The Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) provides students with real-world experience and hands-on learning through policy-related internships in Washington, D.C.; Austin, TX; and various European locations. PPIP internships complement and reinforce students’ coursework, give students inside knowledge about their professional future, and provide hosting organizations with additional support.
The Texas A&M University Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP) was established in 1999 by Dr. Ray Bowen, then President of Texas A&M University, to respond to society’s increasing interest and participation in public policy issues and programs. Since then approximately 600 Aggies have interned in Washington, D.C.; Austin, TX and abroad. PPIP is coordinated from the office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies. This allows the program to be coordinated centrally through the colleges to provide an integrated academic and policy-related internship program for the campus and community. (From http://ppip.tamu.edu/about).
University Scholar Barbara Tsao ’17 was selected for the Summer 2016 Public Policy Internship Program. She took the time to share some thoughts about the process of applying and how this experience will help her in the future.
Where did you intern?
I interned for the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) this summer in Washington, D.C. APHSA is a nonprofit organization that represents state human service agencies across the nation and works with policymakers to promote effective policies on Capitol Hill. More specifically, I worked with the National Collaborative for Integration of Health & Human Services to track legislation regarding the Affordable Care Act.
What was the application and interview process like for PPIP?
I would say that the application process was quite comparable to the University Scholar application process. The PPIP application requires the submission of a transcript, resume, cover letter, 3 letters of recommendation, an essay covering a policy of interest, and a final interview before a panel. I have never written a cover letter before, nor have I ever asked for more than one letter of recommendation at a time. Having these experiences definitely made me more confident in my ability to craft the best possible version of myself to any organization. Overall, I believe the process was an excellent primer for admissions to any professional school.
How will your internship fit into your long-term goals?
I am currently a senior pursuing a Biomedical Science major with Honors Fellow distinction. I possess a great passion for science, law, and ethics. As such, my future plans in academia include a J.D. and M.A. in bioethics. My ultimate goal is to pursue a career in law regarding health policy. To this end, I believe APHSA provided me with the finest opportunity available for acquiring real-world training in the exciting and ever-expanding field of health law. Working alongside policy advocates and attorneys further solidified my passion for law and the way it blends with our nation’s health policy.
The application deadline for both Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 opportunities is this Friday, September 16 at 5:00 PM. For more information about the Public Policy Internship Program or to complete your application, visit http://ppip.tamu.edu.
To discover other enriching experiences available to undergraduates at Texas A&M, visit Undergraduate Studies at http://us.tamu.edu.
One of the most powerful forces on any campus is a group of focused, motivated students. This is, in part, because the university as a marketplace of ideas is intended to be a place where students have the opportunity to put learning into practice. Student passion for progress has contributed to all sorts of change throughout the history of higher education.
One person who was effected significant change for Honors at Texas A&M is Dr. Keri Stephens ’90 (née Keilberg), who graduated with a B.S. in biochemistry and received the Rudder Award. Dr. Stephens now serves as an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas, where she earned her M.A. And Ph.D. in organizational communication. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Stephens did technical sales, marketing, and corporate training for Hewlett Packard, Zymark Corporation, and EGI.
Dr. Stephens visited with University Honors Program staff on a recent campus visit and shared some of her experiences and contributions that have shaped the Honors experience at Texas A&M for over 25 years.
In 1989-90, as president of Honors Student Council, Stephens was part of the committee that established special housing for Honors students. Stephens recalled that she was concerned that an Honors residential community not become “isolated nerds.” This might have been a particular concern to Stephens, who was a role-model for involvement on campus, winning a Buck Weirus Spirit award her sophomore year.
Visiting with Honors staff, Stephens was glad to hear that the Honors Housing Community has built a strong reputation for being highly involved in campus traditions such as Silver Taps, Muster, and Midnight Yell, and regularly attends football games together.
Another way in which Stephens has bequeathed a legacy to Honors students is in providing graduation recognition. She recalls that up until her senior year there was strong opposition to any kind of special recognition at graduation. Stephens attended a national conference as president of the Mortar Board Society in December of 1989 at which she observed that Texas A&M was the only school represented that did not have some kind of regalia for exceptional graduates. Returning to campus, Stephens led the leadership of Mortar Board Society in drafting a proposal and creating a prototype stole to present to Dr. William Mobley, then president of the university. Stephens felt she could get an audience with President Mobley since she had made a positive impression on him while traveling together to recruit students to the university.
