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Honors social work student awarded NMSU’s first Rangel Fellowship

Growing up near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, Nicole Johnson has long been fascinated with different cultures and traditions.

“I’ve always wanted to know what people all over the world look like,” Johnson says. “I’ve had an ever-growing curiosity about other cultures and people.”

Johnson, who is graduating with honors in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in social work, was awarded the 2024 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, the first student from NMSU to win the prominent fellowship. The fellowship will allow her to fulfill her dream of studying foreign affairs, and perhaps one day becoming a U.S. ambassador.

The fellowship, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University, will support Johnson through a two-year master’s degree in an area related to the Foreign Service. It also provides extensive professional development opportunities, including internships, mentors and skills training. Johnson was selected out of 1,267 candidates from across the nation.

“I’ll be able to learn more about how different policies in our country impact other countries, and vice versa,” Johnson says.

Johnson was born in El Paso and raised in Las Cruces, where she graduated from Mayfield High School. She is a citizen of the Comanche Nation.

She earned an associate degree in criminal justice and an associate degree of arts, both meritorious, from Doña Ana Community College in 2021. Johnson is minoring in government, public law and American government and politics. She was a distinguished El Puente de Encuentros Fellow for 2022 to 2023, and has studied abroad in Munich, Germany, and in Amman, Jordan. She also is a married mother of four and works for All Faiths Children’s Advocacy Center.

She says during her study abroad experiences, she was able to examine migration patterns in Germany, and study the refugee crisis in Jordan, then compare them to the migration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. She says she’s appreciative of those opportunities, and hopes others take advantage of them as well.

“Especially among women and Native Americans, people don’t feel study abroad is a possibility for them,” Johnson says. “There are so many programs available that are specifically for our population to have those experiences.”

To learn more about the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, visit