Alumni Spotlight

Hiram Rios Alumni Spotlight imageHiram Ríos Hernández, 2015 USF graduate
Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State
Shanghai, China

When Hiram Ríos Hernández first began his classes at USF in 2011, he had no idea that his path would lead him to a career as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) for the U.S. State Department at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, China.

Hiram currently serves as a Consular Officer in Shanghai. As a Consular Officer, he advances U.S. Government objectives by protecting U.S. citizens and their interests abroad, strengthening national security, and facilitating legitimate travel.  Hiram is a Public Diplomacy-coned FSO and aspires to one day serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the East Asia Pacific region.

His career journey was shaped in part by the four prestigious national scholarship awards he received while at USF, which allowed him to study Mandarin Chinese and enter into public service as an FSO. Hiram received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, Boren Scholarship and Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to fund study abroad programs in China to learn Chinese. In his junior year at USF, he received the Pickering Fellowship, which funded his final year of undergraduate study at USF, and his first year of graduate study at Harvard University. In addition to graduate school funding, as a Pickering Fellow, Hiram received professional training via two U.S. State Department internships and placement as an FSO, after graduating with his master’s degree from Harvard.

Originally from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Hiram double majored in Economics and International Studies while at USF. He worked closely with the Office of National Scholarships (ONS) during the application process for each scholarship. "The Office of National Scholarships acted as a hub of knowledge with information on all available scholarship programs, their respective requirements, and profiles of successful applicants," he says. "Working with ONS advisors allowed me to sequence my courses and carefully select extracurricular activities in a way that fit my narrative and molded me into a stronger applicant. Additionally, their writing workshops helped me polish my personal statements and better understand both my story and my professional trajectory."

He is confident that his achievements were impacted by the wide range of support he received at USF. "I attribute my success in large part to the mentoring I received at the Office of National Scholarships and the Honors College," says Hiram. "Although I always focused on academics, I never would have found out about the extraordinary opportunities that exist without the invaluable mentorship from the advisors at ONS."

Another contributing factor to his success in international affairs was his consistent investment in foreign languages. "Being fluent in my native Spanish, as well as Mandarin Chinese, made me a model applicant for my graduate program at Harvard and for a career in diplomacy," Hiram says.

Following his time at USF, he completed a two-year Master’s degree in Public Policy, International and Global Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

At Harvard, Hiram was a senior editor of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, the Chair of the Latinx Caucus at the Harvard Kennedy School, and received distinction for his thesis which explored innovative diplomacy initiatives at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany.

In 2020, Hiram will embark on his next diplomatic assignment in Myanmar (Burma), where he will serve as a Public Diplomacy Officer at U.S. Embassy Rangoon.

This story is featured in the 2019 edition of Legacies.

Hiram is a recipient of the following national scholarships: Gilman Scholarship, Critical Language Scholarship, Boren Scholarship, and Pickering Fellowship. The Gilman Scholarship and Critical Language Scholarship supported his study of Mandarin Chinese. The Boren Scholarship and Pickering Fellowship awards both supported his entry into a career in public service and national security upon graduation.