Seyron Foo, 2008 Princeton University Junior Summer Institute Fellow
I vividly remember long nights during my PPIA summer working with my cohort to finish the slew of economics, statistics, and policy assignments that never seemed to end. It feels like that was a long time ago but it became very real again as I, and a couple other PPIA alumni, returned to the Junior Summer Institute as program and teaching assistants at the Woodrow Wilson School. We supported their academic endeavors, baked brownies, bought plenty of snacks, and took the students out to New York City and Washington, DC.
Spending this past summer as a program assistant served as an important reminder that PPIA alumni have a duty to mentor incoming classes of JSI students—no matter where we are in our professional careers. The Princeton JSI students that I worked with this summer shared the same questions I had: What do I do after graduation? What does this summer mean for my future? And the constantly popular, Do I have to take a couple years to get work experience (and the answer is still an unequivocal YES! for many JSI students!).
PPIA alumni are in a unique position to serve as mentors to these students. We understand the struggle of the summer. We understand the intensity, the lack of sleep, the academic and social pressure. We also empathize with many of the students’ backgrounds of fighting for an education that serves their needs, and for advocating for our communities. We understand their motivations for wanting to do JSI despite the challenges thrown at them.
All of us should remain committed to PPIA’s mission in achieving diversity in leadership. This could be as simple as reaching out to your local colleges and universities to let the various departments know about this unique opportunity each year during the recruitment cycle. It can also mean taking on PPIA students as your intern so they can develop work experience and prepare for their first few years out of their undergraduate years. The strength of our PPIA alumni network lies in our ability to continue to build a pipeline into public service for underrepresented communities.