Class of 2022: Michael Portillo is on the fast track to a US Foreign Service career – VCU News


Earning an honorable mention in the Federal Reserve’s 2020 College Fed Challenge confirmed Michael K. Portillo’s decision to pursue a career in economic policy.

“It was a fantastic experience,” Portillo said of the national competition in which undergraduate teams analyze economic conditions and recommend monetary policy. “I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented students in my department, gain hands-on experience in monetary policy, and compete against other undergraduates nationally at the Federal Reserve. “

Growing up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Portillo was always interested in political work. A major in economics with a minor in statistics allowed him to show quantitative and objective justification for political decisions. Portillo graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business in May with an impressive number of scholarships and fellowships under his belt.

His many academic and national awards include the Becht, Garstka, and Nelco Family Scholarships from the School of Business, which allowed him to focus on his studies instead of worrying about finances. A Benjamin A. Gilman International Fellowship and Boren Award not only allowed him to study abroad, but also gave him a competitive edge for even more opportunities in international business.

And the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship allows Portillo to pursue his dream of higher education and serve his country as an American diplomat.

“The Department of State will pay for my master’s after I graduate,” according to the Pickering Fellowship, he said. “Between college years, I will intern with the department — first in Washington, DC, then at an embassy overseas. After I get my master’s degree, I will work as a foreign service officer. Economic officers are responsible for promoting U.S. economic interests abroad and briefing policy makers in Washington on international economic issues.

Portillo already has a lot of experience, having completed an internship last summer in Washington in the State Department’s China Economic Unit, dealing with some of the most pressing bilateral issues between the United States and China regarding finance, regulation, trade and technology. His VCU experiences in economics, statistics, language studies, cross-cultural communication and extracurricular leadership – he was president of the Omicron Delta Epsilon Economics Honor Society at VCU and a member of the boards of administration of the Student Economics Association and the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity among many others. student positions – have prepared him for this summer, when he will serve at the United States Embassy in Berlin.

Portillo is no stranger to working abroad. VCU Globe’s study abroad program sent him to Greece and Qatar. The service-learning trips gave her experience in cross-cultural communication and working with migrant communities.

“One of my favorite VCU experiences was in Greece,” he said. “We worked alongside Syrian refugees, first in a donation coordination center and then in the kitchen of the once abandoned City Plaza Hotel, which was turned into a migrant collective by migrants. These were great experiences that allowed us to help people in need, but above all to humanize people often demonized as a “migrant crisis” in the media. »

He is also participating in a third study abroad program — albeit virtually — with National Taiwan University’s International Chinese Language Program, in which he takes daily Mandarin lessons.

VCU Globe strongly recommended that she study a foreign language.

“I studied Latin in high school, but no one speaks it anymore, so I decided to learn the language with the most native speakers in college,” he said. “I’m not fluent yet, but if I went to Beijing or Taipei and lost my phone, I could survive.”

Learning Mandarin proved to be a major boon to her career. Fluency in a foreign language, particularly a designated “critical language” as Mandarin, was integral to his selection by the State Department. In addition, learning Mandarin led him to take an interest in the Chinese economy and financial sector, which landed him an internship at the China Economic Unit of the State Department.

“I’m beyond grateful to all the people who believed in me when I didn’t and pushed me to my full potential,” Portillo said. “The support systems I had during undergrad were essential to where I am today.”


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