Saran Camara ’21 Receives Prestigious Payne Fellowship From USAID

First Manhattan College Alumna to Achieve This Recognition

By: Bianca Schad 24

Manhattan College alumna Saran Camara ’21 is one of 30 fellows nationwide to be selected for the prestigious Donald M. Payne Fellowship, a United States Agency International Development (USAID) fellowship program. She is the first student from the College to receive this esteemed award. 

Photo of Saran Camara '21 named USAID Donald M. Payne Fellowship A double major in economics and finance, Camara graduated summa cum laude from Manhattan.

Currently, she is working as a financial analyst on the global deal management team at Syneos Health, a pharmaceutical company that provides research and commercial services to biotechnology companies.

As a student, Camara was actively involved as a peer tutor for the Center for Academic Success, a Women Inspiring Successful Enterprise (WISE) fellow, and a member of the Economics and Finance Society. She was also a two-time Jasper Summer Research Scholar. Her summer research projects involved environmental and development economics and aimed to contribute to solving some of the most pressing challenges of our times, such as climate change and inequality.

Her accomplishments also extended into her community beyond the campus. She worked as an accounting assistant at the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation in New York City, where she assisted low- and middle-income tenants in applying for rental assistance so they could better navigate the pandemic. She also tutored children at a community center in New York.

“Manhattan College is the place that enabled me to grow professionally and personally by giving me the exact tools I needed to succeed,” Camara said. “There was such a great support system, a stellar quality of education, and all the professors left a lasting impression on me.” In particular, Camara cites Brother Daniel Gardner, FSC, executive director of campus ministry and social action, who told Camara about the fellowship and guided her through the application process.

“Saran is extraordinary, and I knew she would be a natural fit for the fellowship,” Brother Daniel said. “She had the temperament, personality, and most of all, the skills needed to excel in this fellowship program.”

The Payne Fellowship is highly competitive, with only a 3% acceptance rate this year. All participants who are awarded the USAID Payne Fellowship are required to pursue a graduate degree in international development or other areas of relevance to the work of the USAID Foreign Service at a U.S. graduate or professional school. Camara plans to pursue a master’s degree in international affairs, specializing in international development.

"The USAID provides all types of essential living aid to people in international settings,” Brother Daniel said. “It’s all about looking out for the needs of others, and that is exactly what Lasallian education is all about. This particular fellowship not only matches up perfectly with who we are as an institution, but also with who Saran has shown us that she has been over her four years here.”

The awardees are also provided with monetary benefits over two years for graduate school, internships, mentoring, and professional development activities. Fellows who successfully complete the Payne Fellowship Program and USAID Foreign Service entry requirements are guaranteed appointment as foreign service officers.

Camara’s background shaped her passion for international affairs. Born in America, Camara spent her formative years in Guinea. Her passion for and commitment to public service stem from her upbringing.

“As a first-generation American born to Guinean parents, earning this fellowship is something I am incredibly proud of,” Saran said. “I’m delighted to leverage my diverse experience to deliver results that will drive positive change around the world.”