Meet the 2021 Batten Finalists for the Presidential Management Fellows Program

One of the most prestigious programs for graduate students and alumni interested in public service, the fellowship affords recipients two years of experience and training at a federal agency.

Monuments and buildings around the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Monuments and buildings around the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Four Batten students and one alum have been selected as finalists in the federal government’s highly competitive Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. Established in 1977 and administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the program remains one of the most prestigious fellowships for graduate students entering the federal workforce.

“We couldn’t be more proud of these students and alumnus,” said Steven Hiss, Batten’s director of career services and alumni engagement. “Being a PMF fellow is a fantastic opportunity to embark on a career in public service, and the program is an excellent leadership training ground. These five individuals continue Batten’s noteworthy tradition of producing PMF finalists each year.”

PMF fellows receive two years of experience and training at a federal agency. Applicants must be on track to receive an advanced degree or have completed an advanced degree from a qualifying university within the previous two years. The rigorous application process includes an online assessment covering areas such as interpersonal skills, problem solving, and commitment to public service. Typically, only about eight percent of applicants are selected as finalists. 

With this distinction, the five Batten finalists will seek appointment at a range of agencies across the executive branch, with some options in the legislative and judicial branches as well. We caught up with the finalists by email to find out what attracted them to the program and what excites them most about the opportunity.

Tony Boese (MPP ’20)

A sommelier-turned-academic, Tony Boese remembers chatting with Hannah-Rose Hintz, Batten’s director of career services at the time, about how he might transition more smoothly into the policy world. “She immediately went for a PMF pamphlet and said, ‘This is the way,’” Boese recounted. “And she was right: It was the way to use all my education and experience, from my first job literally flipping burgers, through teaching, up to what I am doing now.”

A communications and funding consultant for Better Future Fellows—which offers academic, personal, and vocational coaching to aspiring first-generation college students—Boese recently served as a policy intern for the National Archives, where he designed and spearheaded a survey of domestic, international, and transnational protocols for information security. Of his future with the PMF Program, he said, “I'm excited to undertake real work for real people, which is something that is getting harder and harder as the world continues to isolate (even COVID aside) and corporatize.”

Meghan Clancy (MPP ’21)

“I have always wanted to work in public service and government,” Meghan Clancy said, “but it felt unobtainable because I don’t have those connections, nor was an unpaid internship on the Hill ever an option for me.” For low-income, first-generation students like herself, the PMF Program “really levels the playing field,” she noted. Clancy applied to the program with encouragement both from Batten professor Andy Pennock and from colleagues during her summer internship with the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, where she published three reports on education policy to inform and advise congressional staffers. Clancy currently conducts analysis for the UVA research initiative EdPolicyWorks, assessing the impact of the pandemic on public school enrollment.

At a moment when our nation is facing both a devastating pandemic and a new reckoning with societal inequities, Clancy finds it especially meaningful to be a finalist for the PMF Program. “It’s such a challenging and transformative time for public policy,” she said. “There are massive opportunities for promoting more equity, more justice, and more responsiveness from the federal government.”

Benjamin Dooley (MPP ’21)

Benjamin Dooley first learned about the PMF Program from Batten professor Jeanine Braithwaite. “She suggested that I would be a great fit—and that it's a great way to serve on the forefront of policy right after grad school,” he said. Dooley serves as chair of the Arts Committee with UVA’s Student Council and a graduate research assistant for the UVA Humanitarian Collaborative, where he has conducted real-time analysis on humanitarian programming during COVID-19. With interests in international relations and foreign policy, Dooley said he was impressed by the number and variety of options for PMF appointments—from the Department of Commerce to the U.S. Agency for International Development. “There are so many different opportunities available at agencies that will help me gain foreign policy experience,” he said.

Amanda Rosensky (MPP ’21)

Before she had decided where she would attend graduate school, Amanda Rosensky remembers, she went to an open house at Batten. It was there that she first learned about the PMF Program. “I remember thinking that it sounded very interesting and competitive and that it was something I should keep my eye on,” she said. During her time at Batten, Rosensky has generated research that covers a range of policy issues—investigating racial inequities in the child welfare system for the Albemarle County Department of Social Services and modeling the spread of COVID-19 in refugee camps for the University of Virginia Humanitarian Collaborative. 

As a PMF finalist, Rosensky said that she hopes to build strong relationships with former and current fellows. “I am excited to connect with a group of individuals who are similarly dedicated to utilizing their skills in the pursuit of public service,” she said.

Allie Strehle (MPP ’21)

There are many things to look forward to about the PMF Program for Allie Strehle. “It provides a place for young leaders to learn in a supportive environment, where their talents and opinions are highly valued,” she said. A former policy intern at Richmond Public Schools and a current consultant to the Minnesota Department of Education, where she is researching educational disparities for American Indians, Strehle was drawn to the PMF Program because she wanted to gain experience in national policy making. “Having worked on education issues at the state level, I was excited by the prospect of applying what I had learned to new policy issues in the federal context,” she said. Strehle added that she was also interested in the program’s rotational opportunities, which allow fellows to explore other divisions, bureaus, offices, or programs within their agencies.

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