Thursday, October 31, 2013

Purposeful Penny Holds First Annual 5K

Jemima Homawoo- MID 2015
On September 22nd, members of Purposeful Penny, a student-run organization created by graduate students in The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), gathered together at Schenley Park to prepare for the first event of the year. Though the day began cloudy and dreary, excitement and anticipation were high, and success was to be reached. Runners from across the GSPIA community, friends, and family arrived to support Purposeful Penny. The runners ranged from GSPIA students (second-year student Ted Masten ran the whole race with an American flag) to runners who traveled from overseas (Ms. Victoria, the founder of Bright Kids Uganda). 

At the closing of the first ever Purposeful Penny 5K, nourishment (which was graciously donated) was consumed in order to replenish the runners after all their hard work, and awards were given out. It was calculated that Purposeful Penny raised $1,800 for Bright Kids Uganda and Room 2 Read: Nepal, both organizations focused on educating children. 

The focus of Purposeful Penny is to raise money for these two organizations and display the hard work needed to push forward the importance of education all over the world. Not only does Purposeful Penny host fundraising events, but you can also find at least one member sitting dutifully at the GSPIA lounge from 8:30am to 12:30pm each weekday, ready and waiting to provide a cup of coffee for a dollar. Professor or student, if you come in on a Monday dreading the beginning of a work week, you can find some joy at the face of a Purposeful Penny member, a cup of good coffee, and the knowledge that your dollar is going to great organizations focused on education. 

Purposeful Penny is continuously looking for new means of raising money. And this year once again, the inter-cultural potluck is being planned for November 14th. The event will feature food prepared from the heart, entertainers performing to put smiles on supporters’ faces, and the chance to win a prize from the raffle. The potluck is an opportunity to bring everyone together over one thing that all people love to do: eat. Hard work is being put into organizing this event, while the members of Purposeful Penny also work hard to stay on top of their studies! Purposeful Penny is one of those organizations that realized what needs to get done to reach a goal, puts in 110%, and gets it done. It might be one penny that is raised, but one penny given multiple times means that change can happen.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rick, MPIA-SIS, 2014

Getting Here

Blog Post #2

(Early Morning outside Main State)

By the time this is posted the deadline for summer 2014 internship applications to the Department of State will be only a couple of weeks away. I was in the same position in which many of you are now: trying to get the application package put together while juggling school, work, extracurricular activities, family, and everything else.

While there is nothing that will get you the one of these coveted spots for certain, you can do a few things that, I think, will help you successfully navigate the process of applying for an internship with the Department of State.  Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not represent the views of the Department of State or the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Really research and target a particular office or bureau. Go through the website.  Read all the material published by the Department of State on their internship program.  Become familiar with the organizational chart of the state department and find an office that does the sorts of things you have experience with and like doing.  While I cannot say for certain what made my office pick me, I believe that specific, uncommon knowledge, skills, and abilities that I displayed in my resume and essay landed me in my particular office. When you do find an office or offices that fit your skills, experiences, and interests, be sure to check the internship guide to make sure those offices participate in the program.

  • If you want to work at an embassy in a foreign country, then know the language. I can’t imagine a hiring manager selecting someone who doesn’t speak the local language over someone who can, or who can speak it with greater fluency.  Also, explore possibilities outside of major international destinations.  Speak French? Explore opportunities in Africa.

  • Put the necessary amount of time and effort into crafting your application package.  Block off the time to sit down and write a great submission well ahead of the deadline.  It might sound obvious, but how often do we squeeze things in between the end of 3 PM class and dinner? Or between 2 other papers due by next Tuesday and that dinner party on Saturday night? [I’m guilty of squeezing this in this week between work, finishing several fellowship applications, finishing a presentation assignment, classes, and several networking engagements.] After you’ve completed your package, set it aside for a couple of days and then revise it.  Consider having someone else read it over and give comments to you before you make your final submission.  Really put the time and effort into making this the best application package possible.

  • Be consistent.  You can apply for two different offices when you submit your materials.  However, you can (or at least was the case for me) submit only one essay. I cannot imagine that it will do your any favors to pick offices or bureaus with little in common, and then write a broad essay that does not directly address the specific skills relevant to the activities of those offices.  Pick offices that deal with closely related topics or use the same skill-sets.

  • Be prepared to succeed.  You will need to undergo a security clearance investigation prior to receiving a final offer. Read up on official sources regarding the clearance process.  Don’t be overly scared by the process, but if you don’t think you will make it through at this point in your life, it may be worth it to explore other opportunities.  If you decide to go through with the process, make sure you have the necessary documents in order. It is probably wise to start gathering the information that you will need for an SF-86 as soon as you have the time.  Even if you don’t need this information for the State Department, I suspect many of you will be applying to other government positions that require background investigations.  Above all, answer your investigator openly and honestly.

  • Remember that this is a numbers game. The State Department receives thousands upon thousands of applications for what are only a few hundred positions.  If a random drawing filled positions, then the odds of landing a spot would be heavily against any one of us.

  • Be realistic.  Along with the numbers game, you are also up against some extremely stiff competition.  There are some really amazing interns here at the State Department. Many of them already have experience doing the things that their offices do.  Plenty of them come from institutions with brand-name titles.  I have met more than a few other interns whom have prior internship experience with the Department of State.  While every GSPIAn has a solid resume and experiences relevant to their degree program, at this stage of the game, so to speak, the bar has been raised.

  • Have a backup plan.  I was in the same position that many of you will be in towards the end of next January: I found myself reading an email telling me I was an alternate selection.  The world did not end. I still went through my background check and received my security clearance just like the primary selections.  I never did get the hoped-for email telling me that the primary selection had fallen through.  I was, however, able to land another, albeit less prestigious, internship position with the State Department for the summer that I could do part-time from home via the internet.  This was great for me because it fit in with my schedule of researching for a professor at GSPIA while taking one class that fulfilled a minor requirement and a second class that strengthened an area of need in my academic portfolio.  Lots of people who don’t get in find extremely rewarding, career and skill enhancing internships outside of the Department of State.  Honestly, if you think you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities that the State Department will want as an intern, you will find many other doors open to you as well.

  • Try again!  The State Department and many other organizations receive far fewer applications for the fall and spring intern cycles.  If you haven’t thought about doing the D.C. Semester, explore the opportunities available to you with the program.  I had always planned on doing the D.C. Semester while at GSPIA, so I polished up my essay and updated my resume and resubmitted my application package in the spring.  Remember, though, if you want to take part in the D.C. Semester program, you will have to fill out a separate application, as well as make sure that you are on target for meeting your graduation requirements.  Talk to your career and enrollment advisors if you have questions.  I’ve found each and every one of them to be extremely helpful with every question or concern I have raised.

I hope that my next post is a bit shorter and less preach-y.  Good luck applying!