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Hannah Cole graduated from our MAAS program with a focus on Korea, and is the recent recipient of a Presidential Management Fellowship.
In this email interview with Department Chair Cathy Clayton, Hannah discusses how her experiences in the Asian Studies Masters program led her to pursue this fellowship, and what she intends to do next.
Cathy Clayton: What’s your name, hometown, grad degree program (MAAS or MAIA), and area of focus?
Hannah Cole: My name is Hannah Cole, and I like to say “I’m from the Army!” I grew up as a military brat and moved more than 10 times, twice outside of the USA – so I don’t really have a hometown. I recently completed my MAAS degree with a focus on Korea. My final research project considered the role of the United States in inter-Korea relations.
Cathy Clayton: What is the PMF? How competitive is it? What, concretely, will you be doing if you get it?
Hannah Cole: The Presidential Management Fellowship is a highly competitive pathways program offered by the US Government to advanced degree candidates. For the class of 2022, 1100 Finalists were selected from 8,065 applicants. This means only the top 13% were selected. 2021 was an unprecedented year for finalist selection, with previous years having only 400-500 finalists. The Finalist Class of 2022 represents 99 unique disciplines and 299 unique academic institutions worldwide; 8% of Finalists are veterans.
Following the initial selection process, an online assessment and resume submission, Presidential Management Fellow Finalists are expected to secure an appointment with a bureau of their choice. If they are successful in this pursuit, Finalists then transition to Presidential Management Fellows. In their appointment, PMFs receive at least 160 hours of formal interactive training, the chance for career promotion, and noncompetitive conversion to a permanent or term position. Overall, it is an excellent opportunity for those graduate students interested in pursuing a career in civil service because it offers a mid-level entrypoint, rather than starting from scratch.
I intend to pursue an appointment with the U.S. Department of State or Department of Defense to apply the interdisciplinary approach to Asian security studies I honed at UHM. Each appointment holds different responsibilities, so I hope to secure a role that will allow me to perform policy analysis or public affairs coordination in support of a security mission.
Cathy Clayton: How did you find out about it?
Hannah Cole: I am a part of several federal grant alumni networks, so I believe it was posted there. PMF is working on increasing their recruitment efforts to a more diverse population of applicants – so I’m happy to spread awareness about the opportunity!
Cathy Clayton: What were some of your experiences that positioned you well for this opportunity? Do you think your Asian Studies degree helped, and if so, how?
Hannah Cole: I think the experiences that helped my application stand out the most were those that demonstrated my commitment to civil service and international experience. I have had the privilege to study abroad twice through federal grants – The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) and Boren Fellowship. Both of these experiences boosted my resume’s desirability for the hiring committee because they are typically granted to individuals who are committed to pursuing a career in civil service. Because there are appointments available in such a range of agencies, from the Department of Labor to the National Institute for Health, the PMF program encourages all disciplines to apply.
I believe my Asian Studies degree prepared me with a level of subject matter expertise that I can use in my future appointment. Moreover, UH ASP connected me with an internship at Pacific Forum. I credit this experience with motivating my application and exposing me to experts with government service. Speaking with them about their career gave me a better perspective of what I could expect as a PMF.
More latently, the application’s timed writing assessment tests your ability to write comprehensively and without grammatical errors in a short amount of time. The extensive writing I completed during my Master’s degree, and constructive feedback on my writing style from my professors allowed for an ease of completion of this task.
Cathy Clayton: You did the Boren Fellowship while you were at UH, right? Can you tell me more about that? What is it, what does it allow you to do, what are the requirements?
Hannah Cole: The Boren Fellowship is a federal grant from the US Department of Defense awarded to students who intend to apply critical language skills to a career in national security. I fulfilled my fellowship by spending five months in Seoul, South Korea at Sogang University taking language courses while also completing research at George Mason Korea’s Center for Security and Policy Studies with Dr. Soyoung Kwon. During this time, I also participated in remote coursework under the supervision of Dr. Young-a Park at UH.
The country and time frame are flexible for applicants, the only requirement is that you study a critical language and commit to a year of federal service after graduation. Boren offers noncompetitive eligibility during the hiring process and also grants you special access to job boards for Boren recipients. It is an incredible opportunity to study abroad for undergraduate and graduate students.
Cathy Clayton: What do you hope to do, career-wise?
Hannah Cole: The Boren Fellowship service requirements and PMF special appointment status complement each other, so I am set up for success to pursue any federal service career. Through my numerous work and education experiences, I’ve realized I have a passion for the nexus of public affairs and national security. Thus, I am interested in becoming a diplomat and pursuing a career in the public affairs arm of the Foreign Service. I am also looking at opportunities to stay State-side while serving agencies that focus on the East Asia region. The beauty of the PMF opportunity is that I am encouraged to rotate between positions in order to find the job that works best for me. I can’t wait to start applying to appointments and represent UH to the best ability.