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From the Ozarks to International Fora, TRIO Forges Foreign Service Diplomats

February 11, 2022

By Scott Winton

Scott WintonScott Winton, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, currently serves as the Political and Regional Team Lead at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, and oversees the team responsible for the human rights, security, and internal and external politics portfolios. He is an alum of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.

Born and raised in the Ozarks of Missouri, Scott was the first in his family to graduate from college – a first-generation college student (first-gen). His father worked as a delivery route driver, and his mom ran an in-home daycare, and neither graduated from college nor did their parents. Scott graduated from Branson High School and then attended the University of Missouri-Columbia or Mizzou.

His college years were tough and consisted of working long hours to make ends meet while attending college. He burned the midnight oil studying for exams, attended class in the morning, and worked in the evening. Extracurricular activities were a luxury he rarely could afford. His summer breaks were meant for income, not for career-advancing internships. This story is likely familiar to most first-generation college students.

Scott WintonIn undergrad, he was selected as one of Mizzou’s Ronald E. McNair Scholars, a U.S. Department of Education-funded TRIO program. The program aimed to achieve postbaccalaureate success and included mentoring by a professor and bi-weekly professional development workshops. Scott’s mentor helped him be a better writer, researcher, and presenter, all skills that have served him well as a U.S. diplomat.

In 2005, Scott graduated with a dual degree in International Business from Mizzou. In 2009, he graduated with an M.S. degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service thanks to funding from the Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, a fellowship first introduced to him by the McNair Scholars Program. Under the U.S. Department of State’s Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship Program, Scott’s graduate school tuition, room, board, and books were fully covered. He also received two paid summer internships and mentoring. He joined the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service in 2009 and has since served in Jamaica, Macedonia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Washington.

Scott has advice for first-gen professionals. “Tell your story — This helps to include other first-gen within your organization and reduces social stigmas facing Americans dealing with economic hardship. While it’s hard for folks to speak about their low-income background like it was for me, it’s important to humanize the challenges of individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and improve understanding about the path to social mobility in our country.”

Scott WintonHe says we can also draw inspiration from notable first-gen professionals, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Moreover, the federal government is taking steps to cultivate a workforce that draws from the full diversity of the Nation. President Biden, a first-gen himself, signed Executive Order 14035 on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in the Federal Workforce, which aims to strengthen the federal government’s “ability to recruit, hire, develop, promote, and retain our Nation’s talent and remove barriers to equal opportunity.” This includes supporting first-gen students and first-gen professionals.

Scott concluded that it was his mentor and the leaders of Mizzou’s McNair Scholars Program that underscored his potential to continue education beyond an undergraduate degree and succeed in a field where being a first-generation college student is rare. If you are interested in joining a career at the U.S. Department of State, consider employment opportunities, such as the civil and foreign service, internships, and fellowships, which can be found here. You can also connect with any of the 16 regional Diplomats in Residence who promote student and career opportunities with the U.S. Department of State. They are always happy to communicate with interested students such as yourself! You can find them here.