Pawtucket, Rhode Island
International and Public Affairs, Security Track
Michael Ochoa's interest in public policy and security developed through lived experience. "My parents fled Colombia because of the violence," he said, "by being here in the United States, my family has grown to appreciate thriving, not just surviving." Ochoa, a junior concentrating in international and public affairs on the security track, said he recognizes that his parents sacrificed much to give him and his sister better lives. "I hope to contribute in some way to let people live in peace," he said.
Ochoa said his career goal is to work in the international arena, ideally as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State. He was one of 15 students — chosen from a pool of 1,000 applicants — who participated in the State Department Charles B. Rangel Summer Enrichment Program last summer. "We came to Washington, D.C. for six weeks and lived on the Howard University campus," he said. Students were exposed to a variety of international career opportunities, including "visits to the State Department, the Pentagon and CIA headquarters," said Ochoa. "It gives people like me who aspire to this field a pipeline to the program's Graduate Fellowship Program," he said. Individuals who successfully complete that program are eventually hired as Foreign Service Officers.
Ochoa is currently spending the fall 2023 semester with the Brown in Washington program, where he is a human resources and talent development intern for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Given his career aspirations, these Washington, D.C.-based experiences have been especially meaningful, says Ochoa, who is a first-generation, low-income student.
Although Ochoa has completed internships with nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island, at AEI, he said, "I'm able to see the operational side of [organizations] and to explore a side of nonprofits that I haven't seen before." After graduating, he hopes to work for AEI or a comparable think tank before pursuing a career with the Foreign Service.
Thanks to the Brown in Washington program, Ochoa toured the White House gardens — courtesy of some colleagues who are White House interns — and heard the National Symphony Orchestra perform. "Everyone here is a leader or expert in their field…their experiences have helped to inform my own career path," he said.
Serving as an Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student (U-FLi) Center peer counselor and getting involved with the center early in his academic career has given Ochoa the confidence to pursue his goals. Highlights include overseeing on-campus programs attended by more than 800 students. "Along with my peers, we organized a series of meetings with senior administration officials, including President Paxson. We expressed our concerns and our interests in an hour-long meeting in her office," he said. "We wanted to keep the lines of communication open and make sure U-FLi voices are heard."