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Thu Pham: PASF Set My Future in Motion

  • Thu Pham
Reflection on the 2015 Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship

After three years in the classroom, I was still yearning for a career that felt as equally meaningful as teaching. I applied to master's degree programs in public policy to gain the skills to pursue a career in education policy, but I was still questioning how I would begin to narrow my career options. 

Private, nonprofit, or public sector? Local, state, or federal government? Consulting or research?
The LEE Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship presented an opportunity for me to explore careers I would want to pursue before I entered graduate school.

During the fellowship, I was placed at D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a think tank that conducts budget and tax research and advocates for policies that benefit low-to-middle income D.C. residents. I had an excellent and supportive supervisor who gave me ownership of producing a report analyzing fiscal data that the D.C. Charter School Board had released to the public. I spent most of my summer crunching numbers in Excel and communicating with the charter school board, ultimately producing a 24-page brief. The data was featured in several local media outlets and was referenced in the Washington Post education section three times that summer.

The robust professional network I was able to build in such a short time was equally as valuable as the work I did for my placement agency. In addition to my research, I attended town hall meetings, brown bag lunches, city council hearings, and advocacy events, each time gaining a deeper understanding of how think tanks, charter schools, unions, policymakers, advocates, and teachers contribute to shaping policy. 

I also formed meaningful friendships with the fellows in my cohort; together, we created a safe space to talk about education issues and a support system that still exists today.
My LEE coach provided a structure and space where I was able to express unorganized thoughts about my future, giving me concrete next steps. Taking these steps has helped me clarify my intentions and set my future in motion. 

The summer fellowship was an invaluable career experience and exceeded all my expectations. It exposed me to myriad avenues to educational equality and prompted me to intensely question the leadership role I want to play. Now that I live in North Carolina for graduate school, I am continuing my involvement and leadership development through LEE. 

Thu Pham 
Greater New Orleans - Louisiana Delta, ‘11

Check out our Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship page for information regarding summer 2017 applications.


The summer fellowship was an invaluable career experience and exceeded all my expectations.