Tulane student awarded university’s first-ever Payne Fellowship

Hunter Jones


Newcomb-Tulane College announced today that Kyla Denwood, a 2021 School of Liberal Arts graduate, has been named Tulane University’s first-ever recipient of the prestigious Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship Program. This highly competitive program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provides fellows with approximately $104,000 in benefits to pursue graduate study in the field of international development or other USAID-adjacent fields. For this year’s competition, fewer than 6 percent of applicants received the award.

Fellows who successfully complete their graduate programs and the USAID Foreign Service entry requirements receive appointments as Foreign Service Officers with USAID. The Payne Fellowship program is designed to support individuals from historically underrepresented backgrounds on their journey to become the next generation of leaders in the field of international development.  

“The announcement of this honor caps an academic year in which Tulane students were finalists or recipients of some of the world’s most prestigious awards for outstanding academic performance, demonstrated leadership, and professional promise. These honors highlight Tulane’s growing reputation as a global university that welcomes, supports and prepares a diverse group of students to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Tulane President Michael Fitts said. “Being selected as Tulane’s first-ever Payne fellow is a well-deserved recognition of Kyla’s dedication and commitment to making a positive impact in the world.”

As a Payne Fellow, Denwood will deepen her knowledge through graduate study and will broaden her practical experience through internships with USAID in DC and abroad as well as mentorship and other professional development opportunities.

“We are incredibly proud of Kyla being named a Payne Fellow. Earning this fellowship is a testament to both her scholarly ability and her desire to make a difference through foreign service with The United States Agency for International Development,” said Interim Dean J. Celeste Lay. “At Newcomb-Tulane College, we strive to shape undergraduates into multifaceted, ethical leaders who have a meaningful impact in the world, and few students embody this ideal as much as Kyla Denwood. We have been honored to support Kyla along her journey so far and look forward to seeing her serve as a change-maker on a global scale.”

Denwood, who earned a dual degree — a BS in Economics and a BA in International Development with a minor in Spanish--currently works as Research Assistant for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Africa Program. Last year, she served as a Youth Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State’s U.S. Pavilion at the Expo in Dubai. During her time at Tulane, she was awarded the US Department of State’s Gilman Scholarship and Critical Language Scholarship and was named as a finalist for the Carnegie Endowment’s Gaither Junior Fellows Program.

"I am so honored and grateful to be chosen as a 2023 Payne Fellow and look forward to beginning my foreign service career with the United States Agency for International Development. I first learned about the fellowship during my sophomore year after reaching out to Dr. Jennifer Beers to discuss travel opportunities. Since then, I have continued forward in my international development career with the Payne Fellowship in the back of my mind. Now, to call myself a Payne Fellow feels like a dream realized,” said Denwood.