Stephens recalls that President Mobley didn’t let her get far into her proposal before interrupting to confirm that Texas A&M was the only school represented at the national meeting that did not present special regalia to Honors graduates. When Stephens confirmed this, he asked if she could make the stoles available for May graduations. A process that the Mortar Board officers imagined might take years was accomplished in just a few months. Now, close to 10,000 students each year receive that gold satin stole at graduation, recognizing their accomplishment as cum laude, manga cum laude, summa cum laude graduates.
In gratitude for her significant contributions to the culture of Honors at Texas A&M, Dr. Jonathan Kotinek, Associate Director for the University Honors Program presented Dr. Stephens with a gold stole and patches signifying Foundation Honors, University Honors, and University Undergraduate Research Scholars as well as a certificate of appreciation.
Dr. Stephens closed her visit by sharing that her undergraduate research experience was so formative (especially in helping her decide against a career in biochemistry research), that she now makes a point to guide students in research and has mentored 22 undergraduate projects.
We love to share news and success stories from our Honors Former Students! If you have something to share with our current, former, and prospective students and their families, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Honors Welcome on Friday, August 26, recognized twelve new students joining the University Scholars program. University Scholars is a personal and professional development program for high-achieving students who serve as ambassadors for the University Honors program. Each spring, ten to twelve freshmen are selected for the Scholars program through an intensive application and interview process. The program seeks students who are intellectually curious and who demonstrate critical thinking, self-awareness, poise, and maturity. Scholars are able to engage in rigorous conversation and to defend their ideas. They’re also highly accomplished and motivated students who love learning for the sake of learning.
These new Scholars will join their twenty-one peers in the Exploration Series, seminar courses offered to Scholars each semester. Previous Exploration Series have delved into transportation, education, television, comedy, and animal conservation, among many other topics. Sophomores new to the program participate in a personal statement writing seminar, “Futuring Yourself,” together.
Throughout the program, University Scholars seek intellectual challenge and share their unique perspectives from an array of academic and cultural backgrounds. We are excited for twelve new University Scholars to grow in this program during the next three years and look forward to seeing their future accomplishments both at Texas A&M and in the world!
Mustafa Al-Nomani is a philosophy major from Houston, Texas. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Eta Sigma. Mustafa is pursuing the Liberal Arts Honors program and has been a bus driver for the Aggie Spirit campus buses. He is also a Regents’ Scholar.
Matthew Curtis is a mechanical engineering major from Spokane, Washington. Matthew completed one deployment with Dog Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and two training deployments with Animal Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment to the Kingdom of Jordan. In summer 2013, he was recognized as second in class at the Advanced Assault Course in Camp Pendleton, California. He is a recipient of the Lou and CC Burton ’42 scholarship and the Joseph and Patty P. Mueller scholarship. Matthew volunteers as a Peer Advisor for Veteran Education through the Veteran Resource & Support Center.
Ashley Hayden is a biology major from Friendswood, Texas. She is the vice president of Health Occupational Students of America, a new, national organization for premedical students. Ashley will serve as a supplemental instructor for chemistry or biology this year and is involved in the American Medical Student Association and the Texas A&M chapter of the American Red Cross. This past summer, Ashley shadowed a pediatric ICU pediatrician for over fifty hours. She has also volunteered for more than a hundred hours. Ashley is pursuing a minor in art, as well as the honors programs in the College of Science and the Department of Biology.
Victoria Hicks is a chemical engineering major from Plainfield, Illinois. She is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Engineering Honors program. Victoria conducts research on dispersed nanomaterials in Dr. Micah Green’s lab, the “Green Group”. This past summer, she interned at Essentium Materials, a company of materials scientists and engineers. During a previous internship at Environmental Solutions in 2015, Victoria was responsible for sales calls and placing purchase orders. She has been a member of Students in Physics, Women in Engineering, and DEEP (Discover, Enjoy, and Explore Physics and Engineering).
Ashley Holt is a biomedical engineering major from Kingwood, Texas. As a Beckman Scholar, she joined Dr. Young’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry, where she studies phage lysis proteins and nature’s antibiotic agents. Ashley is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society. As a freshman, she was awarded second place in Texas A&M’s Freshman Sophomore Math Contest and presented a demo at the annual Physics & Engineering Festival as part of the Discover, Enjoy, and Explore Physics and Engineering program. She also participated in John 15, the freshman organization at St. Mary’s Student Center.
Ecaroh Jackson, from Caldwell, Texas, is an interdisciplinary studies major specializing in math and science. She volunteers at Camp Dreamcatcher, which serves children with cancer, and is an AP Scholar and a member of Phi Eta Sigma. As a freshman, Ecaroh participated in the Lohman Learning Community and was a member of a panel for the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture’s open classroom.
