Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 3, 2013

A Stately Career

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Years before Vincent Pickett would even imagine he’d have a career with the U.S. Department of State, his parents exposed him to diverse cultures. “My mom (Marlene) is a French teacher, so we traveled to France and a couple of French-speaking countries in the Caribbean,” Pickett said. “I always thought it would be interesting to work with people from other cultures.” As it turns out, that’s exactly the type of career Pickett now has. The 1997 St. Anthony High School graduate is a special projects officer with the department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. In that capacity, he helps distribute Fulbright Fellowships, particularly those in public policy. “We oversee the whole process,” Pickett said. “We help set up the applications, as well as panels to decide who gets the fellowships.” Although Pickett is based in Washington, he works with people from more than 100 countries in what has become one of the world’s most venerable cultural exchange programs. What he has found is that human beings, no matter what culture they embrace, have remarkably similar goals. “Everybody in the world cares about the same kind of stuff,” he said. “They want to see their kids do better than they do and, by and large, they want to be good to other people.” Pickett said extended exposure to overseas cultures offers a surprising benefit to the visitor. “When you are outside your home country, you learn something about your home country,” he said. Pickett grew up as the older son of Steve, a junior high English teacher, and Marlene, a high school French teacher. After graduating from St. Anthony High School in 1997, he moved on to DePaul University on the north side of Chicago, where he majored in international studies with minors in French and marketing, graduating in 2001. After teaching English in Venezuela for a half year, he received a master’s degree in international relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in upstate New York. From there, he went on to an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. His first full-time government gig was as a special assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Education. He joined State in the summer of 2008. Pickett, who is a civil service employee of the State Department, said he likes how his life is going. “I like what I do now,” he said. “I probably won’t do it forever, but I like the idea of being a public servant.” Pickett said he would like to vary his career experiences by participating in a relatively new State Department program in which stateside employees can work overseas for a year. “It’s good for people like me to venture out from the Washington cocoon from time to time,” he said. Pickett said his program will survive no matter the fiscal obstacles — or who the president is. “The Fulbright program has been around 60 years,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere. It’s not seen as political. “Funding doesn’t increase every year,” Pickett said. “Travel has been cut, but the core mission of getting participants back and forth isn’t going to change.” Even though government service can be demanding, Pickett still has time for a family life. He and wife, Laura Logerfo, who works at the U.S. Department of Education, are parents of 2-year-old Kat and expect a second child in March. The family lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington.