce the military spending of the United States, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and North Korea, which together account for more than 65 percent of global military spending.
In addition, Yoo spent the summer of 2009 as an English teacher in Seoul, where she also tutored underprivileged children.
Zheng, 22, is enrolled in the UCLA Departmental Scholar Program, which allows top-notch undergraduate students to work simultaneously on bachelor's and master's degrees.
A naturalized U.S. citizen originally from China, Zheng will graduate from UCLA next year with a master's in East Asian studies and a bachelor's in Asian languages and cultures (with a focus on Chinese) and a minor in political science.
Zheng, who speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and Fukienese, has studied abroad at Shanghai Jiatong University in China and at Utrecht University Honors College and Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Among other volunteer efforts, Zheng served two years as a board member with ASPIRE, a nonprofit group that promotes leadership and communication skills among business-minded women.
During the 2007–08 school year, she also was a fellow in the Riordan Healthcare Management Program at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management. The program helps prepare college students for top graduate schools and careers in health care management.
Zheng also boasts a long list of internships. This summer, she is interning with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"I've also had a passion for international affairs," Zheng said. "The Pickering Fellowship will allow me to continue pursuing those interests through the Foreign Service."