Press Release

Release Date: May 29, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Courtney Halverson’s reason for wanting to one day join the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer can be summed up in a word: perspective.

As a 13-year-old teenager, the Chickasaw citizen moved with her parents to Japan for three years, which she admits was a culture shock.

“Japan is extremely homogenous in terms of population,” Halverson said. “Just being the only American in a train car with all Japanese people seemed strange. But that was definitely an important experience for me to have.”

Among other things, her time there alerted her to the reality that people in other places do not necessarily see her home country the same way Americans do.

“When I was in Japan, I learned a lot about how the U.S. looks from an outsider’s perspective,” she said. “Having grown up in the United States, I became interested in furthering and bettering my connections between America and other countries.”

Later, as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Halverson majored in global studies with minors in politics, philosophy and economics, and information systems, with a regional focus in Asia. She also studied the Japanese language.

Her real-life experience was later broadened when an opportunity arose to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Austria. While in those countries, she studied the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, human rights and the role of America in the peacebuilding process.  

“I was really interested in democracy studies and in how the United States played a key role in ending the wars in the former Yugoslavia and helping to build peace in that region,” she said.

“Since then, I have been looking for opportunities to do things to facilitate democracy and protect human rights. I wanted to join the government in the state department so I could have a part in making the positive change I would like to see.”

After earning her undergraduate degree in 2021, she was selected for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program in which she taught English for more than two years. She returned home in March of this year.

The dream of a lifetime was realized in December 2023 when Halverson was awarded a 2024 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship. More than 1,500 students applied nationwide, and she was one of only 45 selected. The fellowship leads to a job with the U.S. Department of State.

“For the next two years I’ll be attending the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies,” she said. “From there I have two internships, one starting this summer and then one between the two years of graduate school.”

Halverson joins the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer with a five-year contract following graduation from Johns Hopkins.

She says she will be excited to go anywhere the state department sends her when the time comes, but if given her preference, she would pick somewhere in Asia.

“I would love to go to a developing part of Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia or the Philippines. There is a lot of room for development of human rights protection and democracy in those areas.”

Halverson attributes her interest in peacemaking to her First American roots.

“I took some Native American studies courses in my undergraduate degree, learning how important diplomacy was before the Trail of Tears. That was an important thing for me and my personal history. We were the first diplomats in a lot of ways. That is so inspiring.

“It is important for me to represent people who have been oppressed, who have been given the shorter straw even though they are doing the right things.”

Halverson said the financial support she has received from the Chickasaw Nation in getting an education is important, but so is the inspiration she received from its historical examples of peacemaking.

“The monetary support has been important, but the diplomacy of the Chickasaws has been inspiring to me. It’s like being on the shoulders of giants.

“I feel proud to be a First American, and in the future, to represent my country and other First Americans to people around the world. I’m excited to join the ranks of change-makers in the Chickasaw Nation,” she said.