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Robertson Fellows Aspire to Serve as Foreign Service Officers

September 8, 2023

Zoe Prin and Forrest Gatrell are pursuing dual master’s degrees in public administration and international relations at the Maxwell School.

Interested in careers in the foreign service, Zoe Prin and Forrest Gatrell took advantage of internships and other opportunities as undergraduates that exposed them to the inner workings of government, policymaking and service from differing vantage points.

While Gatrell obtained leadership and professional training with an internship with the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, Prin gained perspective interning with nonprofits that assisted refugees and advocated for children’s welfare and religious freedom.

Prin and Gatrell recently joined the ranks of incoming graduate students at the Maxwell School, pursuing dual master’s degrees in public administration and international relations. Both are Robertson Foundation for Government Fellows.

Robertson awards are among the most generous and prestigious available to professional graduate students at the Maxwell School, covering full tuition for two years of study, a living stipend, health insurance and assistance in finding a summer internship. In exchange, fellows agree to work in the U.S. federal government for three of the first seven years following graduation. Since the program began in 2010, the program has funded 37 students, including Gatrell and Prin.

Zoe Prin
Zoe Prin

Prin, a Charleston, South Carolina, native, received a bachelor’s degree in diplomacy and international relations with a minor in Russian and a certificate in Russian and East European studies from Seton Hall University in May 2023.

She interned with the Texas-based Minaret Foundation, promoting and developing policies supporting child welfare, religious freedom and food insecurity. As a policy associate, she says she gained experience “helping everyone on everything.”

Among the highlights: assisting with policy research and outreach to support legislation in Texas—signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott—that eliminates standardized exams on religious holidays and supports interfaith cooperation and understanding, says Prin.

She also interned with the International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Working with its Community Sponsorship Program, she says she helped refugees become “settled, happy and independently successful.”

Prin hopes to work in Eastern Europe in her foreign service career. She served as president of Seton Hall’s Slavic Club. In addition, her mother is from Switzerland, and she has many relatives in Europe.

“My academic specialization in Eastern Europe is useful within the federal government, considering the complexity of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and unprecedented global reactions,” she says.

Forrest Gatrell
Forrest Gatrell

Gatrell, from Terre Haute, Indiana, graduated in 2020 from Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in political science and French and a minor in policy analysis.

He was working as a full-time paralegal in Indianapolis, volunteering in Democratic politics and contemplating a law career over his dream to work as a diplomat when he got the email that he had been chosen as a Robertson Fellow.

His Foreign Service Institute internship in Arlington, Virginia, not only provided him with leadership and professional development experience, but enabled him to take on a unique role on his campus. He founded a student organization connecting students with information about careers with the Department of State while promoting monthly foreign affairs discussions.

“I also took care to partake in further public service opportunities, such as an AmeriCorps service year and enrolling to serve as an education volunteer in Benin with the Peace Corps,” he says, noting that his Peace Corps work, which was to take place in West Africa, was nixed because of COVID travel restrictions.

Gatrell aspires to work as a consular or political officer with the foreign service. Fluent in French, which he used as a bilingual case manager in his paralegal work in Indianapolis, Gatrell would love to serve in West Africa.

Gatrell and Prin began their Maxwell courses in July. They say their experience on campus so far has exceeded their high expectations, and they share in gratitude.

“I want to express my deepest thanks to the Robertson Foundation and everyone at Maxwell,” says Gatrell. “It’s a huge honor.”

Adds Prin, “I’m very grateful.”

By Steve Buchiere

Published in the Fall 2023 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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