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Published January 28, 2021
University of Wyoming graduate Emily Wood, from Granite Canyon in Laramie County, is among 15 students nationwide to receive the prestigious USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship.
The fellowship, for which Wood was among 650 applicants, seeks to attract outstanding individuals interested in pursuing careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Payne Fellowship, which provides up to $96,000 in benefits over two years for graduate school, internships and professional development activities, is a unique pathway to the USAID Foreign Service.
Wood graduated from Cheyenne East High School in 2014, then took a gap year in Germany with the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship before starting at UW in 2015. She began work on her bachelor's degree through UW’s highest tuition aid program, the Trustees Scholar Award. She double-majored in international studies and German, with a minor in honors, graduating summa cum laude in May 2019.
After graduating from UW, Wood joined the Peace Corps in Mozambique, where she was a high school English teacher before being evacuated because of the COVID-19 pandemic last March. She first heard about the Payne Fellowship program when researching options and fellowships for graduate school during her senior year, and also through her Peace Corps service in Mozambique.
“After being evacuated from the Peace Corps due to the pandemic, I was trying to figure out my next steps,” she says. “When I looked more closely at this fellowship, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me because I wanted to continue a career in international development.”
Wood plans to pursue a master’s degree in international development and to focus her studies on issues related to Indigenous development and ethics. The fellowship allows her to further her education and skills, as well as fill a guaranteed job in international development with USAID.
“I am finishing up applications for grad schools, so I’m not sure where I’ll attend yet, but I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about funding, so my options are open,” she says.
After graduate school, the Payne Fellowship places her in a career as a USAID foreign service officer, allowing her to travel around the world working on development issues and trying to increase access to resources and improve lives. She hopes to target work on Indigenous and marginalized populations.
Wood says she is honored to be selected for the fellowship and for the chance to have a career serving others and representing the United States around the world.
“For a long time, it felt like I had a direction but no clear path to get there, and now I'm finally making progress toward my goals,” she adds. “I am extremely thankful for all the help and support that I’ve received from the UW faculty and staff along every step of my journey -- for sharing opportunities like this with me and believing in my success.”