Monthly Archives: August 2013
Our tenth (!) internship post comes from Elena Weissmann, MPP accelerated 2014.
As it starts to dawn on me that I will be returning to Charlottesville in two weeks, I’ve entered the reflective end-of-summer stage and begin scrambling for that one nugget of a fun fact so quirkily characteristic of my job that I will overuse in icebreakers at the beginning of the semester. I spent the last 8 weeks working as a Mayoral Fellow at the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office, learning to navigate the world of public service and Midwestern accents.
My 25 fellow fellows and I are each working on four to five projects with various City departments, putting our graduate degrees to good use. I am working primarily with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Department of Finance, a new Cradle-to-Career initiative, the Department of Procurement Services, and the Public Safety Action Committee. Working with such a wide range of commissioners and other department workers has exposed me not only to the intricacies of responsibility taken on by each department, but also the enormous degree of coordination required to make Chicago run. Every program or initiative requires the approval and input of more stakeholders than I could have ever imagined, a process which can take a frustratingly long time but is incredibly valuable and necessary for governance on any scale.
There are no quiet days in the Fellows’ “Thinktank” office, and our weekdays are interspersed with tours and lectures with City officials. We heard from the Police and Fire Commissioners, the City CFO, the Treasurer, the Board of Ethics Commissioner, and countless others. Though visits from Mayor Emanuel himself are rare, we had a roundtable discussion with him for a few hours, and were also invited to see his favorite photos and memorabilia in his office (and discuss tastes in music with him). Each of our visitors spoke with candor and sincerity, and always made sure to include a little life lesson. Several of the most impactful quotes came from Mayor Emanuel, who shared some of his most intense “failure, and I mean FAILURE” stories with us to remind us to “dig deep down and find anything to help you succeed, or even just put your left foot in front of your right foot,” and left us with the order “don’t get to think-y. Remember these are real people whose lives you are impacting.” Duly noted.
Some tour highlights include driving a police car and handling police weapons at the Police Training Academy, standing next to a 757 airplane taking off at O’Hare, learning about Chicago history and architecture on a riverboat tour, watching 95% of American drinking water become purified at the water treatment plant, seeing 9-11 switchboards in action, and some behind-the-scene looks at Chicago landmarks like the Lyric Opera and the Millennium Park bean.
To the Batten faculty and administration, rest assured that I also do actual work as a Mayoral Fellow. For the first half of the job, I spent most of my time refining a pilot program to reform the City’s loading zones (the spaces reserved for commercial loading and unloading in front of businesses), and creating an implementation plan for a “Green Procurement” program set to launch this year. I have drafted memos, conducted best practice interviews, created data reports on Excel and ArcGIS, and of course created many of the ubiquitous intern PowerPoint decks (which I’ve learned are never presented on screen, only printed).
More recently, I’ve spent a lot of time working with census data and mapping demographic changes wrought through a recent ward redistricting process. I also began working with the Department of Finance under the CFO on two public-private partnership projects, which is exciting for many reasons but most noticeably because she keeps a large candy bowl of Peanut M&M’s on her desk.
During my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with commissioners, lawyers, assistants, and other public servants from all walks of life and hear about life in government. I’ve learned about how sheer motivation and optimism can change policy and countless lives, and how devoting oneself to a life of public service is at once the most rewarding and most challenging process a person could ever undertake.
This summer has been incredible for so many reasons, and I’m still struggling to narrow down my experience into that one elusive “fun fact.” I’m tempted to go with an obscure fact about loading zones (a subject that sounds so mundane and technical that my friends struggle to understand how I can spend hours rambling excitedly about its reform), or our favorite Frankism of “Policy is everywhere. Lead from anywhere.”
But I think my most valuable lesson of the summer has been the need to internalize the dueling factors of accountability and humility. A line spoken to us by the Mayor and reflected in many of our commissioner talks summed it up nicely: a good leader surrounds herself with other leaders who are empowered enough to take a risk using their best judgment, and humble enough to remain accountable throughout. Such quips alone have taught me more than I could ever learn as a mere Moleskine-wielding, Starbucks-frequenting, Mayor’s-Office-basketball-team-playing graduate fellow. Thanks, Frank!
Our ninth internship post comes from Alex, MPP post grad 2014.
Working toward a commonwealth of opportunity in RVA
The Patrick Henry Building lies northeast of the Virginia State Capitol. Named after the first Governor of Virginia and ardent opponent of stamped paper, it houses the Office of the Governor and my desk for the summer (natural light courtesy of other offices).
This summer I had the opportunity to be a Fellow in the Policy Office of Governor Bob McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia. The Policy Office, very much in keeping with its name, is the place where the Governor’s policy agenda is developed. The policy staff consists of counselors, policy advisors and legislative liaisons. They write, research, support and push through every bill and initiative on the Governor’s agenda. Part of the executive branch is also the Governor’s Cabinet, which includes the Chief of Staff, the Lieutenant Governor as Chief Jobs Creation Officer, the Senior Policy Advisor and twelve Secretaries.
