Muhammad stands by flags at the White House
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A first-generation Pitt alumna was selected for a Pickering Fellowship

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Global
  • David C. Frederick Honors College
  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

Khadajah Muhammad, a University of Pittsburgh alumna, is charting a path toward diplomatic service with her recent selection to the 2024 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program.

Endowed by the Department of State and administered by Howard University, the Pickering fellowship is a program tailored to the needs of the U.S. Foreign Service. Muhammad is among 45 recipients, selected from a pool of nearly 1,400 candidates.


Currently working as a client technology associate at Arabella Advisors in Washington, D.C., Muhammad (A&S ’21) plans to combine her tech expertise with a passion for social impact, embodying the mission-driven work that drew her to diplomacy in the first place.

As a first-generation college student born and raised in Oklahoma City, Muhammad’s interest in foreign affairs began when she read a book on former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that ignited her fascination with careers in foreign service.

While studying at Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, that interest led her experiences like internships with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Pittsburgh City Council. After graduating magna cum laude, Muhammad further honed her leadership skills and dedication to social impact during a 2021-22 Coro Pittsburgh Fellowship in Public Affairs.

Muhammad, who also founded the Association of Black Political Science Students at Pitt, says she has a unique perspective and a deep-rooted passion for public service that she’ll bring to her diplomatic aspirations. 

When first applying for the fellowship, she was concerned her background living a “typical American experience” wouldn’t make her a strong candidate, and that the opportunity was more likely to go to people with previous international experiences who speak multiple languages. But she found success when she leaned into her experiences.

“I thought that was like a hindrance. I was like, ‘what is special about me?’” Muhammad said. “That does make me special because that is what they're looking for. They're looking for people who reflect America.”

The fellowship includes a range of professional development activities — including internships, mentorship opportunities and skills training — all designed to equip fellows like Muhammad with the expertise required to excel in foreign affairs. 

At the end of her fellowship, Muhammad will participate in a domestic internship with the U.S. Department of State in the summer of 2025, followed by an overseas internship at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the summer of 2026.

As she embarks on her graduate studies in international relations at Johns Hopkins University, Muhammad says she’s excited for the diverse experiences that await her as a diplomat. 

With regions like Central and South America and Africa on her radar, she plans to make a meaningful impact wherever her journey takes her, no matter the challenges she may face.

“I just want to take it one step at a time. I feel like it can be really easy to be afraid of not knowing if you're going to rise up to the occasion or not knowing what to do,” Muhammad said. “But I just keep reminding myself there are things in place like trainings and the fellowship … that will prepare me to do the best that I can.

Reflecting on her time at Pitt, Muhammad expressed gratitude for the opportunities and support she received from the Pitt community, its robust alumni network and the David C. Frederick Honors College.

"I feel really lucky," Muhammad said. "Pittsburgh had a lot of opportunity for students."


— Donovan Harrell, photography courtesy of Khadajah Muhammad