July 22, 2013
Two St. John’s University juniors were awarded Public Policy and
International Affairs Program (PPIA) Fellowships to prepare for
graduate study in the field by attending the 2013 Junior Summer Institute
(JSI) at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public
and International Affairs.
Shama Ams ’14C and Ariyo Adekeji Ojagbamila ’14C, who begin
their senior year this fall, were among only 35 undergraduates
selected for the fellowship from a nationwide pool of 492
applicants. The seven-week summer program prepares outstanding
students for graduate work in public policy and international
affairs and, ultimately, leadership roles in those fields.
The Woodrow Wilson School has hosted the Junior Summer Institute
since 1985. It is sponsored by the PPIA, a not-for-profit
organization with a consortium of more than 30 participating
graduate programs in public policy and international affairs.
Students who complete the fellowship join a network of nearly 4,000
Ams said he was “shocked” when he learned of his selection. “It
was actually a few weeks later, after I received the acceptance
folder from the Woodrow Wilson School, that the magnitude of the
situation finally dawned on me,” explained the Houston,TX, native.
He is studying government and politics with a dual major in
In addition, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
awarded Ams a Thomas R.
Pickering Fellowship, which provides financial support for
expenses relating to the senior year of college and the first year
of graduate school. Besides funding the cost of graduate education,
Ams noted, the Pickering provides one domestic and one foreign
internship at the State Department.
"I believe the best way to pursue permanent solutions to
sustainable development is as a Foreign Service Officer for the
State Department in the Middle East and Africa,” he said. “I also
hope to contribute to raising consciousness and solidifying local
networks of service delivery for the treatment and prevention of
HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis."
Ams, a Ronald E. McNair
Scholar, is the founder of a nonprofit organization that aims
to distribute medical equipment to developing countries in Africa.
He plans to use the knowledge he gains this summer to strengthen
his research on health care institutions in Johannesburg, South
Africa. “We’ll have an opportunity to present our work before
current and former U.S. diplomats and policy analysts,” said Ams.
“I’m very excited about that.”
Konrad T. Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History
and Director of the Africana Studies Program, feels that the
success of Ams and Ojagbamila reflects the University’s increasing
emphasis on global education. “In this competition, as with our
recent Fulbright success, our students are better prepared to make
a mark in higher education and the global workforce,” he said.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to see them do so well.”
“I’m thrilled and excited,” said Ojagbamila, a government and
politics major with minors in economics and philosophy of law.
“It’s a bit overwhelming, given the competitive nature of the
Ojagbamila moved to the United States in 2010, having
grown up in an impoverished section of Lagos, Nigeria. “I’m a firm
believer in St. John’s University's Vincentian
mission to help others,” he said.
“My ultimate goal is the eradication of global poverty. My hope is
that the program can provide me with the tools I need to achieve
that objective.” A member of the University’s venerable Skull and Circle
Honor Society, Ojagbamila is also a Presidential Scholar.
Fred Cocozzelli, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Government and
Politics, mentors both Ams and Ojagbamila and has high praise for
the pair. “Shama and Ariyo have been great fun to have as
students,” he said. “As smart, talented and ambitious as they are,
it is just as important to recognize that they are fun, optimistic
and engaging people. It’s exciting to have them recognized for
their talents and hard work.”
Ams and Ojagbamila are among the latest St. John’s undergraduates
to receive prestigious academic honors in 2013. In addition, 10
students have received Fulbright Awards.