Princeton Students Selected for the 2024 Cohort of the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative
Nine students, representing six states, two countries, and a host of majors, concentrations, and certificates, have been selected for the 2024 cohort of SPIA’s prestigious Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI).
Established in 2006, SINSI encourages, supports, and prepares high-achieving students to pursue careers in the federal government, in both international and domestic agencies. The initiative aims to provide the professional skills and direct experience needed to succeed in the public policy arena.
“I am thrilled with the new cohort of SINSI interns and fellows,” said Gregory Jaczko, Director of the Scholars in the Nation's Service Initiative. “While each new SINSI comes from a unique background, they all share a common interest in putting the ‘public’ in public service. This group has a particular interest in ensuring government serves the least advantaged in our society. I look forward to placing them in their new positions and watching them thrive.”
Colton Simmons was selected for the SINSI graduate program, during which he will complete a two-year Master in Public Affairs with a full scholarship for tuition and living expenses at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and two years of paid fellowship rotations with executive branch departments or agencies.
Eight additional students were selected for the SINSI internship program, which awards fully funded 8- to 10-week summer internships.
2024 SINSI Graduate Scholar
Colton Simmons ’24, MPA ’28, from Mount Carmel, Tennessee, is a senior in the Department of Politics pursuing certificates in American studies and history and the practice of diplomacy. In 2023, Simmons interned at the Tennessee Justice Center, supported by the Pace Center’s Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) program, where he worked directly with poor and working clients to help them gain access to Medicaid coverage. Before that, he spent his gap year in 2021 working as a legislative correspondent for U.S. Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger, for whom he managed the environmental policy portfolio and worked on various others, including health and labor policy. He was also a 2020 John C. Bogle Fellow and worked as an intern coordinator for a U.S. House campaign, promoting youth engagement in the electoral process. Simmons spent the fall of 2022 studying European politics at University College London. His research experience includes his junior paper, “Working-Class Representation in Congress,” which analyzed the consequences of working-class underrepresentation in Congress, and his upcoming senior thesis, which focuses on the barriers that disproportionately prevent workers from running for office. On campus, Simmons is a Head Fellow for the Scholars Institute Fellows Program. He also serves as a community living advisor for Rockefeller College and as a member of the Department of Politics Undergraduate Committee.
2024 SINSI Interns
Thomas Emens ’25, of Jamesburg, New Jersey, is studying in the Department of Politics. Emens serves as a city councilman in his hometown of Jamesburg, a position he was elected to in November 2022 during his first semester at Princeton. Emens chairs the Borough Council’s Environmental Committee and will serve as Council President in 2024. Since assuming office, Emens’ work has included overseeing the revitalization of the Jamesburg Public Library, infrastructure improvements and fortification in light of climate change, and economic development. Emens previously served as a member of the Electoral Processes Team at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, Sweden, contributing to projects on global election observation and constitution building. His independent work in the Department of Politics currently focuses on the dynamics between mayors and tax rates in New Jersey. Emens serves as the vice president of the Princeton Transfer Association, and is a member of the Pace Center’s Civic Leadership Council, the American Whig–Cliosophic Society, USG Academics Committee. He also is a guest blogger and Transfer Ambassador with the Office of Admissions.
Uma Fox ’26, from Silver Spring, Maryland, is concentrating in history and pursuing minors in South Asian studies and journalism. She is a 2022-23 recipient of the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and a Class of 2024 Dean’s Scholar in the Nation’s Service. Her primary interests reside in foreign policy, Indo-Pacific legal studies, and human rights law. In line with her research and academic interests, she has pursued professional work and academic study on three different continents and speaks four languages. In the summer of 2023, she worked with Foro Nacional Por Colombia, a Bogotá-based NGO, where she researched Colombian environmental law and designed initiatives to promote youth policy engagement, community environmental awareness, and voter education. The summer before, she interned in the congressional office of Representative Jamie Raskin (MD-08), where she researched Indo-Pacific relations, legislative support for Ukraine, and democratic safeguarding mechanisms. At Princeton, Fox studies domestic political violence with the Bridging Divides Initiative and is an International Policy Associate with the Liechtenstein Institute on Self Determination. She also chairs the Undergraduate Student Government’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, competes with Princeton Model United Nations, and writes for the Princeton Legal Journal.
Sejal Goud ’25, of Broomfield, Colorado, is concentrating in the School of Public and International Affairs and is pursuing a certificate in Spanish language & culture. The 2024 Frederick P. Hitz ’61 Scholar in the Nation’s Service, she is also a 2022-23 recipient of the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. Goud is passionate about leveraging her skills in public policy development, research, and storytelling as tools for advocacy and creating access for underrepresented communities. Her current independent research focuses on the multilateral climate-human rights nexus. Goud helped expand the Princeton Internships in Civic Service program at the Aspen Institute as its inaugural intern. She has worked at Aspen since summer 2021, where she continues to convene international and cross-sector experts to better use science in the service of communities. Her publications with Aspen address topics of public trust in science, global science, and the intersection of science and social justice. She spent the summer of 2022 studying abroad in Buenos Aires with a focus on modern Argentine political movements. On campus, Goud leads the features section of The Daily Princetonian as head editor, is a core volunteer with El Centro ESL Education, and is an ambassador and state director for Vote100. Goud is also an alumna of the Service Focus Race, Migration, and Belonging cohort.
