The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024 45 AFSA NEWS Supporting FS Families The AFSA Scholarship Program The oldest of AFSA’s “good works” is the AFSA Scholarship Fund, which dates to 1926—just two years after AFSA itself was founded. Over its history, AFSA has distributed more than $6.2 million in scholarships to more than 2,800 students from Foreign Service families. In 2023 alone, scholarships totaling $415,000 were awarded to 109 students. This helps AFSA members fund the ever-increasing costs of college education while recognizing the accomplishments of Foreign Service youth in academics, art, and community service. In 1926, Oliver Bishop Harriman was a 39-year-old diplomat serving as chargé d’affaires at U.S. Embassy Copenhagen when he unexpectedly died of heart disease. His mother, Elizabeth Templeton Bishop Harriman, started the AFSA Scholarship Fund in his honor with a $25,000 seed donation— equivalent to $435,000 today. The first scholarships using the fund were awarded in 1927 to students with financial need; AFSA added academic merit scholarships in 1975, with the first awards distributed in 1976. Over the decades, donations from AFSA members— including occasional large bequests—rolled in. Donations were initially invested in U.S. savings bonds, but after the funds were moved to a diversified portfolio including stocks, the AFSA Scholarship Fund grew as the stock market rose. AFSA stopped active fundraising for scholarships in 2016, asking members to instead support AFSA’s Fund for American Diplomacy; still, as of late 2023, the Scholarship Fund totaled $10.8 million, up from $5 million 10 years earlier. This long-term growth makes the fund self- sustaining and allows AFSA to increase individual award amounts from time to time to keep up with inflation. Withdrawals from the fund cover all administrative costs such as staff salaries, avoiding the need to tap AFSA member dues to administer the program. With annual withdrawals set at 5 percent of the fund’s average value over the previous five years, stock market downturns lasting one or two years do not force sharp cuts in scholarships. Most AFSA scholarship money is dedicated to need-based financial aid, and these awards are open to high school seniors and college students in each year of their undergraduate studies. Aid is distributed according to financial need as calculated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In 2023, AFSA awarded $263,000 in financial aid. Most of that money came from the AFSA Scholarship Fund, with additional funding from DACOR, the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), and several long-standing privately endowed funds. Awards were given to 76 students (out of 118 applicants) with grants ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 based on documented financial need. The scholarship program also offers academic merit awards, art merit awards (for creative writing, musical arts, visual arts, or performing arts), and community service awards, all of which are open to graduating high school seniors and gap year students. Awardees are selected by 44 volunteer judges divided between six judging panels. Judges include active duty and retired members, plus spouses, who respond to a call for volunteers emailed to members each January. Each judge spends six to eight hours reviewing and ranking approximately 20 applications. The AFSA Scholarship Committee—currently composed of five AFSA Governing Board members—finalizes the selections and designates a best essay winner and two honorable mentions. In 2023, AFSA distributed $152,500 in merit awards. All funding came from the AFSA Scholarship Fund. A total of 48 awards were given to 39 students (out of 158 applicants), who graduated from high school in 16 countries. Some of the winners received awards in more than one category. Most awards were for $3,500, with lower amounts for honorable mentions and the best essay winner. Photos and short bios of academic merit award winners are printed each year in The Foreign Service Journal, typically in the September issue. Merit winners are also honored at the Youth Awards Ceremony organized each summer by the Foreign Service Youth Foundation in the Department of State’s Marshall Center and livestreamed worldwide. More information on the AFSA scholarship program can be found at https://afsa. org/scholar. —John K. Naland n AFSA’S GOOD WORKS AFSA’s Good Works To celebrate the centennial of AFSA’s founding in 1924, each issue of The Foreign Service Journal this year will profile an AFSA program that advances the collective or individual interests of its members. This issue we feature the scholarship program.