Two years ago, Megan Maxwell made a new rule for herself: she’d wait for someone else to tell her no.
“My approach is, if I hear of a great opportunity, just go for it and see what happens,” Maxwell said. “They’re not all going to work out. You shouldn’t let the thought that you’re probably not going to get something stop you from trying and seeing.”
In 2010, Maxwell worked as an all-source intelligence analyst during her year-long deployment in Afghanistan for the army’s Military Intelligence Corps before coming to Temple. Now, the senior global studies and economics major became the first Temple student to earn the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellowship this March.
Maxwell secured one of 11 research assistant spots for the fellowship — which receives applications from several hundred universities across the country. After graduation, Maxwell will relocate to Washington, D.C. to assist senior Carnegie researchers in the South Asia program, she said.
“I didn’t think when I was applying for it that it was something that I would be eligible for,” Maxwell said. “It actually took a little bit of pushing, a little bit of confidence and risk-taking to be able to get through the packet. So it was an amazing kind of validation.”
Maxwell’s experience completing research for Temple political science professors Adam Ziegfeld and Alexandra Guisinger built her confidence in pursuing global studies by offering a real-world application of her degree.
During her time in Afghanistan, she worked 12-to-15-hour days with little time to herself to prepare intelligence for military operations.
“I knew before I came to school, from my military experience, that I wanted to work on American foreign policy,” Maxwell said. “I felt pretty confident that with my military background, I had a reasonable security background.”
Ziegfeld encouraged Maxwell to apply for the endowment after she became his research assistant. Maxwell’s former political science professor and mentor, Guisinger, said she wasn’t surprised Maxwell pursued Ziegfeld’s recommendation to apply for the fellowship.
“She took advice and just ran with it,” Guisinger said. ”Whenever you’d say, ‘Maybe you should apply for this conference,’ or, ‘Have you considered this opportunity?’ Megan went off and did it.”
Zeigler was impressed by Maxwell’s motivation and experience in her field, he said.
“She’s not only very smart and very academically inclined, but she just has practical knowledge about Southeast Asia and military security,” Ziegfeld said. “I had rarely met a student who so thoroughly exudes conscientiousness, which is exactly what you want in a research assistant.”
In addition to her time in the military, Maxwell spent summer 2018 in Jaipur, India after receiving a critical language scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study overseas language and culture. Maxwell said she had to speak 200 hours of Hindi per week and present the fairy tale story “Rapunzel” in Hindi to the other students and faculty on the scholarship at the end of the program.
Her stay gave her a whole new perspective on life in South Asia because she was visiting as a civilian, Maxwell said.
“Acting as a civilian, wearing civilian clothing…that was the real adjustment, how to operate in a foreign country in a civilian environment,” she added.
Maxwell hopes to attend graduate school for international relations with an emphasis on South Asia after her fellowship this fall. She wants to keep her options open and look for the best opportunity available, outside of the military, she said.
“I don’t see me returning to the military unless there was a national necessity,” Maxwell said. “Otherwise, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had in the military and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I think that chapter is closed.”