Noah James ’25 is the Class of 2024 Frank C. Carlucci ’52 Scholar in the Nation’s Service, majoring in public and international affairs with a focus on human rights policy, international law, and global governance. Originally from Austria, he is pursuing minors in Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies and the history & practice of diplomacy. James has researched the foreign policy impacts of European populist parties and interns with the Empirical Studies of Conflict program, tracking political violence across the United States. During the summer of 2022, he interned at the Danish Institute of Human Rights in Copenhagen, working on issues related to tech regulation, value chain management, and the human rights responsibilities of private actors. In the summer of 2023, James worked at the Office of the U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Launching the working group on justice, human rights, and accountability, he studied how judicial and non-judicial accountability mechanisms can foster the reintegration of former child soldiers, providing recommendations on the role of juvenile justice frameworks in post-conflict peacebuilding and development. On campus, James conducts research for the Princeton Asylum Project, volunteers with the Service Focus program, and serves as the executive director of the Coffee Club, a student-run business with two cafe locations in Princeton.
Desmond Lam ’25, of Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, is concentrating in politics and pursuing a minor in values and public life and a certificate in American studies. The Class of 2024 James D. Zirin ’61 and Marlene Hess Scholar in the Nation’s Service, he is passionate about the impartial administration of justice in the criminal justice system. He cares deeply about holding lawbreakers accountable while ensuring that the state pursues justice with integrity and understanding. Committed to public service, he is the recipient of the Whig-Clio Summer Fellowship in Public Service and the Yale Liman Undergraduate Summer Fellowship. In the summer of 2022, he worked at the Legal Aid Society of New York City, where he investigated criminal cases for clients in the Bronx. In the summer of 2023, he worked at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where he assisted in legal research and investigations to bring criminals to justice. On campus, Desmond is an attorney for Princeton Mock Trial and a case writer for its moot court competition. He also volunteers for the Petey Greene Program, where he tutors students at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility to aid in their GED studies.
Cynthia Nwankwo ’25, from The Woodlands, Texas is concentrating in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and is a Class of 2024 Dean’s Scholar in the Nation’s Service. She is most interested in international cooperation efforts in pursuing climate justice and how current legal frameworks can work to ensure racial and socioeconomic justice. In the summer of 2022, she worked with Princeton’s Economics Department as a research assistant to assess the relationship between historically institutionalized statutes that promoted racial discrimination and the trajectory of economic progress of Black Americans from slavery, to the Jim Crow Era, to today. In this role, she independently built a database of hundreds of laws, digitizing historical documents that contained these laws and analyzing the content of the laws to classify them systematically. In the summer of 2023, she worked for a Houston commercial litigation firm, using legal precedents and judicial rulings to analyze the current and ongoing litigation involving the role of power generation companies as well as transmission and distribution services in the collapse of the Texas power grid during winter storm Uri. On campus, she is a board member of the Minority Pre-Law Association and the Entrepreneurship Club.
Ashley Olenkiewicz ’25, from Porter, Texas, is concentrating in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and pursuing certificates in journalism and Latin American studies. A 2024 Dean’s Scholar in the Nation’s Service, she is passionate about utilizing her personal experiences and academic knowledge to work on carceral reform and foreign policy within the Western Hemisphere and African bureaus. As a daughter of a Mexican immigrant and of Polish/Welsh ancestry, Olenkiewicz is interested in cultural pluralism and the complexity of cultural identity. In summer 2022 she interned at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest as a policy research analyst through the Princeton Internships in Public Service program. She spent this past summer studying the history of Kenya and its role in Western capitalism while living in Kisumu, Kenya, through Princeton’s Global Seminars. She is continuing to study the Swahili language at Princeton and wrote her junior paper on how the United States’ promotion of religious freedom in Kenya has affected tensions between their Christian and Muslim populations. On campus, Olenkiewicz is co-chair for the Hermanitas committee of the Princeton Latin American Student Association and an associate editor for the opinion section of The Daily Princetonian. She enjoys tutoring college-level reading and writing skills to incarcerated people through the Petey Greene program as well as tutoring English with El Centro ESL in Trenton.
Aishwarya Swamidurai ’26, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is concentrating in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs while pursuing a certificate in history and the practice of diplomacy. The Class of 2024 Andrea Echikson ’80 and Tom A. Bernstein Scholar in the Nation’s Service, she is interested in the intersection between law and public policy, and how one can craft meaningful legal questions that empower democratic participation and liberties among citizens, particularly youth. She is also interested in issues about civil rights, electoral engagement and reform, and environmental justice as it relates to democratic participation. In the summer of 2023, Swamidurai interned in the office of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. As a legislative intern, she worked on issues related to the Senator’s food justice, sustainability, and healthcare portfolios. She researched the potential for antitrust law to serve as a solution to food deserts nationally and produced memoranda on NOAA rulemaking that aided the Senator in NDAA decision-making. Swamidurai also interned for the Conservatorship Reform Program, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing abusive conservatorships, where she conducted legal research and produced legislation for the California State Assembly to amend probate court laws. On campus, she is an Undergraduate Student Government U-Councilor, on the Princeton Model United Nations team, a member of the Princeton Rose Castle Society, and other service/civic groups.
Photo credit: Sameer A. Khan/Fotobuddy