Donation to Fellowships Office supports underrepresented students in international affairs and diplomacy


George Mason University’s Office of Fellowships is one step closer to making a pipeline to diplomacy jobs a reality for underrepresented students.

In the first-ever donation of its kind, McLarty Associates is donating $15,000 to the office to help develop a course and programming to support students seeking to pursue careers in international affairs and public service.

LaNitra Berger
LaNitra Berger. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

“McLarty’s support has been crucial in helping my office address some critical needs this year,” said LaNitra Berger, senior director. “Their donation was unexpected but so needed, allowing us the ability to use the resources to focus on underrepresented students for diplomacy careers.”

Berger said the donation will provide the infrastructure to build programs with international and world affairs courses for minority students. The funds will pay for books, class materials and honorariums for guest speakers, as well as allow students to be in meetings and at events, giving them direct contact with diplomats and future mentors.

“Building a pipeline for students in international affairs takes time and requires the development of good relationships. My hope is that the work we are able to achieve through this donation eventually helps attract people to Mason and into international as well as public policy,” she said.

Berger and McLarty Associates’ president, Nelson Cunningham, met several years ago working on the Board of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. The two stayed in touch, and Cunningham continued to track the work Berger was doing at Mason related to developing diverse student interest in the field of international affairs.

“I have been and continue to be impressed with Berger’s dedication to promoting diversity in the world of foreign affairs and to promote international education and understanding more broadly,” Cunningham said. “It is our hope that this donation helps Mason attract more students into international public policy positions. “

McLarty Associates is an international strategic advisory firm comprising nearly 100 people representing 21 countries. McLarty works at the nexus of business and policy to helps clients navigate the complexities of global strategic and operational challenges. Due to the global nature of the firm’s work, it frequently draws its employees from international establishments, such as the U.S. State Department and think tanks, who are adept and savvy in dealing with governments worldwide.

Spurred by social justice movements and the lack of diversity in the international affairs and diplomatic field, Cunningham and his staff wanted to support diversity both within the firm and in the field.  

“America is the most diverse country in the world—it’s our strength—and if our diplomats don’t look like the people they represent, we are not as strong and not representing America as well,” Cunningham said.

“Dr. Berger’s push to get a diverse representation of students interested in international affairs is something we see as a worthy investment,” said Ariele Yaffee, director of operations and legal for McLarty. She added that Mason has bright future in that area and McLarty looks forward to bringing Mason students on as interns and associates.