Mason, who majored in global studies and Spanish literature, is the first UCSB student to receive one of the fellowships, which are provided by the Una Chapman Cox Foundation of Washington, D.C. Most State Department interns serve at their own expense.
"The Cox Foundation is very keen on doing things that support the continuation of a strong Foreign Service," said UCSB Diplomat in Residence Barbara Bodine, a career diplomat and the former U.S. ambassador to Yemen.
Competition for both the internships and the fellowships is stiff, Bodine said.
"The State Department gets about 3,800 applications for summer internships and only about 200 are chosen," she said. "We also select interns for fall, winter and spring quarters. Fewer than 15 fellowships are given each year."
The State Department and the Cox Foundation seek similar qualities in their applicants. They want highly motivated students interested in Foreign Service careers and in seeking advanced academic degrees. Fellowship recipients are nominated by ambassadors-in-residence and are selected based on their academic records, leadership and financial need. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and must pass a high-level security check.
"They must have the same security clearance that I have," Bodine said. "They will be doing everything that a junior Foreign Service officer would do: see classified telegrams, participate in staff meetings, write reports. This is not a stuff-envelopes, answer-the-phone clerical position. They are treated like a full member of the embassy staff."
Mason, who will spend four months at the Montevideo embassy beginning at the end ofJanuary, said she was ecstatic to be chosen for the program and for the fellowship.
"I had my heart set on going to Latin America," she said. "Half of my family is from Mexico, and I am fluent in Spanish." She hopes to work in a program to curb domestic violence.