Presidential Management Fellowships
Four SPPD Graduates Garner Presidential Management Fellowships
By Cristy Lytal
The nation’s biggest employer – the federal government – already has snapped up four members of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development’s class of 2011.
Master of Public Administration graduates Kristina McBoyle, Marie Mazwi and Yuliya Zingertal, and MPA/Master of Social Work graduate Juliet Bui have been selected to participate in the Presidential Management Fellowship program, administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and designed to groom future government leaders.
The graduates will lend their talents to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“It’s definitely a fast-track to a federal career, which was a strong motivator for me in applying for the program,” McBoyle said.
After being nominated by USC, McBoyle, Mazwi, Zingertal and Bui became finalists based on the results of an entrance exam including logic, writing and personal history sections. They were invited afterward to attend a three-day federal job fair in Washington, D.C., where they went on multiple interviews and received several offers.
As Presidential Management fellows, they will serve as federal government employees for two years, with the potential for regular, full-time employment at the end of the term. They also will be eligible for accelerated promotion, as well as participation in 160 hours of formal classroom training and a four- to six-month developmental assignment.
McBoyle will work in Bethesda, Md., at the NIH, where she accepted a GS-9 position with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. As a full-time fellow, she will rotate into different roles in the institute’s sub-offices every four to six months, and her duties could range from working on HIV/AIDS research grants to doing drug-resistant MRSA (staph) communications.
McBoyle – who has a bachelor’s degree in politics from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. – describes herself as someone who “gets pumped about health research.” Before coming to SPPD, she worked in health care fundraising in Seattle. At SPPD, she focused her electives on health policy and public health programs, and interned with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Venice Family Clinic, the largest free clinic nationwide.
“I’m delighted that I landed a position that really combines my past experiences, my passions and my recent MPA degree with such balance,” she said. “In many ways, I feel like this position was made for me. I get to explore the agency through various offices and roles, and I also think that the opportunity to jump into federal work in a meaningful way is unparalleled. I definitely hope that I can call the NIH home after the fellowship ends.”
Mazwi – who founded an educational nonprofit prior to attending SPPD – accepted a GS-11 program analyst position with HUD’s field policy and management division in Sacramento. She will work to promote equitable, affordable housing and livable neighborhoods.
It was a difficult decision for Mazwi to move from the nonprofit to the public sector, but she was attracted by the federal government’s potential to produce large-scale change.
“That’s why I wanted to go back to graduate school, and the federal government gives you that opportunity,” she said.
Mazwi also strongly connected on a personal level with her supervisor, Cynthia Abbott, the field office director for Sacramento.
“The reason why I’m really excited about this position is because my supervisor has her master’s in theology, and she’s a very interesting woman with a background in community organizing, which is where I started,” Mazwi said. “I’m really looking forward to having a mentor and to having someone who shares my interest in building communities and my values.”
Zingertal – who received her bachelor’s degree in international relations and Russian from the University of California, Davis – accepted a GS-11 position at the DOE’s Office of Risk Management in Washington, D.C.
“My interest is in analysis,” she said. “It is not in a specific issue area, and I like it that way. I like having the flexibility to work on lots of different issues.”
Zingertal spent the past five years analyzing a very different set of issues at the nonprofit Community Resource Project, a low-income social service organization in Sacramento. However, she’s already found a direct connection between this job in Sacramento and her new position in the nation’s capital.
“The gentleman interviewing me was the national lead for one of the Department of Energy’s programs, which the agency that I work for currently, administers in Sacramento,” she explained. “It’s going to be really interesting for me to shift perspectives almost 180 degrees from the local level to the national level.”
Bui – who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Rice University – accepted a GS-9 public health adviser position at the HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville, Md. She will focus on behavioral health equity issues, including mental health disparities among different racial and ethnic groups and the LGBT community. She also will help administer some of the organization’s smaller international programs in addition to doing an international rotation with another agency.
Bui’s resume includes positions as a technical writer, an English teacher in Vietnam, a communications specialist at the Brookings Institution and a therapist at the Coalition for Responsible Community Development. Her passion, however, has always been social welfare and social justice.
“HHS manages several of the social welfare and social services programs in the United States,” she said. “I’ll be working in a new office, which means there will be a lot of opportunities, and it’ll be very dynamic. And I actually like environments where there’s change and opportunity to figure out what’s next instead of a status quo kind of place.”
Bui credited USC’s unique dual degree program with preparing her for an exciting new chapter in her life.
“I am so glad that I ended up doing the dual degree program,” she said. “I did the political management certificate as well because I was interested in leadership and government. Having that knowledge and developing that perspective at SPPD really helped prepare me for the Presidential Management Fellowship because they’re looking for the next wave of leaders at federal agencies.”