Heeba Chergui ‘22 and Madelyn Starr ‘23 selected for the Rangel Graduate Fellowship

Chergui and Starr are the first Elon students to receive the Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship and will join the nationally selective cohort of just 45 fellows.

Elon alumnae Heeba Chergui ’22 and Madelyn Starr ‘23 have been selected for the Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program. They are the first Elon students to be awarded this prestigious fellowship, which receives over 1,000 applications annually for only 45 spots.

The Rangel Fellowship Program seeks to attract and prepare outstanding individuals for careers in the Foreign Service of the U.S. Department of State in which they can help formulate, represent, and implement U.S. foreign policy. The fellowship includes funding for a two-year master’s program in a field related to international affairs, two paid summer internship placements (one on Capitol Hill and one overseas at a U.S. Embassy), and five years of contractual employment with the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer upon completion of the program.

“I’m excited to join a network of individuals who are just as passionate about diplomacy and intercultural interactions,” Chergui said. “The fellowship will not only prepare us for a career in the foreign service, but also how to network and build relationships in this career.”

Heeba Chergui ’22

At Elon, Chergui majored in international and global studies, minored in leadership studies, and was a Leadership Fellow. She dedicated her academic and experiential pursuits to the study of the Middle East and North Africa and received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Amman, Jordan. While in Jordan, she interned with a peacebuilding NGO, which prepared her current postgraduate work with an international education nonprofit.

Chergui’s impressive academic, leadership, and service records led her to be named an Alternate for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant in Albania.

Madelyn Starr ‘23, who graduated from Elon with a double major in international and global studies and religious studies and minors in political science and Middle East studies, chose a career in the foreign service in order “to dedicate [her] career to elevating the voices of ordinary civilians throughout the world in US foreign policy.”

Like Chergui, Starr’s desire to pursue the Rangel Fellowship was shaped by her study abroad experiences. “Two of the most valuable experiences I had at Elon that prepared me for this fellowship were my three study abroad experiences and my research project on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Each of my study abroad experiences was unique, but they all taught me how to frame myself as a learner when living or studying in a new place, and I’ll be able to continue this practice in the Foreign Service,” says Starr.

Madelyn Starr ’23

At Elon, Starr was an Elon College Fellow and a Multifaith Scholar. She has been interning with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since graduating.

Success does not exist in a vacuum, and both Chergui and Starr credit their deep constellation of mentors for helping them achieve this great honor.

“Some mentors that shaped my journey at Elon and helped prepare me for the Foreign Service are my research mentor, Dr. Amy Allocco, and my amazing constellation of mentors — Dr. Brian Pennington, Dr. Sandy Marshall, Dr. Geoffrey Claussen, Dr. Shereen Elgamal, Melanie Bullock-Harris, Nelson Ysabel, Nicole Galante, and Dr. Ann Cahill. I would also like to thank my wonderful research assistants Rony Ohad and Alissa Haddad for mentoring me on how to travel as a learner,” says Starr.

Chergui said, “My professors L.D. Russell and Kevin Bourque, and supervisors Rosie Awad, Marissa Mortiboy, and Melissa Rossi, have prepared me for the rigorous course load of grad school, the foreign service, and the global perspectives that are needed for this experience.”

When asked what advice they have for Elon students and alumni interested in applying for Rangel and other fellowships, Chergui and Starr shared the following sentiments:

“It’s easy for the acceptance rate to be daunting, but be yourself and show that you are passionate about the Foreign Service or the fellowship for which you’re applying, and that will shine through!” said Starr.

Chergui shared similarly positive advice: “Don’t doubt your abilities or compare yourself to others! Imposter syndrome is a real phenomenon, but it’s important to recognize your accomplishments and ability to participate in these programs. And, the NIFO team will prepare you for success!”

To learn more about the Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program and other nationally competitive awards like the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit the National and International Fellowships Office’s website.