At West Virginia University, where students are encouraged to “Go First,” Dylan Vest has taken that mantra to heart. He was the first in his family to go to college, to travel abroad and even get on a plane. Now he’s one step closer to his dream of becoming a Foreign Service Officer by becoming the first WVU student to receive the highly competitive Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship from the U.S. State Department.
A native of Princeton, he was one of only 30 students out of 844 applicants nationally to win the fellowship. Vest will receive $37,500 annually for two years to fund a master’s degree. He hopes to attend the University of Pittsburgh or the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, to earn his master’s degree in an area related to international affairs. He will have two internships with the State Department—one at the State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the other at a U.S. embassy overseas. The program provides additional support for summer travel, housing and other related expenses.
Vest is an Honors College student and a double major in political science and French in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. He has made the most of his global opportunities at West Virginia University by studying abroad four times—in Italy, the Netherlands, and twice in France where he was a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar in 2017.
“The Pickering Scholarship will allow me to foster mutual understanding between the United States and other countries as I serve the U.S. and our citizens abroad as a diplomat,” Vest said. “I hope to find solutions to chronic poverty, economic stagnation, obstacles to education, and other issues that not only affect West Virginia, but the entire world.”
Vest would like his success to inspire other students from low-income families in small-town West Virginia.
“I am a proud member of the Student Support Services/TRIO program at WVU that supports students like me,” Vest said. “I hope this proves that no matter where you come from, you can excel through hard work, resilience, and determination.”
Vest is the first student to win the Pickering and, last year, Jerrica “Ashley” Fox, was the first WVU alumna to be tapped for this prestigious fellowship.
"I know that Dylan will make all of Mountaineer nation proud in his work for the foreign service,” said Amy Cyphert, director of the ASPIRE office. “We are thrilled that his sincere commitment to public service has been recognized by the Pickering program."
The ASPIRE office prepares students for highly competitive scholarships and fellowships like the Pickering Graduate Fellowship. Students who are interested in applying should email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.