MACON – Mercer University alumnus Kyle Bligen was recently awarded a 2019 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship following a highly competitive nationwide contest. The Rangel Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University, supports extraordinary individuals who want to pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.
“Kyle’s commitment to promoting positive change and his outstanding academic and professional background deeply impressed our selection panel. We are proud that he will be a 2019 Rangel Fellow and are confident that he will effectively represent both Georgia and the United States as a U.S. diplomat. I look forward to seeing all that he will accomplish in his career,” said Patricia Scroggs, director of the Rangel Program.
Bligen is a native of Peachtree City and graduated magna cum laude from Mercer in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics.
He served as captain of the University’s debate team and developed his communication skills by researching domestic and international issues and crafting communication strategies for competition. He and teammate Jaz Buckley became the first African-Americans to win the National Parliamentary Debate Association Championship in 2018. Since August, he has served as assistant director of debate at Mercer.
In 2016, Bligen was selected as a Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow and was invited to Washington, D.C., to gain public policy skills and create a capstone project focusing on youth advocacy. Back at Mercer, he collaborated with faculty, politicians and community leaders to identify at-risk middle school students in need of mentorship, and in his junior year, he was selected as a Newman Civic Fellow and created a public-private partnership between the University’s Center for Community Engagement and Ballard Hudson Middle School. This partnership created a pipeline for college students to mentor minority students. Throughout this process, he gained the experience needed to connect various community groups for good while advocating for and serving individuals from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Bligen also participated in the Hope Global Forum in 2016 and had the privilege to speak with Ambassador Andrew Young about the importance of economic diplomacy and the State Department’s role in positioning minorities at the forefront of global advocacy. It was this conversation highlighting the State Department’s position at the intersection of his biggest passions – public service and economic analysis – that interested him in the Rangel fellowship.
His passion for public service directly aligns with his interest in economic analysis. The summer of his junior year, he served as a Legislative Fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, briefing Congressman Sanford Bishop on economic issues affecting families and farmers in Middle Georgia. At Mercer’s BB&T Center for Research in Public Policy and Capitalism, he worked as an economic analyst producing policy papers documenting the causal relationship between cryptocurrency, market trends and government regulation. He was also able to conduct research for the Society of Business, Industry and Economics highlighting the role that cryptocurrency plays in the international money market in relation to U.S. finance reform.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected for the Rangel Fellowship,” said Bligen. “As I embark on my career as a diplomat, I want to thank my parents, professors and mentors who have invested countless hours into my personal and professional development. My mother often states that leadership is not something done to people, but with them. I view public service the same way. I am committed to using my gifts and abilities to provide a more secure and prosperous climate for American families and future generations.”
Bligen plans to attend either the Harvard Kennedy School of Government or Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs for graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration, in addition to international finance and economic policy. As a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, he hopes to build positive trade and economic relations between the United States and other countries that promote equitable development and preserve national security.
The Rangel Fellowship will support Bligen through a two-year master’s degree in international affairs and provide extensive professional development opportunities, including internships, mentorship and skills training.
As part of the Rangel Program, he will work for a member of Congress on issues related to foreign affairs this summer. In the summer of 2020, the U.S. Department of State will send him overseas to work in a U.S. Embassy to get hands-on experience with U.S. foreign policy and the work of the Foreign Service.
Upon successful completion of the program, he will become a U.S. diplomat, embarking on one of the most challenging and rewarding careers of service to his country. He will work to promote peace and prosperity around the world.
About the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program
The Rangel Program is a U.S. Department of State program that aims to enhance the excellence and diversity of the U.S. Foreign Service. Begun in 2003, the Rangel Fellowship Program selects outstanding young people each year from around the country who exhibit the ideal qualities of a Foreign Service Officer. Administered by Howard University, the Rangel Fellowship supports those selected through graduate school and professional development activities that prepare them for their careers as Foreign Service Officers. With the academic, professional and financial support from the program, Fellows now serve as diplomats around the world, contributing to a more diverse representation and effective execution of U.S. foreign policy. More information can be found online at www.rangelprogram.org.