It’s ironic that a competitive process could so quickly build community. One could imagine that with 8,500 applicants vying for some 850 spots, any candidate could rediscover his or her high-school-athletics-competitive streak. Yet, as nearly 75 of the “who’s who” at USC’s School of Policy Planning and Development listened to the application process for the prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship, the energy in the room embodied the true spirit of public service. Students were buzzing about how to support one another, how to collaborate and how to pool their resources to help as many USC students qualify for finalists as possible. At first, I was a bit surprised. But as I thought about it more, I realized it was probably fitting. Moreover, it’s incredibly inspiring.
It is inspiring that the people who want to impact federal government, the top talent at our school, see their colleagues as their teammates. I am hopeful when I see that those who want to serve our country are willing to serve their neighbors, even when it may give their neighbors the edge. I am grateful that my classmates and potential workmates are willing to go out of their way to support my aspirations. While one could argue that all of these behaviors are ultimately self-serving, I am simply moved by the significance of this collaboration.
This collaboration signifies only a small piece of the potential of the Presidential Management Fellowship. This opportunity to pool together some of the top minds in the country, to cultivate their sense of public service while developing their ability to lead, and to give them concrete, exploratory opportunities to understand the day-to-day workings of the federal government – this opportunity is exhilarating. One can only begin to imagine the type of greatness that could come from it. I can only wonder what greatness I may discover about myself.
While I am still at the very beginning of the process, I can say with certainty that, regardless of the final outcome, applying for the Presidential Management Fellowship will be one of the most valuable experiences of my graduate school career.