Joy Koonin, from Concord, California, is an international studies major specializing in international politics and diplomacy. She is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Association of Cornerstone Students. Joy has attended the Hasbara Fellowship in Israel and the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. She is an active member of Aggie Students Supporting Israel, the Texas A&M chapter of the Lone Survivor Foundation, and Aggies Support United Service Organizations. In her spare time, Joy runs a costuming and alterations business called Joy’s Dresserie, which specializes in historical clothing. She is pursuing a minor in Chinese.
Luke Oaks is a biomedical engineering major from Troy, Ohio, who serves as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador, a resident advisor for the Startup Living Learning Community, and an editorial board member for Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. As a Beckman Scholar, Luke is developing technology for lung cancer detection in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab. Luke received the Class Star Award for Leadership and was selected as one of fifteen scholars in the nation to serve on the Pearson Student Advisory Board, through which he will improve educational technologies. Luke is the vice president of A&M’s club tennis team and a mentor to the Posse Scholar community. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.
Keith Phillips is an electrical engineering major from Flint, Texas. As a member of Engineers Serving the Community, he contributed to an interactive exhibit about water tables and runoff for the Brazos Valley Fair Water Demo. For the past several summers, he has interned as a programmer and IT technician at KP Evolutions, a company that designs automated systems. Keith is a President’s Endowed Scholar and will serve as a Sophomore Advisor this year. He also participates in Student Bonfire. Keith is licensed as an apprentice electrician in the state of Texas and is pursuing a minor in Business Administration.
Alex Skwarczynski is a computer science major from Knoxville, Tennessee. He conducts aerospace research with Dr. Raktim Bhattacharya to predict possible orbital collisions. This summer, Alex interned with a tech startup. During a previous internship at Oak Ridge National Lab in 2015, Alex helped develop the concept for an improved neutron imaging instrument. He has participated in the Society of Flight Test Engineers, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Engineering Honors Program. Alex is a Brown Foundation Scholar, a President’s Endowed Scholar, and a National Merit Scholar and is pursuing a minor in business administration.
Ashley Taylor is an aerospace engineering major from Austin, Texas, and has recently returned from a summer of study abroad in Doha, Qatar. Ashley is a member of the Engineering Honors Program and the Society of Flight Test Engineers. She is also a general engineering representative of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This year, Ashley will serve as a Sophomore Advisor; she was previously a Resident Advisor in Lechner Hall. As a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar in 2014, Ashley researched bioregenerative life support systems. She is a recipient of the Peter Hunter Dunham ’74 Scholarship.
Taylor Welch is a business honors major from Houston, Texas, and a member of MSC Business Associates, the Mays Business Honors Program, and Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassadors. Last summer, she attended the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. As a freshman, Taylor served as a member of MSC Freshmen in Service and Hosting and the MSC Wiley Lecture Series, receiving the MSC First Year Involvement Award and the MSC Diversity of Involvement Award. She continues as a member of the MSC LT Jordan Institute for International Awareness, where she will serve as the Internship and Living Abroad Programs Director this year. Additionally, Taylor sits on the University Disciplinary Appeals Panel. She is a National Merit Scholar, a President’s Endowed Scholar, and a Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Scholar.
Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by attending information sessions in November or the recruitment mixer in December. The application will open in January 2017. See our website at http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.
Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Farhan Rob ’18 reflects on his co-op experience.
Starting from January 2016 all the way to current day, I have worked as a co-op in the R&D division of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. This division of the major medical device company deals specifically with implantable medical devices for the brain and spinal cord in efforts to suppress debilitating movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and tremors. Sounds pretty cool already right? I have worked here for a total of seven months and will be ending my term August 19th for a total of eight months and some change working here. This is longer than the traditional co-op (six months) and I am extremely grateful for the extra time here. From start to finish, there was no dull moment experienced in this co-op and I gained experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
I have had no prior internships or co-ops to this one so I was a little nervous coming in on my first day as I had no idea what to expect. This was my first experience in the corporate world, much less the engineering world. However, the engineers that I would soon call my team helped me out every step of the way from figuring out the routes of the building to familiarizing myself with SJM policies. The first couple of weeks were largely uneventful since I was working on trainings and policy reviews. After that, I started to get my first tasks which in hindsight, were pretty small but they definitely left a lasting impact on me. The other engineers would help me every step of the way in the beginning and dealt with my constant questions in a very helpful manner. The best training was actually working on R&D tasks hands-on and getting familiar with how the team operates and what my role on the team was. I helped other engineers with their projects, I did small lab tasks, I wrote simple technical reports, the works. All of this is considered the woodworks of the engineering world, but nevertheless crucial in product development & innovation. This continued for several weeks as I started to get more and more comfortable with this new lifestyle.
Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Blake Smith ’18 reflects on his time in Germany.
One habit I picked up while abroad is calling the US The States instead. Somehow it just seemed more natural while in Europe. I am back now, and I don’t think there is as much of an adjustment period as people made me think there would be. Things don’t feel weird now that I am back in Texas. Its a little hot, which unfortunate because I don’t like the heat at all, but this has been my “normal” for my entire life, so spending a few months in a strange environment isn’t going to make my normal feel any different to me. All that is going to happen (and did happen) is me getting used to the strange environment I landed in back in January when I flew across the ocean to Germany.
When I woke up in Germany I rode the bus into a completely foreign city (although it became familiar). I took classes in a small classroom of 20 or less students. I would go eat and be faced with odd foods and cooks/cashiers who do not speak my language. I would either get by with rudimentary German or they would get the clue from my blank stare and respond in English if they could. When I was not in class or eating, I walked around a town with buildings older than the existence of my country. There were bakeries on every corner, and somehow German’s not obese (the German people must have some secret that allows them to eat copious amounts of bread without gaining weight). When I was done in the city I would take the bus back to a home that was not my own. I ate dinner with a family of strangers who were nice enough to let me stay in their house. They fed me great food, but it was all very different than what I would eat at home. In many ways it was better, but sometimes I would yearn for the comfort of familiar foods. This feeling or desiring familiarity changed though. The feeling of being out of place when surrounded by a foreign environment, people, language and food soon changed. These things never actually stopped being strange to me. What was foreign when I landed in Germany was still foreign when I boarded the plane back home. Instead these things changing, I changed. I became accustomed to the feeling of being out of place.
Part of me is happy that I am back in my normal, but part of me isn’t. Germany was such an adventure and there was always something going on at all times. I feel like this aspect is going to be really missing now that I am back home, but I am sure I will stop missing this over time. I am glad to be back and able to see family and friends. I have missed them a lot and its been good to see them and tell them all about my experiences. People always talk about how hard it is to answer the question of how studying abroad went, and I can understand that now. There were so many different adventures, feelings, and environments experienced that anything short of telling it all would not do it justice.
Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the excerpt below, junior biomedical engineering major Jay Garza ’18 shares some of the anxiety he had approaching his study abroad experience, as well as his rationale for pursuing experience abroad.
– By Jay Garza
It is only hours before my flight which will take me thousands of miles away. I’m fumbling around with my passport and ticket at DFW Airport Security. Holding up the line, I try to speed up. When a TSA worker asked me, “Staying or Going?” My mind went blank when i attempted to think of a response. Unable to answer the worker, I look up at the man with a dumbfounded stare as I walk through the X-ray machine and collect my things.
Situated at my gate, I began to realize that I have not put much—if any—thought at all into this trip. I did not learn any German. I did not pack any school supplies. I started to panic. Did I leave anything important? Are my friends going back home to forget about me? What will I do if my host family hates me? What am I going to do if my host family only eats beets?! I HATE beets! Who the hell signed me up for this trip?! Oh crap! That was me. What was I thinking?
Calmed down by a few deep breaths and some rational thoughts, I knew these worries were just a bit of pre-trip anxiety. Still though, I felt unprepared to embark on this journey, especially since this trip would be my first time traveling alone. Then I began to think of why I wanted to come in the first place.
I knew growing up where I did and going to school at Texas A&M, I was part of a bubble, unaffected by the changing world around it. Going to Germany would be an opportunity to burst that bubble and really explore an entirely different world outside my own small one. All I have to do is talk to the people. Coming to Germany would give me a chance to travel alone for the first time in my life. Knowing that I could single-handedly navigate myself through international borders not only gave me an incredible feeling of independence, but also gave me an enormous amount of confidence.
Right now, your biggest concern is probably How will I make friends? You may be wondering Why do I have to live in the Honors Housing Community? Or What if I don’t like my roommate?
