Abdul Sanderson ’20 Awarded Rangel and Fulbright Fellowships

Abdul Sanderson ’20

Abdul Sanderson ’20 (photo provided)

Abdul Sanderson ’20 has been awarded both a prestigious 2023 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship and a 2023–24 Fulbright US Student award for Kyrgyzstan in highly competitive national competitions. He graduated with a double major in economics and international relations with a concentration in global political economy.

Sanderson is the 49th Geneseo Fulbright US Student award winner and will spend 2023–24 living in a Kyrgyz community and teaching in a university as an English Teaching Assistant.  

The Rangel Fellowship, funded by the US Department of State and administered by Howard University, supports individuals who want to pursue careers in the US Foreign Service. Selected from nearly 900 candidates, Sanderson will receive up to $84,000 to complete a two-year master’s degree studying international affairs or economics after his Fulbright year. He will also undertake a Congressional internship, a US Embassy or Consulate internship, mentoring, and professional development activities before he begins a five-year placement as a Foreign Service Officer.

“What Abdul has accomplished this year is extraordinary,” says Michael Mills, director of national fellowships and scholarships. “These awards are fiercely sought after by applicants from the finest schools in the nation, and for him to win both in the same year is largely unprecedented. He is a remarkable example of the incredibly talented and dedicated alumni the College produces who go on to become leaders not only in the US but across the world.”

Born in Ethiopia, Sanderson was adopted at age seven by a single mother from Carthage, NY. Because of his immigrant experience, he made a lifelong commitment to “spreading cultural understanding and embracing differences, a commitment I see in the Foreign Service’s mission, vision, and values.”

Sanderson welcomes the opportunity to enhance his Kyrgyzstan connections and looks forward to promoting cultural exchange between his host community and the United States. “I aspired to a career with the Department of State even before I began at Geneseo and hope that my success is an inspiration to other students and alumni, no matter their background,” he says. “People of color especially have a place in study abroad and international programs, and our perspectives are vital to building a holistic picture of American culture.”

Sanderson is the first Geneseo student or alumni to win a Rangel award. Last year, he was an alternate finalist for the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program. He also won a 2020 Critical Language Scholarship to Kyrgyzstan to continue the Russian studies he began at Geneseo, but the program was changed to remote due to the pandemic.

Fulbrights at Geneseo

The Fulbright Foundation provides grants for individually designed study or research programs, graduate degrees, or English teaching assistant programs in many foreign countries. In five of the past six years, Geneseo has been named a Fulbright Top Producing Institution by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in its annual article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Sanderson is the third awardee of the seven semifinalists so far in this year’s Fulbright competition, joining Julia Grunes ’23 (Israel) and Bryan Gilman-Orozco ’23 (Colombia), along with alternates Samson McKinley ’23 (Taiwan) and Laura D’Amico ’18 (Italy). A fourth award to North Macedonia was declined.

The 2024–25 Fulbright US Student competition application is now open to students and alumni. The Rangel Fellowship application will open during the fall semester. Both programs are administered at Geneseo by Director of National Fellowships and Scholarships Michael Mills, who can be reached at millsm@geneseo.edu and 585-245-6002. For more information about the Fulbright, Rangel, and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs, visit Fellowships and Scholarships.