February 24, 2012
|T-B: Jessica Burniske and Sapna Patel|
Jessica Burniske (’12) and Sapna N. Patel (’12) Awarded Presidential Management Fellowships
3Ls Jessica Burniske and Sapna N. Patel have each been awarded positions in the federal government by the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF), a prestigious two-year leadership program for recently graduated students interested in working in the public sector. For the duration of their Fellowships, both graduates will work in a federal agency chosen based on their legal backgrounds, focusing on administrative projects and public policy development.
“Being a PMF is an incredible opportunity, and I’m extremely humbled and grateful to have been chosen,” says Burniske. “I learned about the fellowship during my first year of law school, and I felt it was a perfect fit for my interests and my background.”
Established by Executive Order in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter, the PMF Program is sponsored by the Office of Personnel Management, and is open to graduate students from a variety of academic backgrounds with different career ambitions. After being nominated by their schools, candidates like Patel and Burniske faced an arduous application process including an online skill assessment and in-person interview.
“The focus wasn’t on legal research and writing, but project management and leadership, as well as independent and creative thinking,” explains Patel.
Evidently a BU Law legal background paid off, though, because in January, Patel and Burniske were among 628 candidates out of over 9,000 applicants to be granted a fellowship.
According to Patel, finding a specific fellowship placement within the Federal government is more akin to a traditional job search. Agencies that have hired PMFs in the past include the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Justice, Labor, State, and the Treasury, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
At BU Law, Burniske has pursued a concentration in international law, focusing her academic and work experiences on international legal issues. Through PMF, Burniske would most like to work for the State Department, and she would also be intrigued to continue working for the Department of Homeland Security, where she is currently working through BU Law’s externship program.
Burniske explains how her legal goals and public policy goals have become intertwined after working in a variety of settings with public servants who were lawyers: “I observed first-hand how their legal training and education enabled them to draft laws and formulate policy that completely transformed an area of the law or worked well with an existing legal framework. I decided to go to law school because I wanted to develop these analytical skills and to contribute in a greater capacity through my work in the public sector.”
Patel is open to opportunities in a variety of agencies, but she would rather focus on the individual position rather than the department. She can trace her interest in public affairs to her parents—both immigrants—who instilled in her the importance of giving back to one’s community and helping those less fortunate.
“I’ve also found this type of work to be the most rewarding,” she explains. “It feels really good to work with people who need help and may not otherwise have access to it.”
For both students, then, acceptance into the PMF program represents an opportunity to both fully utilize their legal skills acquired at BU Law and to pursue their personal interests within public policy. The two will kick of their fellowships in September 2012.