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Alumnus Receives Prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

Josh Pickar, who received his B.A. from GW's Elliott School of International Affairs in 2014, will study global governance and diplomacy as well as comparative social policy at the University of Oxford.

At 22, Josh Pickar has racked up accomplishments quicker than most. He graduated high school early and came to the George Washington University only to, again, graduate early—packing his schedule with classes and earning his international affairs degree in just two years. Service trips abroad, fluency in several languages and academic honors fill his résumé.

In November 2016, Mr. Pickar, B.A. ’14, added Rhodes scholar to the list, becoming just the second GW-affiliated recipient to win the prestigious scholarship, which provides all expenses to study at the University of Oxford in England.

By next fall, Mr. Pickar will begin working on an M.Sc. in Global Governance and Diplomacy and an M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy.

Mr. Pickar remembered his time at GW, including the opportunity he had to intern in then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s office, where he researched issues of environmental policy and racial discrimination.

“It was the first time that I really got to work in policy and understand how what you’re studying affects the real world, and it was just a really useful experience,” said Mr. Pickar, a native of Lexington, Mass.

Still, one of the best classes Mr. Pickar took at GW was Intensive Russian—a year’s worth of language instruction crammed into one semester. And Mr. Pickar had no prior experience with the language.

He recalled the rapid pace and, in particular, the “cold calls” to conjugate verbs on the spot and how that prepared him for his academic career.

“It was a different level of engagement,” he said, adding that it was a great primer for what was to come in law school. Mr. Pickar studied at GW Law for a year before transferring to the University of Chicago Law School.

There, he has worked with the International Refugee Assistance Project, advocating on behalf of an LGBT Iraqi refugee’s relocation to the United States after the refugee was assaulted by his family and exiled. He was granted asylum in August.

Mr. Pickar speaks Russian, French and Spanish fluently, and he’s learning German, Italian and Arabic. What started as an interest in grammar and the systems of languages soon blossomed into a passion for communication and understanding other cultures, especially laws and politics and how they are similar to and different from U.S. laws and politics.

“In order to be an effective policy or lawmaker, you have to be able to communicate with other people, so I hope to be able to use languages to work on international treaties or negotiation and better understand why different countries feel a certain way about policies from the U.S.,” said Mr. Pickar.

He is looking forward to meeting his fellow scholars—not just from the United States, but also from around the world. He’s excited to examine law more closely and especially the developments surrounding Brexit over the next couple of years.

Eventually, he said, his dream is to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations or even secretary of state. “Lofty goals,” he acknowledged, but he wants to do something that merges scholar and practitioner.

More immediately, he needs to finish his third year of law school and pass the New York bar exam next summer. He’ll also be traveling to Moscow and St. Petersburg in the spring, as part of the University of Chicago Law School’s International Immersion Program, to study economic and legal reform after the fall of the Soviet Union.

It won’t all be work, however: Mr. Pickar is reserving the summer for a trip with friends to Eastern Europe before he heads to Oxford.