Aug. 11, 2009 — Given the strains on traditional job markets for those earning advanced degrees, opportunities such as the federal government's prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program – recognized as the premier program for leadership development in the federal civil service – have become highly sought-after by graduate students interested in public service.
In turn, admission into such programs has become very competitive. In the most recent cycle, the Presidential Management Fellows program received more than 5,000 applications for fewer than 400 fellowships, a 40 percent increase in applications over the previous year.
At the University of Virginia, interest in the program has grown dramatically, resulting in a remarkable institutional performance, said Wendy Perry, director of graduate and postdoctoral professional development programs in the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Eighteen of U.Va.'s 57 applicants were selected as finalists, ranking U.Va., along with Yale University, seventh in the number of finalists out of 173 institutions. Finalists undergo a matching process with federal agencies in the spring; they have one year from the date of their selection as a finalist to accept their appointment, Perry said.
Last year only six U.Va. graduate students applied to the program and two were awarded fellowships, she said.
The program provides two-year fellowships to graduate students from all academic disciplines. "The PMF Program grooms an elite on the fast track to high-level opportunities in public service," Perry said.
Much of the rise in interest in the Presidential Management Fellows program may be attributable to the economy, Perry said, but another factor in U.Va.'s climb has been a more concerted effort to market the program to graduate students here.
Last fall, Perry's office hosted two U.Va. alumni who were Presidential Management Fellows: Dana Coelho, who earned a bachelor's degree from the School of Architecture in 2003 and a graduate degree from the University of Maryland-College Park, and Andrew Miller, whose 2008 degree is from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. They provided guidance on the application, exam and interview processes.
Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va.'s vice president for research, said he is impressed by the disciplinary breadth represented among this year's U.Va. finalists. "We urge graduate students to reach beyond strict disciplinary confines in seeking solutions to complex societal problems," he said.
Susan Ivey of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences accepted a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. "It is such an honor to be entering public service at NIH through the Presidential Management Fellows program," she said. "My training in economics at U.Va. equipped me with the quantitative and analytical skills that made me an attractive candidate to the Office of Extramural Research within the Office of the Director, which is seeking to expand its role in research and reporting on NIH's entire portfolio of grants and contracts."
Clare Murphy of the Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy recently started her fellowship at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Treasury Department. She is looking forward to working with the financial industry, law enforcement, intelligence analysts and the international community.
"I feel very fortunate to have so much guidance and so many training resources," she said.
Teresa Bernaciak, a microbiologist and former captain of the U.Va. Cancer Center's "Relay for Life" team, hopes to utilize her basic science knowledge, community service experience and enthusiasm for science to promote public health at the NIH. Her interests include science policy and planning, legislative analysis, grants management and communications.
Of the 18 U.Va. finalists, 11 have accepted fellowships. Listed by name, U.Va. school or department and federal agency where they will be fellows, they are:
• John F. Anderson, Law School, Housing and Urban Development/Office of the Chief Financial Officer
• Teresa M. Bernaciak, biology, Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health
• Julianna L. Gallardo, Spanish, Housing and Urban Development/Public and Indian Housing
• Jeffrey T. Giuffrida, Darden School, Broadcasting Board of Governors
• Carissa B. Holmes, public health sciences, Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• Susan E. Ivey, economics, Health and Human Services/National Institutes of Health
• Molly M. Kubiak, Law, Interior/Bureau of Indian Affairs
• Annie H. Medaglia, Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy, State/Bureau of Legislative Affairs
• Clare T. Murphy, Batten School, Treasury/Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
• Brenan D. Richards, Batten School, Homeland Security/Coast Guard
• James A. Villarrubia, Batten School, Defense/Defense Business Transformation Agency
The Presidential Management Fellows Program will accept applications for 2010 from Oct. 1 through 15. Graduate students from all academic disciplines who expect to complete an advanced degree during the 2009-10 academic year are eligible to apply. For information, contact Wendy Perry at email@example.com.