University selects nine new PAFs

Nine graduating seniors have been selected as the newest batch of Presidential Administrative Fellows – high-achieving students who receive free graduate school tuition from GW in exchange for working for the University.

Next year’s PAFs are Daniel Bernstein, Sandra Perez, Christopher Diaz, Collin Stevenson, Brittany Plavchak, Anna Phillips, Selam Bedada, Corey Barenbrugge and Natalie Kaplan. The program, which was founded by former University President Steven Joel Trachtenberg, is currently in its 20th year.

Peter Konwerski, associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, directs the PAF program and said it is crucial to producing GW’s future leaders.

“As a result of the PAF program, we have been able to cultivate the next generation of GW leaders who will shape the future of the University,” Konwerski said in an e-mail, noting that past PAFs have continued working for the University and gone on to become members of the GW Board of Trustees.

“We are also proud to have a number of current Fellows serving on the GW staff, including Joe Bondi [in the Graduate School of Political Management], Senior Associate Vice President Alicia O’Neil, Steve Keating in the Chief Investment Office, and Steve Roche here in Student and Academic Support Services,” Konwerski said.

Natalie Kaplan, a human services major, said she heard about the program during her freshman year through her involvement with various student organizations.

“It is one of those programs that carries an incredible reputation with it – and people hold it with high regard,” Kaplan said in an e-mail. “I heard many of the upperclassmen student leaders I knew talking about PAF as one of their options for after graduation.”

Kaplan said she will work towards a master’s in public administration.

“Public administration is a continuation of the work I have done in the nonprofit sector, gaining more hard and soft skills with public service and [nongovernmental organization] management,” she said. “I think PAF will be great for understanding higher education administration, which is another interest of mine for the future.”

Another new fellow, Daniel Bernstein, said he intends to use the program to receive a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in strategic management and public policy.

“I always wanted to get my JD/MBA and the PAF program will help me attain part of my long-term goal and also allow me to gain more relevant work experience to my resume and build my network,” Bernstein said in an e-mail.

Selam Bedada, a native of Ethiopia, heard about the program through current PAFs and said she wants to use the program to continue her international health policy studies. Bedada said she hopes someday to return to her home country and work for an organization that advocates for greater public health care.

“As an international student fellow from a country that is underrepresented at institutions of higher education, I want to contribute to the advancement of our University by promoting the importance of cultural and intellectual diversity,” Bedada said in an e-mail.

The PAF application process began in the fall with information sessions followed by an application due in November. Then, selected applicants were interviewed in December before the 23 finalists were invited to second-round interviews in January and February. The PAF Recommendation Committee, a team of GW faculty, staff, administrators and former PAFs, then reviewed each candidate before senior management ultimately chose who became a fellow.

Kaplan said the program is important because the fellows can take active roles in the University and help improve all aspects of University life.

“It gives recent graduates the power to effect positive change in their alma mater,” she said. “I can think of no more empowering an experience for a student to be able to say: this was my experience, this is what I would like to see change for the better, and be given two years straight out of undergrad to work towards those goals – and many other projects – with the administration.”

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