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3 Reasons To Apply to the Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship

  • Kirsten Schmitz
Reflection on the 2015 Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship

This time last year, I was already three weeks into my post-graduate job search; the fact that I still had six months of classes and little time to curate a color-coded job tracker spreadsheet was no deterrent. As I searched for the next step on my career path, it was important to me to operate with intention 

My next step was my experience with LEE’s Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship (PASF). This opportunity not only aligned with my career goals, but far exceeded my expectations. Here are three reasons why you should consider doing this fellowship, too.

1. You will do real, valuable work on behalf of students

My time in the classroom gave me direct experience with the impact of education policy, and my graduate studies provided the background and content knowledge I desired. PASF bridges the gaps between experience, theory and practice by connecting fellows with organizations leading efforts toward educational equity.

I was placed at Bellwether Education Partners, a Washington, D.C. firm dedicated to helping education organizations become more effective. I was never made to feel like an intern, or even a part-time employee. My project, which focused on teacher pensions (more riveting than you’d think!), was both challenging and meaningful. 

On my first day, my supervisors sat down with me to map out my short- and long-term goals. This meeting was not merely a formality, but an investment in my development. I was trusted to write blog posts, conduct research, and ultimately co-author a report. When I expressed interest in honing my policy writing skills, my team ensured that I received direct, actionable feedback on all of my drafts. 

2. You will find mentors to invest in you and work alongside exceptional peers

At times, building a network can feel superficial, or worse, disingenuous. Throughout PASF, I built organic relationships with my placement site supervisors and colleagues, as well as other fellows working across my region.

My PASF cohort connected outside the office, meeting for professional development sessions throughout the summer. Discussions with other fellows pushed my thinking and helped me to quickly engage with the D.C. community. I spent my summer working alongside smart, driven professionals who care deeply about educational equity and access. 

In addition, the staff at Bellwether was very supportive both during and after the fellowship. When it came time for me to pursue a full-time position, my team forwarded my résumé, arranged introductions, and prepped me for interviews. When I did land my next job, they celebrated with me, and even coached me through salary negotiations. 

3. You will sharpen your focus

PASF gave me the real world policy experience I needed to clarify my career goals. I wanted to know what the day-to-day realities of various roles in policy would look like, and the only true way to do that was to dive into the work myself. Further, I was able to connect with other fellows whose placement sites varied from think tanks, to government agencies, to traditional nonprofits. Their experiences and reflections complemented my own, giving me the context I needed to clarify my ambitions.
 
My PASF experience served as an ideal gateway to the education policy sector. The fellowship provided me a substantial foundation from which to launch a career in policy while helping me build the community needed to do so purposefully.

Kirsten Schmitz 
Dallas Ft. Worth, ‘12 

Kirsten is currently an analyst at Bellwether Education Partners where she was placed as a summer fellow.

 

Learn more about the Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship.