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Political science senior Joanne Kim on fast track to become U.S. diplomat


Joanne Kim, a political science senior at Auburn University, will start her career in international diplomacy immediately following graduation through the 2024 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program.

The Rangel Program, a U.S. Department of State program administered by Howard University, supports and prepares outstanding students for careers in the Foreign Service. A panel of diplomats and international relations scholars chose only 45 students from more than 1,200 applicants who exhibit "the ideal qualities of a Foreign Service Officer."

Kim, who has prepared for the Rangel Program since her sophomore year, said she was overwhelmed with honor and gratitude when she received the acceptance letter.

"I really wanted a program that reached out to underrepresented students and that really got their foot in the door with foreign affairs, especially since it is typically known as a competitive field," Kim said. "I'm grateful because I get to be an advocate for those underrepresented students and to be an inspiration. I want to be able to pave the way for the next person, and that was my whole driven reason behind the Rangel Program."

Following Kim's graduation from the College of Liberal Arts in May, she will intern with the U.S. Congress. Kim will then pursue a master's degree and travel to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to practice international affairs in summer 2025. In 2026, Kim will serve the State Department as a U.S. diplomat.

"I want to be able to cherish every single last moment at Auburn, really being able to soak it in with my loved ones, my close friends and family, before I have to move," Kim said. "On a quick timeline, it is definitely nerve wracking, but I think I'm ready because the political science department and the public relations department have helped me to prepare for those kinds of challenges."

Kim chose to major in political science and minor in public relations to combine communication and advocacy. While at Auburn, Kim received the 2023 W. James Samford Memorial Scholarship and a 2024 President's Award, served as assistant director for the Southern Regional Model United Nations and co-directed student outreach for the College of Liberal Arts.

She's also interned for the Alabama House Democratic Caucus, U.S. House of Representatives and Department of Justice. In 2023, she was named a fellow for both the Clinton Global Initiative University and the Council of Korean Americans in Washington, D.C.

Peter White, associate professor and undergraduate program director in the Department of Political Science, taught Kim in international relations courses. White said Kim has already mastered the basics of international relations, and graduate education will help her specialize in certain countries and issues in preparation for her career as a diplomat.

"Joanne is an incredibly hard-working, thoughtful and empathetic student," White said. "Not only is she going to excel academically in graduate school – she is exactly the type of person who should serve as a Foreign Service Officer. I'm proud to see her go this route not just as her professor but as a citizen who believes in the mission of the State Department and hopes our best and brightest represent our country overseas."

Kim said many people – including White, Council of Korean Americans Managing Director Linda Butcher, Professor Paul Harris, Senior Lecturer Matthew Clary and Associate Professor Jonathan Fisk – invested in her and helped her succeed. She also said her parents made sacrifices so that she could achieve her dreams while empowering others along the way.

Moving forward, Kim hopes to apply what she’s learned at Auburn to improve human rights, cultural awareness and international security.

"Cultural sensitivity has helped me prepare as a diplomat and also as a grad student because I'm able to work with people from different backgrounds that are not like my own," Kim said. "Second, it really taught me more confidence in myself and empowered me to go headfirst into it and not be scared of the opportunities that might come. Lastly, just being a holistically good student and person as a whole and really being able to embody the Auburn Creed. That's what really taught me to be prepared, no matter where I go."

Find more information about the Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts. For more information about the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, visit the Rangel Program website.

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