Texas State graduate is primed for career in Middle East diplomacy
By Billi London-Gray
Andrew Cotton is fascinated with the Middle East. The International Studies major at Texas State University received a fellowship in Saudi Arabia last summer, and as he graduates today, he can’t wait to go back.
Cotton’s interest in international relations began in junior high school. As a student participant in the National Model United Nations, he started to learn about the cultures and politics of the Middle East.
“The academic advisor at the time picked all Arab countries for us because, she said, they were ‘the most interesting,’” Cotton says. That experience steeled his interest in the region.
“When I was looking for a four-year university, I needed it to have an Arabic program,” says Cotton, a native of Cypress, Texas, near Houston. “I liked where San Marcos was located, in proximity to Austin, and Texas State has some amazing professors.”
While studying Arabic as part of his degree, Cotton participated in and served as chapter president of the Model Arab League, an organization sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. At models, or competitions, college teams simulate diplomatic meetings between national delegations of the 22-member League of Arab States.
“Student delegates work to achieve consensus on questions with which real-life diplomats wrestle daily,” reads the MAL’s national website. “They write, debate and pass resolutions that seek to resolve some of the Arab countries’ most difficult challenges.”
In two models held in April 2010, the Texas State team won outstanding delegation awards, and Cotton twice was named outstanding delegate. After his standout performances, NCUSAR and the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education selected him for a two-week summer fellowship in Saudi Arabia.
“The reason I was picked was due to my participation and success in the Model Arab League,” Cotton says. “The fellowship goals consisted of learning more about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and sharing our experiences when we came back to America. We visited many people, including government officials, professors, students, business men and everyday Saudis.”
During the fellowship, which included nine other American university students, Cotton traveled to the capitol Riyadh, as well as Jeddah, Al-Khobar and Jubail. He says the time overseas whet his appetite for a career in U.S.-Arab relations.
“I’d like to work in the Foreign Service eventually,” Cotton says, though he’s also interested in working for non-government organizations or universities. “Any way you slice it, I’d like to live over seas and become fluent in Arabic, Insha’allah, God willing.”