Worry no more. Living in Honors Housing is one of the best experiences you can have at Texas A&M. It’s one thing for me, as an Honors Advisor, to tell you that you’ll make plenty of friends. It’s another thing for me, as a former Honors student who lived in Lechner Hall for two years, to tell you that my cohort of fellow Honors students is still in contact more than a year after graduation. For Memorial Day weekend, more than a dozen former students from the University Honors program, Class of 2015, reunited in Houston. Our weekend included volleyball, bowling, swimming, two-stepping at Wild West, a crawfish boil, a visit to the planetarium, and about eight rounds of the card game Werewolf. We also put our college educations to the test at Escape the Room Texas, where we solved puzzles and searched for clues to find keys and open combo locks in order to “escape.” You’ll be delighted to hear that Honors pays off: we got out with one minute to spare on the one-hour time limit!
More important than anything we did was reminiscing about our time in the Honors Housing Community, where we met as freshmen. Most of us were Sophomore Advisors (SAs) in 2012-2013; a few were “spouses,” or partners chosen by Sophomore Advisors to help mentor Honors freshmen. Living in Lechner and McFadden Halls together bonded us. We pulled all-nighters in Hobofo, Lechner’s second-floor foyer. As freshmen, we designed the greatest shack ever for Habitat for Humanity’s annual fundraiser, Shack-a-thon. It featured an enormous and detailed Nazgul for our Lord of the Rings theme. As SAs, we painted ourselves blue for free food at Blue Baker and hosted our own Hunger Games for the freshmen, arming them with pool noodles and flour-filled socks. We opened the annual talent show with our own rendition of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. And even after we moved out of HHC, we volunteered for Big Event, attended Muster, celebrated Ring Day, and dressed up for Ring Dance together.
The Aggie spirit is still strong in our hearts, and we still hold to our identity as Honors students. So if you’re afraid that you’re going to be alone in college, I hope I can reassure you. Living in the Honors Housing Community, I felt that I had found people who spoke not only my language but my dialect. My fellow Honors students liked what I liked; we watched the same sci-fi TV shows and knew the same geek culture references. You’ll make connections, like we did. You’ll make memories, like we did. You might meet your future spouse (no pressure!). And you very well could have a one-year reunion of your own in 2021.
Oh, and I haven’t forgotten your second worry, which is probably What’s my plan? What am I going to do after college? Not knowing the answer right now is okay! You have plenty of time (and plenty of guidance within Honors) to help you figure it out. We were there, too, and we made it. Here’s what we’re doing now:
Alyssa Bennett is pursuing a PhD in naval architecture at the University of Michigan. She majored in ocean engineering and graduated with Foundation Honors. Alyssa was a Sophomore Advisor and a Junior Advisor.
Sam Carey is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech through the Critical Skills Master’s Program at Sandia National Laboratories. Sam spends his summers working for Sandia in Albuquerque, NM. He majored in electrical engineering and graduated with University Honors and an Honors Minor in mathematics. Sam was a Sophomore Advisor.
Mallory Carson is a PhD student studying medical physics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is working on methods to detect and correct errors in dose calculations to improve the quality of radiation therapy. Mallory majored in radiological health engineering and minored in mathematics. She was a Sophomore Advisor and an Undergraduate Research Scholar.
Danielle Cope is a planning/project engineer for ExxonMobil at the Baytown Olefins Plant. She majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors and Foundation Honors. Danielle was Pj’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
Pj Downey is a systems engineer for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He majored in aerospace engineering and was a Sophomore Advisor. Pj graduated with certificates in engineering project management and engineering business management.
Jacob Glenn is a healthcare consultant at Apogee Consulting Group in Houston. He majored in economics and was an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sophomore Advisor.
April Holland is a business consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Houston. She double-majored in business honors and supply chain management. April was a Sophomore Advisor and graduated with Business Honors.
Edward Ji is in the Baylor College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in Houston and continues performing as a violinist with the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. He majored in biomedical sciences with a minor in psychology.
Taylor Peterson is an administrative assistant with Switched Over Consulting and plans a career with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She is majoring in wildlife & fisheries sciences and was a Sophomore Advisor.
Lauren Roverse is a second-year student at the University of Houston College of Optometry, where she is pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree. Lauren majored in biology and was a Sophomore Advisor.
Eric Vavra is a chemical engineering PhD student at Rice University, where he is investigating foam flow dynamics in porous media. He majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors. Eric was a Sophomore Advisor.
Trey Whitaker works as a developer for the Advance Technology Division of AmRisc, LLC. Trey majored in computer science and was April’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
As for me, I’m currently an Honors Advisor and the program coordinator for National Fellowships and University Scholars at Texas A&M, but I’ll soon be moving to Boston to begin graduate school at Emerson College. Leaving College Station after five years feels like the end of an era because Texas A&M, and particularly the Honors community, has been my second home. I hope you find that same sense of belonging, security, and no-holds-barred fun when you arrive.