Sac State grads vie for fellowships

Amanda Pollard

A select group of Sacramento State grads will be given the opportunity to work in the State Capitol and deal with public policy firsthand as part of the Capital Fellows Program.

The program, which will be accepting applications until Feb. 24, encompasses four of the oldest and most prestigious fellowships in the United States. Each fellowship offers students numerous possibilities for success in their future.

The four fellowships include the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship, the Executive Fellowship, the Judicial Administration Fellowship and the California Senate Fellows. 18 fellows are selected in total for each fellowship except the Judicial Administration Fellowship, which selects 10.

For a student looking to apply for the fellowship, the question of which to select may be a daunting one. However, students are encouraged to apply for more than one fellowship. According to Director of Senate Fellows David Pacheco, the selection board of the Assembly Fellows and the Senate Fellows often compete for the fellows they want.

“The programs are almost identical in terms of students and criteria. The culture of the two houses is what differentiates,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco said that someone who has done well in school and has a strong background of community service is the best candidate for any of the fellowships. Aside from having strong letters of recommendation, they are looking for students who have stayed engaged in their community, Pacheco said.

“The Senate program is really interested in people who can tell us what motivates them, and what gets them up in the morning. Not so much as a career step-ladder, but how it enhances what they want to do for the future,” Pacheco said.

The Senate is aggressive and sees the program as a feeder for new talent coming into the Capitol, Pacheco said. According to Pacheco, of last year’s class of 18 fellows, seven were hired as regular staff members in the legislature.

Current Senate Fellow Aidan Ali-Sullivan encouraged students with any interest in public service to apply.

“It is not what you may expect, it doesn’t matter how diverse your opinions are. They want to encourage a diverse group of fellows,” Ali-Sullivan said.

Director of the Executive Fellowship Program Kolleen Ostgaard said that unlike the Senate and Assembly, the Executive Fellowship deals with the implementation side of public policy.

“They are experiencing the results of what takes place. There is not quite as much crossover as the other programs,” Ostgaard said.

In contrast with the Senate Fellowship, the Executive Fellowship does not have as simple of a time hiring fellows.

“It’s more complicated. There are two means of entering service, either through civil service, which is now more successful or through staff service analysts,” Ostgaard said.

It is also not uncommon for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to appoint two or three fellows to branch positions, Ostgaard said.

John Velasco, a fellow in the Cabinet Affairs Unit, said he had an exceptionally easy time of applying for the fellowship.

“I would encourage them to reach out to current fellows to get an idea of experience. Utilize us as a resource,” Velasco said.

“I would advise people who are applying to communicate who they are and don’t hold anything back,” added Senate Fellow Andrew LaFlamme.

“They are looking for people who have a good idea of who they are.”

Amanda Pollard can be reached at [email protected]