50+ JHU Students Honored as Finalists for Presidential Management Fellowship Program

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Aaron Dane

Edited by Abby Sonnier

SAIS finalists demonstrated competencies in federal government work and gained access to competitive public service employment opportunities.

At least 35 SAIS Students and 14 students from other JHU schools, including the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Carey School of Business, and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, were honored as finalists in the 2023 class of the prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. The program is a “leadership development program at the entry level for advanced degree holders” that seeks to “recruit and develop a cadre of future government leaders from all segments of society,” according to the program’s website. Finalists can apply for two-year fellowships at government agencies with competitive opportunities for employment after their fellowship concludes. 

JHU ranked among the top institutions in terms of the number of reported PMF finalists this year.* Other top feeder schools included Georgetown University (49 reported finalists), George Washington University (40 reported finalists), and American University (29 finalists). Anne McKenzie and Julie Nussdorfer of Global Careers say that SAIS students’ high rate of selection to the program demonstrates their excellence in the competencies relevant to federal government work. 

According to Global Careers, the number of finalists from JHU increased this year compared to last. McKenzie says this is a result of increased efforts to encourage students from across the JHU community to apply for the program. In September 2022, SAIS led an information session about the program that was open to students of other Hopkins schools. Attendees heard from past and current Hopkins PMFs about their experiences. 

PMF is one of the competitive Pathways Programs into government work. “Anytime we attend a session with alums in the government, we see that many have entered through PMF,” says McKenzie. Nussdorfer says that PMF is an excellent way to get into competitive government agencies such as the State Department (specifically the civil service), the Department of Defense, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Commerce. 

For SAIS finalists, PMF is an opportunity to pursue a career in government in a way that capitalizes on their skills, interests, and experience. Before coming to SAIS, Jonathan Mangrum, a finalist in International Relations, studied Urdu in India as a Boren scholar and interned twice in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“I knew I wanted to not only live in DC and work in government, but I also wanted to work on Indo-Pacific security policy,” says Mangrum.** 

PMF was a natural choice for him, he says, due to its direct pathway towards a career in public service. Arin Kerstein, a finalist in International Development, worked for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prior to starting her graduate studies. She says that PMF is an opportunity to apply her government experience while transitioning to a career in International Affairs. The program’s rotation option, which allows Fellows to complete assignments at multiple roles either within or across agencies, particularly appealed to Kerstein. “It allows you to try a couple of different things,” she says.

The application process is largely a behavioral assessment that tests candidates on attitudes and competencies relevant to government work. Specifically, it assesses a candidate’s attention to detail, flexibility, integrity, interpersonal skills, oral communication, reasoning, self-management, and support for diversity. The final phone interview takes place anonymously–the interviewers have no access to identifiable information. “The interviewers don’t know you and you’re not supposed to reveal anything about yourself and your experience,” says Kerstein. She says the interview’s key purpose is to “demonstrate your dedication to public service.”

Students interested in applying to the program should take advantage of SAIS resources, alumni, and coaching. Kerstein says that she attended SAIS info sessions and got help from other students applying. The Careers in Diplomacy club, for which she serves on the Executive Board, was engaged in this process. Mangrum advises applicants to read through the instructions with plenty of time ahead. He also recommends engaging with the SAIS PMF Community. “One of the benefits of SAIS is that you have huge classes of PMF recipients,” he says. Nussdorfer and McKenzie similarly highlighted that the SAIS PMF network is always willing to talk to students, and they hope to see finalist numbers continue to grow in the coming years.

*Finalists are given the option to publicly report their names

**Jonathan Mangrum’s comments for this piece are his personal views and do not reflect or represent the views of the U.S. Government in any capacity.”


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