The Montgomery County Council Summer Fellows Program is a paid ten-week fellowship that gives graduate students real world local government experience. Applications for the 2024 program open in December and close December 22, 2023.
During the summer between his first and second year of his MPA at the La Follette School, Gabriel Stowe Terrell (MPA ’23) was one of 10 public policy graduate students selected from over 100 applicants for the prestigious fellowship program in Montgomery County, Maryland.
In his role, Terrell was placed within the Montgomery County Department of Transportation Office of the Director and tasked with providing an original policy report for the Montgomery County Council. Terrell says the placement provided an opportunity to see how local government transportation policy was implemented at a high level and broad scope.
Terrell’s policy report and recommendation to the Montgomery County Council looked at equitable transit-oriented development and its emergence across the country at that time. With the help of Montgomery County’s Planning Department and Transportation Department, Terrell proposed how equitable transit-oriented development practices could be integrated along Montgomery County’s planned bus rapid transit corridors. Many of these corridors separated regions socioeconomically into areas of high opportunity and areas of low opportunity, underscoring the need for equitable transit-oriented development to prevent displacement and increase the opportunities to socio-economic mobility through access to high-quality transit. “It was really important to be tasked with something that could revitalize communities, but also to be a part of the room where your role was to advocate for voices that have been historically marginalized,” he says.
“County government provides such an interesting vantage point, beyond just municipal city government,” he says. “It’s sort of this regional perspective that you can really be connected to, in a way that the next level of state or federal government really divorces you from.” Terrell enjoyed witnessing the Council’s push for progressive change, as well as the changes the county was able to make quickly and equitably. He hopes to pursue this region-based policy work in the future. “You can have something in the budget and start construction in a month…and that’s not something that you get necessarily in state government.”
During his time in D.C., Terrell and the other fellows were able to take field trips traveling around the county, allowing them to explore the area and build community within the group. The program also offered great facilitators to aid the fellows in their overall experience. “I loved my experience in Montgomery County, the program itself was robust and well-run, and learning about Montgomery County was absolutely fascinating,” he says.
Terrell was introduced to the Montgomery County Council Summer Fellows Program through the La Follette School’s director of career and employment services Marie Koko. “Marie Koko opens up the doors for opportunities that folks who have a tremendously different variety of backgrounds wouldn’t normally come in contact with,” he says. Terrell says that the personal career guidance he received through the school and Koko continues to be integral in his professional development.
Terrell’s advice to students interested in opportunities like this fellowship is to start applying early and often, and to not “pigeon-hole” yourself into one area. He also encourages students to expand their horizons when looking for opportunities, exploring places outside of Madison, and considering fellowship opportunities they may not be familiar with.
– Written by Clare Brogan