Editor’s note: The following story first appeared on the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy website.

This year, Victoria Adofoli, Ryan Damron, Phoebe DeVos-Cole, Katherine Carson-Seevers and Sarah Williamson are recipients of the Robertson Fellowship. In partnership with the Robertson Foundation for Government, each fellow receives full tuition, a cost-of-living stipend and summer internship assistance.

Adofoli is a 2020 Urban Leaders Fellow and spent a year abroad as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia, where she developed educational programs and projects sponsored by the Malaysian Ministry of Education and the U.S. government.

“I am passionate about economic and technological justice for underserved and historically disinvested communities,” said Adofoli. “I’d also like to help establish new rules and norms that govern, protect, inspire and take into consideration the struggles of the poor black, brown and white folks.”

Adofoli holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and peace studies from the College of Saint Benedict and will be focusing on international security and economic policy at SPP.

“I’ve always questioned who made the rules, how society is governed and who is left out — so, being [at SPP] allows me to continue those discussions,” she said. “I am looking forward to conversing with like-minded people who are passionate about investing in systems change efforts, and treating the conditions, not just the symptoms of an underlying societal problems.”

Damron comes to the School with dual degrees in economics and accounting from West Virginia University. After working in multiple finance roles in both West Virginia and Washington D.C., Damron transitioned his career into one of public service, joining the Peace Corps and serving two years as an educator and community development specialist in Albania.

“In my cohort, there are Peace Corps volunteers, military officers, and other practitioners that have worked in and done some great things in their early career,” said Damron. “I’m excited to exchange all of those stories.”

At SPP, he will be focusing on international security and economic policy, and hopes to eventually work as a foreign service officer.

It is very important for us as a nation to be aware of what is going on in the world around us and how that affects not only our interests as U.S. citizens, but also as world citizens in a larger global community.
Sarah Williamson, SPP Student
DeVos-Cole graduated from Chapman University with a degree in political science and will also be focusing on international security and economic policy. Previously, she interned at Los Alamos National Laboratory with the Office of National Security and International Studies and interned with the Center for Law and Military Policy researching issues with active servicemembers and veterans.

“I have been a service-oriented person and have wanted to work in government from a young age,” said DeVos-Cole. “I am most looking forward to working and studying under world-class faculty and building connections with my peers, as well as the professional development opportunities offered by SPP and the Robertson Foundation.”

DeVos-Cole credits her passion for issues concerning military members to her many family and friends currently serving or having served in the armed forces.

“My father is a Vietnam Veteran who speaks fondly of his time in the service and has been one of the most influential individuals in my academic and professional career,” she said. “His appreciation for and dedication to public service is one of the top reasons I am pursuing a policy career.”

Seevers comes to SPP with a degree in foreign service from Georgetown University. Seevers also worked on democracy and governance programs across Latin America at the National Democratic Institute, served as an English language assistant in Spain, interned with the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, and served as a student leader for the Georgetown University Center for Social Justice.

“I became deeply interested in how international cooperation can strengthen democracy, enhance global prosperity, and tackle big issues like climate change and human security,” said Seevers.

It was these experiences that motivated Seevers to apply for the Robertson Fellowship to both further her studies and prepare herself for a career in public service.

“I am really looking forward to taking advantage of Maryland’s proximity to D.C. to gain professional experience across the federal government during my time at the School,” she said.

Williamson earned a degree in international relations with minors in spanish and world languages & cultures from Samford University. She has served as an international ambassador at Samford’s Global Engagement office and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and came to realize that I was really interested in learning more about global culture,” said Williamson. “ It is very important for us as a nation to be aware of what is going on in the world around us and how that affects not only our interests as U.S. citizens, but also as world citizens in a larger global community.”

Williamson also hopes to one day serve as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department, serving the government in an overseas capacity. She believes that it’s necessary to have passionate, educated people working on policy issues, and is excited about the opportunities the Robertson Fellows program has opened to her.

“I am really looking forward to moving to a new city and making new connections and friendships that I trust will be invaluable in the future,” she added.

Students selected as Robertson Fellows must be enrolled in the two-year Master of Public Policy program and have a commitment to a career in the federal government in foreign policy, national security and/or international affairs. Robertson Fellows also participate in a Robertson internship and are required to work for the federal government for three of their initial seven years following graduation and to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language at the time of graduation.

The Robertson Foundation for Government is a nonprofit family foundation that works to identify, educate and motivate U.S. graduate students to pursue federal government careers in foreign policy, national security and international affairs. The foundation was established by the family of the late philanthropists Charles and Marie Robertson, and named in their honor.