In the summer of 2021 UofSC rising seniors Madison Blanding and Michael Gallagher will attend Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA), a program geared towards developing young public policymakers with a passion for serving underrepresented communities. Each year, PPIA seeks out high-potential undergraduate students, from universities across the country, to participate in an intensive seven-week Junior Summer Institute (JSI) before their senior year. The PPIA JSI program promotes the inclusion of underrepresented groups in public service and develops their position throughout civic service institutions, serving both international and domestic affairs. During the program, fellows are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in graduate school and ultimately in influential roles serving the public good.
“PPIA is an especially important program to our students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in areas of public policy and international affairs,” said Payge Jennings, the National Fellowships coordinator who oversees PPIA, “This program gives these students the tools and a pathway to gain admission, and excel in, top graduate programs. The JSI specifically gives students the opportunity to discuss and tackle issues that they see in their own communities. They are able to receive mentorship from leaders in these fields who come from similar backgrounds.”
In 2020, Carly Mihovich (class of ‘21) was selected to participate in the JSI. Nearing the end of her time at South Carolina, Mihovich reflected on receiving the PPIA fellowship and how it launched her career goals. “Winning and completing the PPIA fellowship has been extremely integral to the process of applying for graduate school” she said. “Not only did the fellowship help me to solidify which graduate program I wanted to pursue, but it connected me to a consortium of schools that wanted to invest in me specifically because of my background with PPIA.”
Madison Blanding (’22) is an Anthropology major with a minor in women’s and gender studies from Charleston, South Carolina. She received the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in 2020. On campus at UofSC, Blanding is the Vice President of the Carolina Intercultural Psychology Alliance (CIPA), a Fellowship Peer Mentor and Tau Sigma Honors Society member. She plans to pursue a career in public policy, law and government. Blanding will attend JSI at the University of Minnesota.
Michael Gallagher (’22) is a Stamps Scholar and Mechanical Engineering major with a minor in nuclear engineering from Greer, South Carolina. Gallagher is the president of Theta Tau, the co-ed professional engineering fraternity at UofSC. He is also a translator for Engineers Without Borders, a member of the Gamecock Rowing Club, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Give a Dog a Bone USC and Gamecocks Aiding Refugees. Gallagher plans to pursue a career in nuclear policy, security and regulation. Gallagher will attend JSI at the University of Michigan.
Attending PPIA JSI will help Blanding and Gallagher achieve their goals, including providing them with funding for graduate study and opening a vast network of nearly 4,000 other bright PPIA alumnus, including Mihovich. “I genuinely believe that my participation in the PPIA program is directly responsible for my successful admission to my schools of interest,” Mihovich said, “I can't even imagine how much more difficult the process would have been without having this fellowship experience.”
Even the application process for fellowships like PPIA help students achieve a better understanding of their goals and career aspirations. As a fellowship advisor, Jennings noted that “[t]he application process for PPIA is an opportunity for UofSC students to reflect on their academic and extracurricular experiences and think of what issues in society they are most passionate about, and how they can work towards measurable changes in these areas.”