Four seniors, five juniors, and one sophomore have been chosen as members of the Wilson School’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative. This program is designed to help students gain opportunities in public service and later work in the federal government.
The University founded the program in 2006, which gives selected students both intensive academic training and work experience. It also aims to provide students with the language and work skills necessary to excel in the public policy sector, and work for the federal government both domestically and internationally.
While normally only five juniors are selected for SINSI, the Wilson School selected two groups of students as scholars this year. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors were allowed to apply, in addition to seniors. First-year Masters in Public Affairs students were invited to apply for the graduate scholarship, and four graduate students were accepted from the applicant pool.
This change in the selection process is most likely due to new leadership of the SINSI program. This year, lecturer of public and international affairs Frederick Barton and Kathryn Lunney co-directed SINSI for the first time. Barton formerly worked at the Department of State as the Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Lunney also worked in the federal government, working as an intergovernmental relations officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation and as the deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Kishan Bhatt ’17, Emily Chen ’17, Olivia Hompe ’17, and Nabil Shaikh ’17 were the seniors selected for the scholarship this year.
Bhatt, a Wilson School major, said that he was excited to experience the University through a new lens as a graduate student, particularly because of new mentorship opportunities. He explained that he would be joining the program without having worked for the federal government previously, and so is looking forward to exploring new avenues.
“I’ve been at a think tank and at a tech start up, both of which were connected to the policy sphere, and I think that will be something that is going to enrich my experience,” Bhatt said. “I’m open to wherever the best opportunity will be within the federal sector.”
Hompe explained that she is currently open to many possibilities, but would like to work in national security later on, hopefully with the Department of Defense, the Department of State, or one of the intelligence agencies. She said she is most looking forward to getting to know older SINSI scholars.
“They all have so much experience and knowledge, and everyone is so passionate about what their focus is in terms of their policy area," Hompe said. “It’s a really fantastic community, so I’m just so honored to be a part of it.”
From the junior class, Caroline Jones ’18, John (Newby) Parton ’18, Sarah Sakha ’18, Elon Schmidt-Swartz ’18, and Jordan Thomas ’18 were selected as recipients.
Sakha is the Editor-in-Chief of the ‘Prince,’ and Parton is the Head Opinion Editor of the ‘Prince.’
Jones explained that while she was excited to receive the scholarship, she initially struggled with the idea of working under the new federal administration. Ultimately, though, she decided that she would still pursue her original path.
“I would be working for the United States government, not specifically for President [Donald] Trump,” Jones explained. She added that people she would be working under are career domestic and foreign service officers, who continue working regardless of which administration is in power. This summer, Jones will be working in the political section of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where she will be working on a number of global security council issues. She is interested in working for the Department of State later on, potentially regarding matters pertaining to Latin America or Euro-Western hemisphere affairs.
Thomas noted that both the application questions and the change in federal administration pushed him to think critically about his future and his values. He explained that due to those circumstances, he had to be sure of his commitment to public work and government service.
“That was really more challenging than anything,” Thomas said.
He added that he plans to use his scholarship to focus on the education sector. Thomas will be working in the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education this summer.
Sam Rasmussen ’19 was the only sophomore who received the SINSI scholarship. This summer, he will be working at the State Department Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on the Burma desk.
“Myanmar is undergoing tremendous changes right now, and is an important place where the U.S. and China can work bilaterally to improve the lives of millions of people,” he said in an email. “I hope to use my knowledge of China and Confucian cultures to further this aim.”
He is currently backpacking in Myanmar before beginning his spring semester studying abroad at Tsinghua University in China. Rasmussen also noted that he hopes to work as a Foreign Service Officer at the State Department after graduation.