Monday, April 15, 2013

Student Spotlight: Cameron Thomas-Shah

For this Student Spotlight, we’ve interviewed Cameron Thomas-Shah.  Cameron is a second-year M.A. student concentrating in American Foreign Policy, and he spent his first year at the SAIS Bologna Center.  Cameron is a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, and received his B.A. in International Studies from Morehouse College in 2011.
You applied for the Pickering Fellowship during your sophomore year of college, so you decided on a career path early on.  Why did you choose to pursue a career in the Foreign Service?
I learned about the fellowship from my mentor who is both a Morehouse College and SAIS alum. The Foreign Service seemed to embody everything I loved: travel, learning about new cultures, and service. Since then I’ve understood the value of US diplomacy in international affairs.
How has the Pickering Fellowship helped prepare you for your future career?
Included in the fellowship are two internships, one abroad and one domestic. These experiences provided me with a first hand experience of how the Foreign Service really works. The fellowship also used to include an intensive 7-week economics, statistics, and policy analysis summer institute, which occured between junior and senior year of college. With these three experiences I was not only prepared to SAIS’ rigorous curriculum, but also well prepared and informed to begin a career in the Foreign Service.
Can you tell us about your summer internship?  How did your first year of study at SAIS Bologna enhance/contribute to your internship experience?
I interned in the Public Affairs section of Embassy Hanoi. While there I worked closely on public diplomacy projects relating to Fulbright, cultural affairs, press relations, exchange programs, and the American Center. In the American Center, which is a US embassy sponsored cultural center used to educated foreign audiences about the US, I led the departments first soft skills seminar and professional development program in South East Asia and did a fair bit of editing for the mission. The writing I did during my first year in Bologna prepared me for all the writing and editing I did in Vietnam. Also living abroad for a yea prepared me for the decentralization that sometimes occurs when working abroad.
How has the language program at SAIS complemented your study of international relations?
Working toward proficiency certainly helps with cultural competency. Learning French and having a limited background in Chinese makes my understanding of both cultures much easier.
You’re only a few weeks away from graduating – what are you doing for your capstone project?
One of the advantages of the American Foreign Policy program in Bologna is the option to finish your master thesis during your second semester. So last year, I wrote my thesis on US-Pakistan relations. However, this year, I am undertaking a study examining African-American political thought and American Foreign policy.
Thanks for reading!
— Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions
To read previous entries in our Student Spotlight series, please click here.