Alum’s IT Fellowship Leads to Career in the Foreign Service

John Mercedes

The Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship aims to attract top tech talent.

The U.S. Department of State has awarded John Mercedes a 2024 Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship. Mercedes graduated from RIC in 2023 with a major in computer information systems and a minor in data analytics and Portuguese. 

This two-year fellowship program is designed to lead to a career in the Foreign Service by providing academic funding for an IT-related degree, internships, professional development and mentorship, culminating in an appointment in the Foreign Service as a diplomatic technology officer.

As a FAIT fellow, Mercedes will receive an annual stipend of $43,500 to fund his master’s degree at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to apply the skills I’ve learned at RIC and CCRI and to meet new people and travel,” he says. “I am especially thankful to RIC Professors Lisa Bain and Silvia Oliveira for their support.”

Mercedes is a first-generation Latino whose parents are from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He is multicultural and multilingual in English, Spanish and Portuguese and has a strong passion for not only languages but diverse cultures. 

That passion led him to an internship in Lisbon, Portugal, last summer, after being awarded a U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and a $5,000 scholarship from the Lema-Fernandes Study Abroad Fund by the Institute for Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies at RIC.

Since graduating from Rhode Island College, Mercedes has been working as a business analyst at Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust. There, he is able to connect with people from diverse cultures and explore the crossroads between language learning, technology and volunteerism.

As a FAIT fellow, Mercedes will attend a program orientation in Washington, D.C. from June 10-12. In the fall, he will begin his graduate program at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His internships will be held at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. and a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Upon completing his fellowship, he will become a diplomatic technology officer and join the U.S. Department of State’s IT workforce. Officers are employed at over 275 overseas posts in nearly 200 countries. 

Though Mercedes doesn’t know in which country he will work, he is already predicting a future for himself: 

“I imagine myself somewhere warm like Brazil, Portugal or somewhere in Africa, making friends with the local people, exploring different foods and volunteering in the community. A huge reason why I pursued this career in the Foreign Service is because of the opportunity I’ll have to understand better how other people live and their experiences. I will be able to combine my passion for teaching, mission work/volunteerism and language learning with my technology skills.”

Also see “Internship Abroad Prepares RIC Student for International Career in Technology”