Taylor Garner ‘20 and Catherine Stallsmith ‘22 selected for The Payne Graduate Fellowship

Garner and Stallsmith are the first Elon students to receive the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship and will join the nationally-selective cohort of just 30 fellows.

Elon alumnae Taylor Garner ‘20 and Catherine Stallsmith ‘22 have been named recipients of The USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program. They are the first Elon students to be awarded this prestigious fellowship, which received over 500 applications this year for only 30 spots.

The Payne Fellowship Program seeks to attract outstanding individuals interested in pursuing careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The fellowship includes funding for a two-year master’s program in a field related to international affairs, two paid summer internship placements (one in Washington, D.C. and one abroad), and five years of contractual employment with the USAID as a Foreign Service Officer upon completion of the program.

Taylor Garner ’20

“I have always wanted to pursue a career in international development and I’ve always dreamed of working as a Foreign Service Officer for the United States,” Garner said. “This fellowship is a marriage of both of these dreams. I am particularly excited to continue living and working abroad and meeting new people and furthering my understanding of different cultures.”

At Elon, Garner majored in international and global studies, with minors in history and economics. Her early experiences with living abroad, as well as her undergraduate research project focused on women’s intergenerational memories of political violence in Argentina and Palestine, prepared her to succeed in a post-graduate role with UN-Habitat in Ecuador, where she currently serves as the UN-Habitat Youth 2030 Cities Coordinator for Colombia and Ecuador.

For Catherine Stallsmith ’22, who graduated from Elon with a degree in political science, working with the USAID is a matter of global importance. “USAID Administrator Samantha Power says, ‘Our fates are connected to the fates of people everywhere,’” Stallsmith said. “I firmly believe that this philosophy is important when acknowledging foreign aid; improving the lives of others does not just serve those who we work alongside, but it improves our systems in the United States as well. I am hoping to be a Crisis, Stabilization, and Governance (CSG) officer when I begin my career.”

Catherine Stallsmith ’22

Like Garner, Stallsmith spent her formative years abroad, which she cites as the driving factor behind her pursuit of international work. When COVID-19 disrupted Catherine’s plans to study abroad at Elon, she pursued an internship in Washington, D.C. working as an International Policy and Diplomacy Fellow for the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD).

She remained in Washington, D.C. following graduation and currently serves as the Civics Partnerships Coordinator at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Both Garner and Stallsmith will enroll in graduate programs focused on international relations this fall following the completion of their first summer internships in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the Payne Fellowship, both were named finalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program in past years: Garner to teach English in Colombia, and Stallsmith to teach English in North Macedonia. The former had her grant canceled to due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the latter declined for a job opportunity.

Furthermore, current Elon student Emerson Wells ’23 was named a finalist and eventual alternate for the Payne Fellowship. Emerson has also been named a semi-finalist for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and a finalist for Princeton in Africa. She is awaiting final results for both awards.

When asked what advice they have for Elon students and alumni interested in applying for Payne and other fellowships, Garner and Stallsmith shared the following pieces of advice.

“Do it,” Garner said simply. “If you are interested in international studies and want to figure out how to live and work abroad, this is an amazing opportunity. And even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll have had the chance to work with Dr. Cahill and Nicole which makes it more than worth it!”

Stallsmith shared, “Be yourself, and don’t try to curate any of your experiences to be what you think folks want to hear – be honest, and that will shine through more than anything else.”

To learn more about The USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program and other nationally competitive awards like the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit the National and International Fellowships Office’s website.