Mariam Vargas ’25 (CLAS), a political science major, was one of 15 individuals nationally who took part in the 2023 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment Program this summer. Selection to the Washington, D.C.-based program is highly competitive, as almost 1,000 students applied for the 15 spots.
The Rangel Summer Enrichment Program is a US State Department program administered by Howard University through a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Global Talent Management. The program provides undergraduate students with a deeper appreciation of current issues and trends in international affairs, a greater understanding of career opportunities in international affairs, and the enhanced knowledge and skills to pursue such careers.
The program’s goals are to promote greater diversity and excellence in the US foreign service. The program was named to honor Charles Rangel, who represented New York City in Congress from 1971 to 2017.
Vargas spent six weeks in Washington, D.C., learning from diplomats, foreign service officers, and other leading foreign affairs professionals.
“We got to meet so many different people in Washington, D.C., surrounding politics and international affairs,” says Vargas, who was born in Boston and raised in the Dominican Republic. “Work as a political science major can be pretty broad-based because it is a vast field. This program and all the robust work we did really cemented my decision that I want to work in international affairs.”
Vargas and her fellow program attendees took two courses at Howard and participated in a seminar on professional writing, taught by a former U.S. ambassador. The group also participated in a variety of professional development activities and attended events at locations such as the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department, and Congress.
“We took an introduction to political economy class, which examined international relations in economic terms,” says Vargas. “It looked at how the world works, and we studied topics like U.S.-China relations and how the war in Ukraine in affecting the entire world in economic terms.”
The other class Vargas took was on the history of U.S. foreign relations and how it affected the development of the country.
“We learned how the United States came to be the most powerful country in the world in terms of foreign relations,” says Vargas. “We studied why every country cares what the United States does and the way it has exerted its power.”
Vargas has substantial experience abroad through her participation in a variety of academic extracurricular activities. Vargas participated in a tour designed for Dominican teenagers to visit 33 cities across eight different countries in Europe over three weeks in 2018. In 2022, she was among 50 students worldwide to participate in NATO’s Future Seminar in Berlin, Germany. Vargas participated in the 2022 Kosovo Summer Academy where she traveled to that country to learn how to conduct peacebuilding in the post-conflict era, in the context of the Balkan region.
Vargas has also thrived at UConn, as one of 11 Scholars selected for the sixth cohort of the highly competitive BOLD Women’s Leadership Network Program, an initiative funded by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation to provide women with holistic leadership and career development support during their junior and senior years of college.
She also studied abroad in UConn’s Summer Racial and Social Justice in the Netherlands program.
Vargas is involved in UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government as a senator representing the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center and will be the USG’s community affairs advocacy coordinator for the upcoming academic year – a new position. She is also co-president of the Dominican Student Association.
“Following graduation, I would like to do a fellowship and go to graduate school,” says Vargas. “I definitely want to go on and become a diplomat.”