During the summer, the Policy Office prepares for the next legislative session by creating policy and building stakeholder support. However, because this is the last year of the administration and because Virginia prides itself with its ancient and invincible one-term rule, things were different this summer. The policy staff worked mostly on implementing and popularizing some initiatives, while building stronger foundations for ones that they hope will survive into the next administration. Education reform has been a campaign promise and a significant part of the Governor’s policy agenda. One of my assignments has been to research trends in education reform and possible speakers for the Governor’s K-12 Education Reform Summit. The summit is meant to open up discussion about education reform and how it will look in the Commonwealth.
My memo writing skills were not put to rest with education reform. They went on to a bright career in detailing Social Impact Bonds and planning a social entrepreneurship conference. I will give you a moment to process and enjoy the super relevant translation of a certain PPOL course to real life. Here’s to keeping it real, Batten!
Now that I’ve allotted an appropriate amount of blog space to substantial work, I can finally talk about my favorite indulgence duty in the policy office: ceremonial bill signings. Ceremonial bill signings are held for bills that are seen as a triumph for the Administration. Signings bring together legislators, secretariats and constituents, for inspirational speeches of obstacles overcome and better futures. Now, I love ceremonies as much as the next girl (actually, probably more), but there is a lot of unglamorous work that goes into these bill signings. They start with hopeless hour-long traffic jams (detailed traffic information from the Governor’s security detail and state police got us through these difficult times), continue with running in stilettos on gravel, waiting in parking lots in black suits, texting descriptions of arriving legislators, being mistaken for a brave, future TFA teacher and documenting everything on your cellphone. But all is well that ends well, especially when the largest American flag in Virginia is gently waving on the horizon.
I would not be doing the fellowship justice, if I did not mention the many fellowship accouterments that went beyond our daily office related work. There was the Governor’s Bowl Fundraiser for the Food Bank, complete with hundreds of doughnuts, pumpkin baked goods, free bagels from Cupertino’s and office small talk. This noble endeavor was accompanied by actual volunteering at the Food Bank (average egg peeling speed: 3.5/minute). There were also trips to DC to meet the Virginia delegation and to Hampton Roads to ride yachts test boat motors. There were BobTalks, the more casual, cooler cousin of TedTalks. There was the great debate. There was the visit to the prison. The crowning jewel was the policy project, a mini IPA if you will, (can you tell the program director went to Batten?) which set to solve the most dire of problems in Virginia: the promotion of the craft beer industry. In terms of economic development, agricultural products and developing a new Virginia staple, craft beer has a lot of untapped potential. So next time you find yourself at a bar, hop to it and order some Virginia craft beer! I will stop PUNishing you now and leave you with a list of other things I have learned over the summer in Richmond:
The Patrick Henry Building is in a coffee shop desert.
RVA is a m.A.A.d city.
Your fellow Fellows always have your back.
Jackson Ward is the finest National Historic Landmark District in all the land!
Spotted: Rob Lowe filming ‘Killing Kennedy’.
- The rewards of public service are endless!
Our fifth internship post comes from Jeremy, MPP accelerated 2014.
This summer I am an intern at the Asia-Pacific desk of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of International Affairs. Air traffic control is the division of FAA that has received the most attention lately, but is only part of what FAA does. FAA certifies new aircraft designs, licenses pilots, regulates aircraft emissions standards, plays a role in National Transportation Safety Board investigations, represents the US with foreign civil aviation authorities, conferences, and regulatory bodies, administers airports, provides air traffic control services, and so much more. The Office of Policy, International Affairs, and the Environment (API) coordinates FAA’s different department’s international efforts to represent FAA to the world. API is divided into five regional offices: Western Hemisphere; Europe, the Middle East, Africa; and Asia-Pacific.
My main responsibility is to support the six permanent employees in their preparations for the triennial International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly, where civil aviation authorities from around the world come together to discuss and potentially set international aviation policy. The meeting is a culmination of dozens of subgroup meetings in the three years between Assemblies. Because of its broad membership, ICAO’s 18 Annexes form the basis of international aviation relations. ICAO is a specialized agency of the UN, and 190 states are members.
I have been meeting with foreign delegations, translating newspaper and policy documents, conducting open source analysis on aviation matters, and producing background information for the Assembly. Outside of my formal duties, one of the best aspects of this internship has been the respect with which the team has afforded me. They treat me like an equal member of the team and encourage my professional development. For example, my manager suggested that I sign up for the next Foreign Service Officer Test. I did, and I passed. I’m currently going through the Foreign Service Officer process, and I can honestly say that if she hadn’t reminded me, the test day would have come and gone, just another June 10th. One of the team members is a former Foreign Service officer, so I plan on getting his side of the story soon, but his willingness to share his experience with me truly makes me feel like I belong.
And finally, because I’m a second year Batten student and this is for the Batten blog, they’ve helped me develop a great potential APP topic. I’m heading into the last week and a half of my internship when I write this, but I can say without a doubt that I will always remembered the things I have learned this summer. If I had to pick one lesson that sticks out the most, it would be that policy really is everywhere, even in the skies above you.