Recent GSPIA alumni Karla Bonilla, Ethan Trott, and Jacob Curry have officially begun their fellowships with the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Class of 2022.
Known as a launchpad into a career in the federal sector, the PMF Program has a long-standing record of selecting GSPIA students for these two-year, full-time, paid fellowships that provide recent graduates the opportunity to work with a federal agency that aligns with their interests, with the potential to become a permanent position.
“What I love most about this work is that I get to make use of my bilingual skills, meet with experts in the field, and feel that I am contributing toward fostering greater binational cooperation moving forward,” said Bonilla.
Based in their southern California office, Karla Bonilla (MPIA '22) works as a program analyst for the Bureau of Reclamation, a sub-agency within the Department of the Interior, which develops and preserves water and related resources and ecosystems in the western United States.
Bonilla's office hosts the binational program, which advances collaboration between the United States and Mexico per the 1944 Water Treaty. Her work involves attending meetings between stakeholders, drafting materials relating to evolving U.S.-Mexico water relations, and visiting environmental restoration sites.
“It aligns with my values of cultural and resource stewardship,” she said.
Ethan Trott (MPA '21) works at the Federal Transit Administration, which oversees safety measures and provides technical and financial support for public transit systems across the nation. On the Strategic Planning and Analysis team, Ethan monitors key metrics surrounding public transportation and sets strategic goals based on data trends.
“I have been interested in transportation policy for quite some time, so I really enjoy seeing how things are measured and reported to the Secretary, the Office of Management and Budget, and Congress,” said Trott.
He enjoys the flexibility in his flexible, choosing to work 9-hour days with an off-day every other Friday. His signs in remotely four days a week with camera-optional Zoom meetings.
As a student, Jacob Curry (MPIA '21) had a concentration in Security and Intelligence Studies; soon, he will begin his fellowship within the Department of Homeland Security. He’s currently getting his security clearances, a notoriously thorough step of the federal hiring process.
“GSPIA helped me prepare [for this fellowship] by opening opportunities to gain experience geared toward public service that I could draw on, both when applying and as a finalist,” said Curry.
Why should students consider applying for the PMF program?
“The PMF Program helped me envision a future in the federal government in a way that I wouldn’t be able to on a traditional path,” said Trott. “For example, there’s a great alumni network of PMFs who are open to talking about their experiences, which has been very beneficial in deciding what I want to do afterwards.”
Trott also utilizes the many training opportunities and certifications provided to Fellows at no cost. He starts the Office Leadership Development Program next week.
Bonilla also benefits from PMF’s career development opportunities, including rotations, coaching sessions, and leadership training, geared toward making Fellows feel comfortable in federal service.
“The PMF program also provides access and exposure that has demystified federal service for me and helped me narrow down my career goals and interests past the fellowship’s end. For example, it has cemented my desire to remain a public servant in the long term,” said Bonilla.
How did GSPIA help you prepare to apply for a career in federal service?
“With my Ridgway working group, or my required internship, I could prove the value of what I was learning in class, and expand on it, in a ‘real world’ setting,” said Curry, referencing his practical experience he gained as a student frequently on the application.
Trott also thanks GSPIA’s internship requirement for his acceptance into the program.
“I applied to the PMF Program twice, but I didn’t get it until my second time applying. I feel like a large reason for that was I didn’t have the internship experience I got during my time at GSPIA until after I applied the first time,” said Trott.
“The trip to DC was also very beneficial,” said Ethan. “Seeing what people do in the workplace was a motivating factor behind me actually applying to the program.” Each year, GSPIA hosts a week-long program that brings students to the nation’s capital, packed with federal site visits and conversations with alum working in the city, many of which take place at the GSPIA office on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bonilla’s time as a student helped clarify her interests and career ambitions. “GSPIA helped give me the confidence to apply to the program and the knowledge to meet the performance requirements of my specific position,” she said.
Advice for students who want to apply?
Becoming a Fellow takes patience and endurance, but also gives students a chance to demonstrate their leadership ability and potential. The application is an arduous, multi-phase process.
Trott advises accepting a job offer even if it’s not exactly an ideal placement. “Once you get a job in the federal government, and get through the security clearances, it’s much easier to move between agencies.”
Curry encourages applicants to keep an open mind and stay optimistic.
“When applying, don't assume you won't make it or that you aren't what they're looking for. If you make it to the finalist stage, keep an open mind about the appointment opportunities available to you and any advice you hear along the way,” he said.
The PMF Class of 2023 Application will be open from September 13 through September 27, 2022, opening and closing at Noon Eastern Time. Remember that in order to apply, you need an enrollment verification letter from Career Services; this letter can be requested until 12pm on Friday, September 23rd – please email your advisor as soon as possible if you are applying!