Recent Florida State graduate Taylor Adams to begin prestigious foreign service fellowship

Taylor Adams has engaged in service all over the world, bolstered by impressive awards that have taken her to Kenya to teach elementary school children, to Lesotho to help children living with HIV/AIDS, to Cambodia to work with a children’s rights organization and to Taiwan where she is currently teaching English with a grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Now, she’s won another prestigious award — the USAID Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship. The fellowship provides up to $90,000 over two years to be used for graduate school for those pursuing careers in the USAID Foreign Service. After successful completion of the fellowship, the fellows are offered full-time employment with the USAID Foreign Service.

“As a young economist interested in international development, this is my dream career,” said Adams, who is from Riviera Beach, Fla.

Adams, who graduated from Florida State in spring 2013, will attend Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy with her fellowship. She is one of just three students nationwide to receive the inaugural fellowship.

Originally an alternate for the fellowship, Adams said she was “honored and shocked” when offered the spot. She was even more humbled when she was allowed todefer the fellowship for a year in order to complete her Fulbright in Taiwan.

“We are thrilled to have Taylor as a Payne Fellow in our first year,” said Payne Program Officer Tessa Henry. “The Payne Fellowship selection panel was very impressed by her strong academic record, diverse international experiences and commitment to making a difference in the world. I have no doubt that she will excel in graduate school and make important contributions to promoting global peace and prosperity as a USAID Foreign Service Officer.”

The fellowship program is named for U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey in honor of his long history of service to the nation and the world in promoting international development. Payne died in 2012.

Adams, 23, already has a few prestigious awards under her belt. In addition to the Fulbright, she received an FSU Office of National Fellowships’ Social Entrepreneurship Moellership, a summer service scholarship that allowed her to travel to Cambodia. FSU’s Center for Leadership and Social Change offers the “Moellership” program, which is named for the center’s former director Bill Moeller, who founded the program.

Though she’s been around the world, Adams’ passion for helping children in international settings started close to home. While at Florida State — besides logging more than 1,600 community service hours and maintaining a 4.0 GPA — Adams spent her summers working at Camp Boggy Creek, a camp in Eustis, Fla., that serves children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

“As a childhood cancer survivor myself, Camp Boggy Creek is my community, and it was incredibly rewarding to volunteer there,” Adams said.

Craig Filar, the director of the Florida State Office of National Fellowships, who worked with Adams in applying for both the Fulbright and the Payne awards, said she is on her way to becoming a thoughtful leader in international development and foreign service.

“Taylor Adams embodies a spirit of scholastic inquiry and drive for social justice,” Filar said. “The Payne program and USAID selected her from a pool of finalists who often had more education and more experience, but it was Taylor’s authentic approach and insight that set her apart from other applicants.”