Three MPA students and one alumna named Presidential Management Fellows finalists

Three Watson Master of Public Affairs students and one alumna were named finalists for the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows class of 2024. They are now eligible to apply for positions as fellows in the federal workforce where they hope to make an impact on a variety of public policy issues.

When the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced the finalists for the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program on March 8, 2024, three current Watson Master of Public Affairs students, Kyler Groner, Hannah Reale and Gulsima Young, and one MPA alumna, Andrea Gustafson, found their names on the list. Reale and Groner are also degree candidates in Brown’s Master of Public Health program.

It's an impressive achievement for both the individual students and Watson's MPA program as a whole considering that, according to the OPM, out of 7,193 applicants this year, only 825 were selected as finalists for the class of 2024. 

The Presidential Management Fellows program was established by executive order in 1977 by then-President Jimmy Carter to attract outstanding citizen scholars from various academic disciplines to federal service. It is a two-year training and development program in which finalists are eligible for appointments at participating federal agencies. After completing the program, the agencies may convert fellows to permanent federal civilian employees. 

Finalists can apply for positions with federal agencies through a dedicated OPM portal and have 12 months from the date of nomination to secure a placement as a Presidential Management Fellow at one of those agencies.

Associate Director of Professional Development and Alumni Engagement for the MPA program Benjamin J. Chalot said he was "thrilled to have three current students and one alumna selected as PMF finalists." He added, "The PMF is the federal government's flagship leadership development program and the agencies where they ultimately work will richly benefit from their fresh ideas, skills and passion for public service." 

A member of the MPA program’s class of 2024, Hannah Reale said she was "honored and surprised" to have been named a finalist, and "excited to learn that three fellow MPA students and alumni were also selected." A result that she said is "a testament to the MPA program and the way that they've connected us with opportunities throughout our time here."

The MPA program has played a pivotal role in helping me achieve my goals, not just related to the PMF program, but throughout my time here. The curriculum has provided a solid foundation in public policy and instilled in me the value of exploring different opportunities.

Hannah Reale MPA/MPH class of 2024
Hannah Reale

Reale cited a webinar hosted by the program that brought together current fellows and alumni of the program as particularly helpful during the application process. "Watson’s MPA staff offered us guidance and support as we started to navigate the application process," which she said was "helpful and effective in making sure that we had the resources that we needed upfront to approach the application process as prepared as possible."

"The MPA program has played a pivotal role in helping me achieve my goals," said Reale, "not just related to the PMF program, but throughout my time here. The curriculum has provided a solid foundation in public policy and instilled in me the value of exploring different opportunities."

Class of 2024 MPA student Gulsima Young said she is open to the many different opportunities in the federal workforce this nomination makes possible. "I'm hoping to find a position where I can work in the realm of environmental justice, which is something I'm passionate about, or with a department or organization that works to improve social, economic, or health equity for communities in the U.S."

Given her background, Young said she was specifically interested in jobs in which she could make an impact on rural communities. "I come from a rural town in Washington," she said, "I think that improving rural public transportation should be a priority in order to increase accessibility for people across the nation, whether they're close to a big city or not."

Andrea Gustafson, a 2023 program graduate, said her path to becoming a PMF finalist began with her MPA orientation in the summer of 2022. "Right at the start of the program, Ben [Chalot] advised me to start doing informational interviews," she said, "So I met with a friend of my father who works in the federal government and I asked him about the best path into the federal workforce. He recommended I apply to the Presidential Management Fellows program."

Gustafson said she planned to "cast a wide net" in her job search. "I love challenges and I'm open to new things, but my passion lies in international relations and international development, so I'd love to work in the State Department," she said. Gustafson indicated she is particularly interested in finding ways the government can "empower people who don't have as many opportunities and lack a voice when it comes to policy."

Faculty Director of the MPA program David Blanding expressed pride in the students' accomplishment, "As members of the next cohort of Presidential Management Fellows, Kyler, Hannah, Gulsima and Andrea are poised to become the future global leaders we aim to cultivate and elevate in the MPA program," he said, "I hope the experience prepares them well to address the pressing societal challenges we know await our students."

Other alumni of the program include Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert G. Berschinski and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young.

Previous Brown MPA finalists include class of 2017 alumna Rachel Lowenstein, class of 2020 alumnus Michael Alter, class of 2021 alumnae Saaima Bholat, Fiona Kastel and LaTausha Rogers, and class of 2022 alumnae Isabel Gates and Tabitha Krondorfer.