“Thanks to the MPA’s emphasis on policy analysis, policy evaluation, and policymaking, I feel confident in applying to such fellowship positions as program analysts or management analysts. Without those skills, I do not think I would have been [qualified] for those positions.”
Isabel Gates MPA ’22
January 26, 2022
Isabel Gates MPA ’22, Fiona Kastel MPA ’21, and LaTausha Rogers MPA ’21 have all been named finalists in the Presidential Management Fellows program. Each finalist then has up to one year to secure their two-year fellowship with the federal government. Each year, the competitive and prestigious program selects only five percent of its applicants as finalists, some 50 to 60 percent of whom become fellows.
“I see the PMF as the most distinguished fellowship for individuals working in public service,” said Director of the MPA program Susan Moffitt. As a PMF finalist from the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, she holds a “special fondness” for the program. Although Moffitt decided to follow a different path, she added, “I recall vividly how meaningful it was for me to be selected as a PMF finalist.
“That Isabel, Fiona, and LaTausha were all chosen this year,” said Moffitt, “is a testament to their outstanding accomplishments. It is also a testament to the Watson Institute and our excellent MPA program, which is only five years old. Their selection reflects the program’s maturation and design, and signals that our program is training our students well and is building a robust alumni base.”
MPA alumni and PMF Fellows Michael Alter MPA ’20 and Rachel Lowenstein MPA ’17 have been instrumental in helping advise students interested in applying for the PMF program, said Associate Director of MPA Career Services & Alumni Affairs Ben Chalot. As the Watson Institute’s MPA program belongs to the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA), a consortium of public policy graduate programs across the country, Chalot helped organize recruiting and program events for MPA students across the country in the fall of 2020, and a PMF Alumni Association panel that included Lowenstein.
Given the competitive fellowship process, finalists are encouraged to apply to multiple agencies and different locations. PMF finalist Isabel Gates MPA ’22 has applied for fellowship positions with the departments of State, Agriculture, Interior, and Homeland Security. “When I came to the Watson Institute, I knew I wanted to work for the federal government …and the PMF program is a great fit, as it offers both meaningful work experience and leadership development.”
After the pandemic derailed Gates’ internship with the U.S. Embassy in Rome, she interned for the Washington State Employment Security Department, where she processed the huge influx of Covid-driven unemployment benefits claims. “That,” said Gates, “opened my eyes to issues that needed to be solved at the federal level to help support state and local entities.”
Gates added, “Thanks to the MPA’s emphasis on policy analysis, policy evaluation, and policymaking, I feel confident in applying to such fellowship positions as program analysts or management analysts. Without those skills, I do not think I would have been [qualified] for those positions.”
“I didn’t expect to be selected as a finalist but thought it would be a great opportunity if I did get in,” said LaTausha Rogers MPA ’21.
With a strong grounding in social work, Rogers sought to build her analytical skills by studying for her MPA at Watson. “I knew I needed hard analytical and research skills to move my career forward and to impact public policy,” she said. “There are not enough people of color in the policy making process.”
With her commitment to racial equity, diversity, and education issues, the Department of Education is Rogers’ top choice, though she is keeping her options open. “I am excited about doing public service work in a federal government setting; that’s new for me. I’m eager to have the opportunities that the PMF offers to grow and learn more as a leader.
Now working as a research assistant for Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs John Friedman, Fiona Kastel MPA ’21 discovered in college how economics and data analysis could help inform her questions about the world. That led her to Watson, whose MPA program provides a solid grounding in qualitative, writing, and policy making skills to complement her quantitative and data analytics expertise. Through connections with professors and international students with diverse professional experiences, Kastel discovered how people from many different backgrounds come together to inform policy. “A quantitative background is a powerful tool in the policy field, as your decisions can be backed by information and data.” policy.
With an interest in international issues, Kastel is seeking positions at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. “PMF fellows can work in different areas within a single agency, and get this great introduction [to federal employment] at a higher level,” she said. “The PMF is a great stepping stone into the federal government, nongovernmental agencies, or think tanks.”
Both private and public sector employers appreciate the PMF program and recruit people who have had those fellowships,” said Moffitt. “Our PMF finalists will have promising career trajectories, given the skill sets, contacts, and expertise they will gain, whether in regulations, contracts or subject matter … all of which are highly relevant to employers across sectors.”
-- Nancy Kirsch