Naila Segule ’20 Awarded Prestigious Payne Fellowship

Naila Segule, 2020 Biomedical Engineering and Interdisciplinary Studies in Global Health Communication and Development recently returned from a full-day interview in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office for the final leg of her application to the Payne International Development Fellowship

“I really wanted this fellowship! Being at the USAID Office, meeting influential people and seeing how much I could learn really cemented how important this opportunity could be for me,” she said. Her wish came true; the same week as her interview she received word that she was chosen as a 2020 Payne Fellow.

The Payne Fellowship Award is extremely competitive. Out of 526 national applicants, only nine received the highly coveted award this year. The Payne Fellowship Program provides awardees up to $48,000 annually for a two-year master’s degree plus an annual $16,000 stipend for housing, transportation, and related expenses. Fellows who complete the Payne Program and USAID Foreign Service entry requirements will receive appointments as Foreign Service Officers with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

According to Maria Elena Vivas-House, Director, Donald M. Payne International Fellowship Program, the 2020 Fellows embody the strength, talent and diversity of our nation: 88% self-identify as a member of a racial or ethnic group under-represented in the USAID. They are selected based on rigorous criteria, they offer wide-ranging experience in international and domestic organizations, and they have participated in internationally focused programs. These fellows are selected as the next generation of USAID Foreign Service Officers.

Nalia Segule was selected to receive the coveted Payne International Fellowship for 2020.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Segule is a curious and high achiever. From an early age she was interested in medicine, and she took her first engineering class in 8th grade through an NC State’s Math/Science Education Network Pre-College Program at Ligon Middle School in Raleigh. “Here I realized that you can bring engineering skills and knowledge together to try to change the world for the better and solve global problems.” This realization sparked Segule’s passion to travel, learn, and help. She has already traveled to 34 countries.

Her early interest in the Foreign Service emerged during a high school research project. She researched the waste management systems of Tanzania during her IB diploma from the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore. She experienced the intersection of environmental health and international development, inspiring her to incorporate this work throughout her undergraduate studies as a research assistant with the GenX Exposure Study.

As a freshman at NC State, Segule engaged with campus leadership, and civic engagement, including interning as a Leader for Change. Later she became a Juanita Bryan Scholar, an Abram’s Scholar, and a College of Engineering Ambassador Teacher’s Assistant, among many roles.

Right now, Segule is finishing her graduate school applications as she prepares to graduate in May, and from there she will spend the summer in Capitol Hill for Phase 1 of her Payne Fellowship Internship.

“I want to pursue my Master of Public Health in Environmental Health somewhere in the Northeast, such as Harvard or Johns Hopkins University,” she said. “I hope to use my research skills to help identify the causes of environmental health disparities and implement solutions that will make sustainable change as a USAID Foreign Service Officer.” 

Segule says the support she received from the University Fellowship Office was incredible. “I didn’t wait until my senior year – I started asking for help when I was a freshman. The Undergraduate Fellowships Office helped lay the groundwork for what I could do. They helped me see that my whole life wasn’t just on campus – they encouraged me to follow my passion and really think about the intersections of what I spend my time on with what I love. Then, they helped me match these interests.”

Courtney Hughes, Director of the University Fellowship Office, is thrilled for Segule. “Naila allowed us to help her find the opportunities that tracked with her interests,” she said. “We encourage students to make an appointment with us – to sit down and have a conversation with us about their interests – and then think about how we can create a pathway.”

The newly named University Fellowships Office now has two offices on campus to better serve all students: in Clark Hall on the Central Campus and in Centennial Hall in the Graduate School. Hughes invites students to email her at to make an appointment.

This post was originally published in DASA.