By the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences
EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Sept. 28, 2023) — A 2023 alumna of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is one of four recipients of an inaugural agricultural trade fellowship awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Kortni Blalock was selected from among 100 applicants to receive a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) International Agricultural Fellowship. This fellowship is intended to support extraordinary individuals seeking FAS careers and increase diversity and excellence in the federal agency that works to improve export opportunities for U.S. producers.
“This fellowship means everything. It means I can attend graduate school without putting a big financial burden on my mom,” said Blalock. “It also puts me on track to have a career as a foreign service officer, which is a perfect mix of my interests in agriculture, business and international trade.”
Blalock graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA from A&T in May with a B.S. in agricultural and environmental systems, concentrating in agribusiness and food industry management. At A&T, Blalock was part of a three-student team that won the USDA’s 2023 Agricultural Export Market Challenge, a nationwide competition. She participated in MANRRS, the national society for underrepresented minorities interested in agriculture and related science careers, and in A&T’s Transfer Academic Achievement Program, which supports transfer students seeking bachelor’s degrees in agricultural and applied economics. Blalock also represented A&T at several national agriculture conferences.
A native of Conyers, Georgia, Blalock began her college career at Louisiana State University, then enrolled at A&T as a junior after being named a USDA 1890 National Scholar. In August, Blalock began work on a master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The fellowship, jointly administered by USDA and Howard University, provides funding for two years of graduate school, two summer internships — one with the FAS in Washington, D.C., and one overseas at a United States embassy or consulate — mentoring from an FAS officer and professional development to prepare recipients for FAS careers. The fellowship is valued at approximately $106,000 and requires a five-year post-graduation service obligation to FAS.
“Kortni Blalock excelled in her time at North Carolina A&T, and we are pleased that she is preparing herself for a career with USDA,” said Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D., dean of the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. “We are so proud of Kortni. We expect her to do great things in graduate school and with the Foreign Agricultural Service.”
Valerie Brown ’91 ’96, who serves as FAS regional agricultural counselor in Dubai, was instrumental in starting the fellowship.
“Our dream was to make an impact, change the narrative and create a brighter future,” said Brown. “As one of the first USDA’s FAS International Agricultural Fellows, Ms. Blalock fulfills the dream. Her presence is already making an impact. Her skills, abilities and knowledge are changing the narrative, and her brilliance will contribute to a brighter future.”
Patricia Scroggs, director of diplomatic fellowships at Howard University, echoed Brown’s enthusiasm.
“We are thrilled to have Kortni as part of our inaugural cohort,” she said. “We hope to welcome other Aggies into future cohorts, confident that their academic backgrounds will translate into success in our fellowship and their careers.”
Institutional nomination or endorsement is required before students can apply for an FAS International Agricultural Fellowship. Students, faculty and staff may email Alsace-Lorraine Gallop, A&T’s national scholarships and fellowships coordinator with NCAT Extraordinary Opportunities, at [email protected] for details. For more information about the fellowship, visit fasfellowship.org.