LAVONDA BALDWIN during her May 2013 study-abroad trip to Ireland.

University of Pittsburgh senior LaVonda Baldwin has been awarded a 2013 Thomas R. Pickering Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provides financial and professional support for undergraduate students preparing to enter the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service.

Baldwin, who has gained international experience by studying and volunteering abroad in Ghana and Ireland, is one of only 20 students nationwide to have been named a 2013 Pickering Fellow. She is the fourth Pitt student to be bestowed the honor; previous Pitt-affiliated undergraduate fellows were selected in 1993, 2002 and 2011.

As a Pickering Fellow, Baldwin will receive as much as $40,000 in financial aid for her senior year of undergraduate study, as well as an additional $40,000 for a year of graduate study. She also will participate in two internships—one domestic and one overseas—and commit to three years of diplomatic service as a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State upon completion of her graduate degree. The mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the United States abroad.

Baldwin, a communication science and disorders major in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, expects to graduate from Pitt in the spring of 2014. She then plans to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs. Her long-term career ambitions include a career within the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

For Baldwin, the Pickering Fellowship provides an opportunity to further her ambition to make a lasting and meaningful impact on the lives of others. “As I have grown as a person and become more aware of the social climate of the world, I have become a passionate advocate of equality and justice,” Baldwin wrote in her fellowship application. “I have learned, in my 21 years on this earth, that it is of no value to take the privileges of life, education, freedom, and joy for granted, and this fuels my daily desire to learn how I can help others enjoy these same privileges.”

Since arriving at Pitt in the fall of 2010, Baldwin, a native of Bensalem, Pa., has been preparing for a life of public service and leadership, both in the United States and abroad. She has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Office of Freshman Programs, a resident assistant in the Office of Residence Life, and a member of the University’s Student Alumni Association.  

Baldwin spent a semester abroad, studying at the University of Ghana, in 2012. While in Africa, she volunteered as a caregiver, teacher, and speech language pathology aid with nonprofit organizations that specialize in assisting children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. She also played an integral role in coordinating events to better inform community members about developmental disorders like autism.

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