Andy Hyland
Office of Public Affairs

Senior from Overland Park earns Pickering Fellowship

Fri, 12/10/2021

LAWRENCE — With a new fellowship in hand, Jaleah Cullors will have the opportunity to jump-start her career plans with a stipend for graduate school and the opportunity to work in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Jaleah Cullors, University of KansasThe senior at the University of Kansas is double majoring in political science and global & international studies, with three minors in Spanish, intelligence & national security studies and Middle East studies.

She is the latest KU student to earn a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provides 45 students from across the country with $42,000 annually for completion of a two-year master’s degree. The degree must be in international affairs or a related subject, and fellows must fulfill a five-year commitment to work in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“I was very surprised and incredibly grateful,” Cullors said of earning the fellowship. “My work has centered around building communities wherever I go, and that’s something I look forward to continuing in the U.S. Foreign Service.”

Fellows also participate in two internships, one at the U.S. Department of State headquarters in Washington and the second through an overseas placement in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate that takes place the summer after the fellow’s graduation.

“Our last fellow from KU was in 2008, and we are excited to welcome Jaleah to the Pickering Program,” said Lily López-McGee, director of the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Program. “I am confident that the education and skills she gained there helped her compete in this rigorous selection process. Her experiences and skills are sure to help her success in graduate school and eventually the Foreign Service. We are looking forward to seeing what she will accomplish.”

Cullors is part of the McNair Scholars program at KU, which prepares low-income, first-generation and underrepresented college students for graduate study. In that program, Cullors presented a research project focusing on American newspapers’ coverage of terrorist events.

In analyzing thousands of articles, she found that terrorist events featuring Muslims were covered more often by journalists and contributed to Islamophobic sentiments in their communities.

Cullors said she appreciated her mentors inside and outside KU, who encouraged her to major in global & international studies and seek out non-academic opportunities to engage with different cultures and peoples.

She said she hopes to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector before entering academia as a professor, where she would have the opportunity to help pay some of that mentorship forward to other students.

“I would hope to be able to share with students, and especially students of color, ‘I did it, and you can do it, too,’” she said. “Ideally, I would be creating research that can have an impact in my communities and can create change in public policy.”

Cullors worked with KU’s Office of Fellowships in preparing her application. Students who are interested in applying for the Pickering or similar awards in the future are encouraged to contact the office by email at

Cullors, from Overland Park, is the daughter of RL Cullors and Joyslyn Fears. A graduate of Shawnee Mission West, she is double majoring in political science and global & international studies and triple minoring in Spanish, intelligence & national security studies and Middle East studies. She is a member of the University Honors Program and the Multicultural Scholars Program; she was selected as a sophomore for the Global Scholars Program by the Office of International Affairs. In addition to being a McNair Scholar, Cullors is also an Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence Scholar and a Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellow. She is currently serving as an Independent Task Force Intern for the Council on Foreign Relations and previously interned at People to People International, a nonprofit dedicated to humanitarianism, global education and cultural exchange. Her extracurricular activities include the Global Awareness Program, Hawklink, the Rising Scholars Program and volunteer experience at El Centro Academy for Children. 

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