Students Named Presidential Management Finalists

Posted: April 24, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

Six George Mason students were recently named finalists in the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program run by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The program allows qualified master’s and PhD students who have either already completed their degrees or are expecting to graduate within the current academic year to obtain paid internships with the government.

Four School of Public Policy students – Mark Flanigan, Christopher Friedline, Lorrie Lopes and Dara Duncan-Lira – were named finalists, as were College of Arts and Sciences student Todd Soloweigh and School of Law student Michael Vrakatitsis.

Flanigan, who is a program officer in charge of international internships at Mason’s Center for Global Education, is completing his studies in the Peace Operations Policy Program and decided to apply to the PMF Program after attending an orientation session at the Arlington Campus last fall.

“I would happily accept any position as a new Presidential Management Fellow,” he says. “But I am particularly interested in working for agencies like the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development or the Department of Homeland Security. I would like to continue building my own professional development while staying involved in hands-on work, particularly with an international focus, helping those in need.”

Friedline learned about the PMF Program while he was working at OPM. “At first, I was not planning to enter the program because I had prior federal experience,” he says. “That changed, however, when I spoke to a mentor that I met through the American Political Science Association. After speaking with him, I realized the PMF Program was a good opportunity that I should pursue.”

With research interests in international relations with a focus on defense issues and the conduct of foreign policy, Friedline believes that the PMF Program is a valuable opportunity that every graduate student should consider.

“While it takes a long time to complete the process, the amount of effort is heavily outweighed by the benefits,” he says. “If you make it to finalist status, you will be presented with opportunities that would be extremely difficult to get anywhere else. After having participated in this process, I can’t believe I had to be convinced to enter the PMF Program in the first place.”

Those who are accepted as finalists in the PMF Program attend various federal job fairs to seek out governmental departments or agencies with openings that fit their individual interests. “I just finished attending the 2006 PMF job fair, and the contacts that I have made thus far will be of value to me throughout the rest of my career,” says Soloweigh, a political science student who hopes to pursue a career as a budget analyst in a federal agency.

“The experience teaches you how to network on a professional level above what you would normally do as an intro-level staff worker at any office. Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist, you are placed in an environment where the sky is the limit. I want to use the program for all it is worth and gain exposure in a very competitive agency environment.”

Internships begin in September and run for two years, after which time interns may be eligible for a regular position with the federal government. PMF finalists are also employed at the GS-9 level and are entitled to federal benefits.

Vrakatitsis, a third-year law student, decided to apply to the PMF Program after attending an information session hosted by the School of Law.

“One of the ‘weaknesses’ mentioned was the fact that the program was only for those truly interested in a ‘non-traditional’ legal career,” he says. “This purported flaw was my inspiration for filling out the application. After two and a half years of law school, I was looking for career options outside the aegis of typical private practice work. More specifically, I was looking for opportunities to shape public policy. The PMF Program seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore these options.”

Vrakatitsis’ future goals include contributing to state and local politics and publishing academic materials on political theory or history. “I have always believed that there is no greater honor than being able to serve one’s country through public service.”

To learn more about the PMF Program, visit the Presidential Management Fellows Program web site.

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