SINSI Announces Changes to the Program

Apr 11 2016
By Ricki Heicklen '19
Source Woodrow Wilson School

Beginning fall 2016, the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI) at Princeton University will accept applications to its graduate program from Princeton seniors and first-year graduate students in the Woodrow Wilson School’s Master in Public Affairs (MPA) program. SINSI will also accept applications for its summer internship program from Princeton freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Previously, applications for the SINSI program had been open only to Princeton juniors, who, upon acceptance into SINSI, would complete a summer internship after their junior year and then begin the MPA program after graduation.

Now, the SINSI graduate program and summer internship are divided into two separate components: Princeton undergraduates in their senior year and first-year MPA students can apply to pursue an MPA with two years of federal government work experience, and all Princeton freshmen, sophomores and juniors are now eligible to apply for a separate summer internship program.

Established in 2006, SINSI, which is based at the Woodrow Wilson School, is designed to recognize, support and prepare exceptional students for careers in federal service. The goal of SINSI is to provide the rigorous academic background and workplace skills needed to succeed and effect change in the world of public policy.

The SINSI graduate program consists of a Master in Public Affairs at the Wilson School and professional-level, practical work experience in the U.S. Federal Government. More specifically, this includes a fully-funded, two-year position at an executive branch department or agency.

“Both the graduate and the undergraduate tracks are highly competitive. Selection criteria for both include outstanding academic performance, personal accomplishments, leadership potential, maturity, sound judgment, written and oral communication skills and above all, a strong commitment to a career in government service.” said Hilda Arellano, SINSI director.

The decision to split the SINSI program into two tracks came as a result of student feedback from past and current SINSI scholars and a review of their career paths. This data was compiled as part of SINSI’s review process at its ten year mark, according to Linda Taylor, assistant director of administrative services at the Wilson School.

“This will allow undergraduates to get a feel for work in the federal government over a summer before committing to the four years of combining an MPA degree with federal service. Princeton students can use the internship to see if working in the federal government is the route they want to take,” Taylor said.

Application to SINSI is open to students from all disciplines. Students are selected from a broad range of academic backgrounds and interests, including: astrophysics; English; chemistry; biology; engineering; politics; humanities; Near Eastern, Latin American and East Asian studies; as well as public policy majors at the Woodrow Wilson School.

For the SINSI graduate scholars’ two years of fieldwork, the scholars typically take positions at a wide variety of federal departments and agencies appropriate to the individual’s background and career goals.

“SINSI fellows normally do four rotations within their home agency or department of approximately six months each within the two-year fellowship, although these are guidelines not rules,” Arellano said. “Extensions of rotations are very common.”

SINSI works to accommodate the unique needs of each individual, providing resources and support to every scholar. Alex Kasdin ’14, who completed one year of the MPA program and is now in her first year of federal work, said she’s very grateful to SINSI for the opportunities it has afforded her.

“SINSI has been incredibly accommodating and supportive to me and my interests. The fact that I have the opportunity to get an MPA from Princeton and to get two years of experience in the federal government is invaluable, and I’m really grateful for that,” Kasdin said.

The SINSI program has a close relationship with many key departments and agencies within the federal government, which affords the students opportunities and positions that they otherwise might not have been able to secure.

“SINSI has a great reputation with the government due to the outstanding performance of SINSI scholars, which helps tremendously,” Taylor said. “We have students with significant levels of responsibilities in their fellowship placements and they have consistently proven their effectiveness.”

SINSI is generously funded through endowments from donors, and each student is named to a specific donor. The program fully funds the graduate fellows’ salaries and benefits, as well as the undergraduate internship stipends, according to Arellano. During the graduate fellowship, students receive a stipend based on the government salary table of Grade 7, Step 1 in their first year and Step 2 in their second year.

The graduate program will accept four students each year, and the internship program will accept six students. These numbers may increase in the future, as SINSI strives to provide broader opportunities

For more information on the SINSI program or to apply, click here.