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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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Senior named UH’s first Rangel fellow


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Cassie Gianni has been named UH’s first Rangel fellow. | Brittaney Penney/The Cougar

Since high school, Cassie Gianni has wanted a career in which she could impact people’s lives. That dream just got a lot closer to reality.

Gianni has been chosen to participate in the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs program, which is designed to train students for a career in foreign policy. She is the first UH student earn the fellowship.

“I’ve been advising Cassie for a long time,” said economics professor and undergraduate adviser Ruxandra Boul. “I’m very happy that she has this opportunity, as she’s one of the best students I’ve had. She’s received several scholarships, done so much extracurricular work and she’s been thinking like a grad student as an undergrad. I’m happy that she’s going to be able to join the Master’s program.”

In addition to monetary assistance, the fellowship provides two summer internships and mentorship from a foreign service officer, which is what Gianni and other fellows will become after graduating.

Though she has her heart set on the career, Gianni admitted it won’t always be easy.

“There have been moments of doubt,” Gianni said. “It’s not always an easy job. I’m going to be overseas basically my whole career. There are concerns about me being a woman and being gay in countries that aren’t as accepting of that, and I know that concerns my parents a lot. There will be times where I have to implement or enforce policy that I might not agree with. But I’ve been preparing myself for years now, and I know that I will stay in touch with my family and build a life I want to live while working in that career I want to follow.”

The fellowship program will send Gianni and other students to Washington, D.C. over the summer to intern with various government agencies, followed by a second internship in the summer of 2016 at U.S. foreign embassies. Gianni will also be mentored by a foreign service officer as she finishes her studies and after she begins her own career.

“It’s been my privilege to mentor Cassie over these last five years,” said Veronique Tran, dean of Math and Sciences at Lone Star College—University Park, whom Gianni cited as her closest mentor. “She has developed into a remarkable role model for women and the LGBT community. I’m proud of all that she has accomplished and look forward to what she accomplishes for our country in the future.”

Gianni said she found her calling during her senior year of high school, through a combination of community service and discovering new material in school.

“I wasn’t sure of my career path at the time,” said Gianni. “But there was a big push for the whole ‘global classroom’ thing at my school, which included encouraging us to do community service. I went to school near the medical center, where there are lots of international students, and I was selected as part of a team to reach out to and connect with these international students, to give them some companionship when they may have had a hard time getting by.”

“I found… a sense of belonging and purpose there. I said, ‘What’s a career that lets me keep doing this?’ and after some time taking my government and economics classes, I thought, ‘This is awesome. I want to use this to make an impact.’”

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