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Alina Clay, a junior from Memphis, is one of ten undergraduates selected from an applicant pool representing more than 160 universities nationwide to receive a prestigious 2016 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship. She is the first UT student to be named a Pickering Fellow, according to officials with the scholarship program.

Clay is in the College Scholars Program, studying gender, politics, and policy with a focus in Latin America and Eastern Europe. The College Scholars Program, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, allows students to develop their own interdisciplinary majors.

2016-6-8 ARB Pickering photo Alina Clay

“I am deeply honored and excited to receive this fellowship, as I am confident that it will give me the ideal platform to accomplish my long-term dream of creating positive change in the world,” Clay said.

Andrew Seidler, director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (ONSF), said it’s exciting to see a UT student claim one of these prestigious awards for the first time.

“Alina brings so much passion and thought and drive into everything she does. Winning a Pickering is just an outstanding achievement. I could not be happier for Alina and really look forward to what she will do next,” he said.

Michael Handelsman, professor of Hispanic studies and senior faculty director of the ONSF, said he saw something special in Clay from the first time he met her.

“I met Alina when she was a high school senior visiting UT,” he said. “On that visit, we discussed her interests in Latin America and the presence of the Soviet Union in Cuba during the Cold War. From that moment, I knew Alina was someone who understood that college is much more than just preparing for a job. Indeed, Alina is determined to develop her multiple talents and interests to become that socially responsible citizen who will contribute to positive change.”

Born in Russia, Clay was raised in the United States and is fluent in both Russian and Spanish. During this past academic year, she studied abroad at the University of Tartu in Tartu, Estonia, where she was in the European Union-Russian Studies master’s program and interned at the Center for European Union-Russia Studies.

She was the 2014–15 co-director of UT’s Student Government Association’s Diversity Affairs Committee and helped pass campus policy, present workshops, and co-sponsor events related to diversity, accessibility, and inclusion.

She has taught English as a Second Language at Pond Gap Elementary School and Centro Hispano and is an undergraduate research assistant for Jana Morgan, professor of political science. Clay has also served on the vice chancellor of diversity’s Student Advisory Council, the Commission for Women, the Women in STEM Planning Committee, and the Undergraduate Research Student Association’s executive board.

The Pickering Fellowship program is managed and funded by the US Department of State and administered by the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. It provides undergraduate and graduate students with financial support, mentoring, and professional development to prepare them academically and professionally for a career in the Foreign Service.

Benefits of the Pickering Fellowship include:

  • Up to $37,500 annually for two years of expenses for degree programs in fields related to the Foreign Service. Undergraduates receive the assistance during their senior year and first year of graduate school.
  • Two summer internships, one at the State Department in Washington, DC, and one at an overseas US embassy or consulate.
  • Mentoring from a Foreign Service officer.
  • Employment in the Department of State Foreign Service for fellows who successfully complete the program and all Foreign Service entry requirements.

UT students interested in applying for the Pickering Fellowship should visit the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships website and contact Seidler at to discuss the program.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,