Last year, I had the honor of serving as one of the co-chairs for PPIA’s 35th Anniversary Celebration. In that role, I was able to coordinate the event, but did not get to spend time with the fellows from Princeton and Carnegie Mellon. This year, I had a different perspective.
This year, I had the privilege of speaking with the fellows at the Stimson Center about my journey as a PPIA alum and my work in political campaigns aiming to diversify those who run for public service. After my speech, several of this year’s fellows asked me questions that emphasized the importance of PPIA. Many of them wanted to know how they can prepare for graduate school, and how they can do it without incurring debt.
The next day, the fellows participated in a world cafe workshop with admissions officers from various graduate schools in our PPIA consortium and heard from panelists who worked in various federal agencies and private sector companies. As I facilitated these workshops and listened to the questions from the fellows, two things became clear to me: our fellows crave mentorship, and financial aid is more important than ever.
The fellows were most engaged when they were able to ask questions about their situations. In a field that is severely lacking diversity, our fellows need alumni who can share their wisdom and success. Our fellows need mentors, and I am calling on all PPIA alumni to step up and reach out to their JSI institutions to see how they can help.
This year’s fellows were also most engaged when they talked to admissions representatives about financial aid and how they could afford to earn a Master’s degree and still work in public policy and international affairs. I commend Rutgers and Carnegie Mellon for committing full funding to any PPIA alumnus admitted to their schools. As a student who received a full scholarship package from the Humphrey School, I can attest to the importance of full funding for our PPIA alumni. If our graduate schools want to attract the brightest and most diverse students to a career in public policy, offering partial scholarships just will not cut it. It is time for schools to step up and show their commitment to building the capacity for diversity in public service.
I was honored to give back to a program that has deeply shaped me and spend a couple of days with this year’s fellows from Princeton and Carnegie Mellon. It is inspiring to see a group of young, eager students waiting to change the world. It also reminded me that we have a lot of work to do to achieve our mission of increasing diversity in public service. I hope our alumni and supporters will consider giving a little more time and resources to dedicate themselves to this important work.
James P. Chan
PPIA Alumni, JSI Princeton 2011
PPIA Fellows Public Service Expo reflections from the day:
“We need more policy experts asking questions which have yet to be asked, and we need more policy experts from historically underrepresented populations. Society makes foreword strides when leaders tackle problems from different angles and discover new approaches. I believe diversity is integral to that end; our PPIA Expo highlighted how diverse analysts could be successful in the policy world.”
Esteem, 2017 Princeton Fellow
“PPIA helped me think about what kind of leader and team player I am and the kind I want to be. It has been a humbling yet empowering experience. I am grateful for the experience. PPIA events: The opportunity to meet people who are doing the work I envision for myself and connect with policy schools I researched was extraordinary.”
Joy, 2017 Princeton Fellow
“The PPIA events helped to expose me to new and interesting career paths through events and panel discussions with graduate schools and public sector employers. I enjoyed meeting and networking with professionals who understood my passion for public service and the need for young voices in government.”
Dillon, 2017 Princeton Fellow
“I was able to meet someone from the CBO on Thursday from Illinois, who offered to mentor me through the application process of a fellowship I was planning on applying to! And having questions about mentorship and motivation answered by former Ambassador Reuben Brigety (Friday at the Elliot School) assured me that PPIA was where I ought to be this summer, as an aspiring diplomat.”
Chris, 2017 Princeton Fellow