Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, March 27, 2015

Two students make finalist stage of Presidential Management Fellows Program

Don Eggert

Ben Emmel

Two graduating Master of Public Affairs students, Don Eggert and Ben Emmel, have reached the finalist stage of the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program that places recent graduates with federal agencies for two-year assignments. It accepts applicants who are committed to excellence in the leadership and management of public policies and programs.

"For a small school like La Follette to have multiple finalists is a good illustration of the high quality of the program here," says Associate Director Hilary Shager. "The PMF program received approximately 7,100 applications for the 2015 application cycle. Of those 508 individuals were selected as PMF finalists."

Next steps include attending PMF job fairs and interviewing with federal agencies seeking to hire PMFs.

"I plan on entering the federal service after graduation," Emmel says, "and contributing to the effectiveness of federal programs with a position in the accountability community, possibly in a position with one of the Inspectors General."

Eggert has his eyes set on eventually reaching Senior Executive Service level of the federal workforce as a career civil servant. "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the one agency I would forget about all the others to work for," he says. "Ideally, I'd like to find a program analyst or management position at NASA headquarters or the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland."

The two students emphasize the invaluable assistance they received from La Follette school staff, faculty and alumni during the application process. "I wouldn't have been able to achieve PMF finalist status without the collective experience of the La Follette School behind me," Emmel says. "Former Career Development Coordinator Kate Battiato and Associate Director Hilary Shager provided invaluable practical career advice during my time here, while Marie Koko at the College of Letters & Science Career Services helped me fashion my education and work experience into the unique federal résumé and hiring process. And of course, all of the faculty at the La Follette School provided me and my fellow students with the skills and knowledge necessary for a government career. Without their mentorship in classes and projects, I wouldn't have had the confidence to apply."

"La Follette School staff connected me to a La Follette School alum who is a recent PMF finalist," Eggert says. "Learning about the PMF through an informational interview with him was immensely helpful; the encouragement, advice, and support of staff and alumni gave me a lot of confidence throughout the PMF process."

The La Follette School training and career development opportunities also smoothed the process, Emmel and Eggert say, noting they both had paid summer internships with federal agencies in Washington, D.C., which familiarized them with how federal agencies operate and gave them valuable experience.

"My paid internship in Washington prior to applying for the PMF definitely helped me to envision my success in federal civil service," Eggert says. "Not only was I given substantial responsibility and the opportunity to work independently, but the Department of the Treasury conducted a number of forums and panel events for their interns, and in several of these I had the opportunity to engage with very senior leaders in the department."

Emmel says his internship experience at the U.S. Government Accountability Office in the summer of 2014 allowed him to consider a career at the federal level. "Previously, I had planned on working in local or state government," Emmel says. "But last year's La Follette in D.C. trip showed me the different career options that were possible in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere at the federal level. After that trip, I applied and was accepted at the GAO internship, where I used the research and quantitative skills that I had learned in my classes. In addition, the frequent group work and presentations at La Follette prepared me to work as part of an audit team and present our findings to diverse audiences, including at a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing through prepared testimony."

Eggert emphasizes the value of his La Follette School training. "The first-year coursework gave my applications an extra level of credibility that ensured federal managers took me seriously," he says, "and helped me state my case successfully in two interviews that resulted in internship and employment offers. In addition, La Follette's career development course was absolutely crucial to my preparation for PMF, and my confidence as I progressed through the application process."

"The PMF program is a great leadership training ground," Shager says. "Our alumni who become Fellows perform valuable service to the American people while jump-starting their careers — and they receive full salary and benefits as well as challenging assignments, training, mentoring, and the opportunity to make government work better."

"The La Follette School is delighted with this outcome," she adds. "This was a real achievement, and a testament to Ben and Don."