This year, four outstanding students have been selected as Robertson Fellows, in partnership with the Robertson Foundation for Government. This year’s fellows are Simona Griffith, Sara Poirier, Ariana Scurti and Erica Symonds. Each fellow receives full tuition, a cost-of-living stipend and summer internship assistance from the Robertson Foundation.
Before coming to the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, Griffith studied political science at Vilnius University in Lithuania. “Having personally benefited from quite a lot of public programs both in Lithuania and in the U.S., I have always felt that the government can truly improve people’s lives through efficient public policy, both domestically and internationally,” she says. “What interests me the most is learning about the ways to evaluate and improve existing policies as well as the methods of developing new policies that would not require fixing later on.” Griffith adds that she plans to pursue a public service career after graduating from SPP.
“Aside from the obviously generous financial benefits, the Robertson Fellowship provides a wonderful network of very smart and accomplished people to talk to about academics, internships, job search and everything else in between,” Griffith says. “It is great to be able to start my studies and life in D.C. having this built-in support system. I could not have asked for a better stepping stone for a career in a city that runs on strong networks.”
Erica Symonds, who has a graduate assistantship with the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland, says she’s looking forward to being involved in research projects during her time at SPP. “Public policy appeals to me because it has the potential to affect real change, both nationally and globally,” Symonds says.
She adds that she’s planning to focus her studies on nuclear policy and related issues, including arms control, weapons of mass destruction, homeland security, democracy and human rights. Prior to coming to SPP, Symonds studied political science and international studies with a focus on global security. “This included a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, where I focused on human rights issues and the state of democracy in Argentina,” she says.
“My goal is to work for the federal government supporting efforts to help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” Symonds says. “I would like to conduct research that helps the government or general public to better understand ongoing security risks, and I hope to be in a position to recommend ways to address these developments.”
Sara Poirier, who comes to SPP from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, says her interests lie in Middle Eastern affairs and intelligence analysis. “I am passionate about serving the public and problem solving,” she says. “I am now furthering my education to sharpen my analytical skills to better understand policy and promote the common good.”
“By being named a Robertson Fellow, I am able to pursue a master’s degree, making me more competitive in the job market,” Poirier adds. “I have no doubt this opportunity will instill me with the educational and professional skills to achieve my goals. After graduating from UMD, I hope to continue my public service at the federal level as a policy advisor.”
With a background in international relations, Ariana Scurti says the most interesting part of studying public policy is at the intersection of the government, nonprofit and private sectors. “As a student who has studied international economic development and interned in both the private and public sectors, I found that the most progress towards sustainability and economic development goals occurred when multiple sectors worked together,” Scurti says.
She also adds, “I am thrilled to get to know, learn from and build relationships with the individuals in the School of Public Policy, from my fellow students to the faculty and staff in the School. Students join the program with a wide variety of experiences – both professionally and personally – and we can only learn from one another as we study and work side by side each day.”
“Through the Robertson Foundation for Government Fellowship, I will be exposed to experiences uniquely tailored to a career in public service,” Scurti says. “It is an incredible honor to be selected as a Robertson Fellow, and I know it will have a profound impact on the rest of my life--academically, professionally and personally.”
Qualifying students selected as Robertson Fellows have to be enrolled in the two-year Master of Public Policy program and have a commitment to a career in the federal government in foreign policy, national security and/or international affairs. Robertson Fellows also participate in a Robertson internship and are required to work for the federal government for three of their initial seven years following graduation and to demonstrate a proficiency in a foreign language at the time of graduation.
The Robertson Foundation for Government is a nonprofit family foundation that works to identify, educate and motivate U.S. graduate students to pursue federal government careers in foreign policy, national security and international affairs. The foundation was established by the family of the late philanthropists Charles and Marie Robertson, and named in their honor.