Two Outstanding Aggies Nominated for Gaither Fellowships

The James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program is a post-baccalaureate fellowship with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which provides outstanding recent graduates who are serious about careers in international affairs with an opportunity to learn about and help shape policy on important international topics.

Junior Fellows work as research assistants to senior scholars whose projects include nuclear policy, democracy and rule of law, energy and climate issues, Middle East studies, Asia politics and economics, South Asian politics, Southeast Asian politics, Japan studies, and Russian and Eurasian affairs.

The fellowship provides a one-year full time position at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, D.C. during which Junior Fellows may conduct research, contribute to op-eds, papers, reports, and books, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, activists, journalists and government officials.

Texas A&M is one of over 400 participating schools and institutions and may nominate up to two students each year. Only 10-12 Junior Fellows will be selected, making this a highly-competitive program. Mokhtar Awad ’12 was selected as a Junior Fellow with the Middle East program in 2012.

We are pleased to announce our 2019 nominees are Muhammad Muizz Akhtar ’17, who is applying to the China Studies Program, and Sarah McKeen ’19, who is applying to the South Asia Program.

Muhammad Muizz Akhtar ’17, Gaither Junior Fellows Nominee

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Muhammad Muizz Akhtar is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University with a B.A in international studies and a minor in Chinese language and cultural studies. In their degree, Muizz concentrated in politics and diplomacy, with a specific focus on the Asia-Pacific region. While at Texas A&M, Muizz served as the vice president of both the Chinese Language and Culture Club as well as Feminists for Reproductive Equity and Education (FREE), organizations that supported cultural exchange and educational efforts respectively to foster a healthier, more inclusive Aggieland. Following their passion for international affairs, Muizz studied abroad in China, and later served as a fellow at the National Rural Support Programme, an NGO in Pakistan that facilitates social programs focused on matters from education to public health. This opportunity also allowed Muizz to study firsthand the policy implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the largest infrastructure project of its scale in human history.

Following graduation, Muizz would heed the mantra of “think global, act local” and return to Houston to pursue civic advocacy work, and currently serves as a program manager for the Chinese Community Center of Houston, as well as a coordinator for a coalition of several local nonprofit organizations focused on increasing civic engagement in Houston’s Asian Pacific American community. During this time Muizz has been able to bear witness to the effects of policy on a level fundamental to the needs of all people, which has imbued in them a purpose to pursue international affairs research more broadly as the line between local and global issues become increasingly blurred. Following this, Muizz also had the recent honor of being a Kathryn Wasserman Davis Fellow for Peace in 2018, and the chance to engage in even more rigorous study of Mandarin Chinese at Middlebury College. Muizz believes a fellowship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the next step on the path to becoming a truly international advocate for issues that require global civic engagement.

Sarah McKeen ’19, Gaither Junior Fellows Nominee

Sarah McKeen is a senior political science and sociology double major from Illinois. She has served as an executive in MSC Wiley Lecture Series and as President of American Association of University Women at Texas A&M. Her leadership within the MSC led to her delegation to the Student Leadership Exchange Program with Texas A&M Qatar. Sarah has been involved in three Aggie Research Scholars teams and has had the privilege of serving as a team leader to one team. Research has been a key aspect of her education at Texas A&M due to her position as a research assistant in the Department of Geography studying Middle Eastern migration to Sweden. She also interned at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Global Women’s Leadership Initiative in summer 2018 through Texas A&M’s Public Policy Internship Program. After graduation, Sarah will spend her summer as a research assistant at the Wilson Center studying gender in the Middle East. She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in political science with a focus in comparative politics. Her key interests are research methodology and women in South Asia and the Middle East.

Congratulations to our nominees! If you are interested in applying to the Gaither Junior Fellows program or another nationally-competitive scholarship or fellowship, please visit


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