Capitol building, Washington, D.C.

SINSI Program Preps Princeton Students for Federal Government Careers

Jun 21 2024
By David Pavlak

For those committed to public service careers in the U.S. federal government, Princeton SPIA’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI) provides unparalleled opportunities.

Now in its 18th year, the prestigious program places students in nearly every department and agency of the federal government — from the White House to the Departments of Justice, Defense, Education, Housing and Urban Development, State, and Health and Human Services; the Federal Trade Commission; USAID; the Environmental Protection Agency; and more.

However, the hallmark of the program is the students who complete rotations en route to meaningful careers. According to Gregory Jaczko, director of SINSI, they all possess one similar character trait.

“SINSIs are top students at Princeton, but what truly sets them apart is their commitment to public service,” Jaczko said. “Our graduate fellows have many career options but choose public service, and that ethos serves them throughout their careers.”

The SINSI experience is not a typical 9-to-5 desk job. Instead, the fellowship and internship engage students on day one with real-world experiences and practical applications.

Becky Swanson ’15, MPA ’19 participated in three different rotations, including with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she served under the President's Science Advisor on a range of energy and environmental issues; with the U.S. Global Change Research Program, where she led a series of dialogues between climate scientists and local leaders on how to improve community resilience to climate change; and in the Mayor's Office of Resiliency in New York City, working on land use planning and resilience for NYC's single- and multi-family buildings.

“More than a specific memory, what sticks with me about the SINSI program is the degree of responsibility and trust that came with each rotation,” said Swanson, the lead climate risk advisor at the Federal Insurance Office within the Treasury Department. “This was my first job out of undergrad, and I was immediately given interesting and challenging work. That speaks to the caliber of the SINSIs before me who had built a good name for the program as well as the directors who worked closely with me to find positions that would help me grow.”

SINSI offers a graduate fellowship open to all Princeton seniors and to select applicants to SPIA’s MPA program. In the graduate fellowship, students study for a year in the MPA program, work for two years at an executive branch department or agency with a fully paid stipend, and then complete the master’s program. SINSI also supports a summer internship program for Princeton undergraduates.

“As a SINSI intern I worked at the Federal Reserve Board doing enterprise risk management,” said Sydney Eck ’24. “My team worked directly with the many different divisions at the Fed to understand critical risks, priority trends, and best practices.”

Today, Eck is an economic research assistant with the same office she interned with — the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — where she builds her quantitative and qualitative analytical skills in the International Finance Division on Trade and Quantitative Studies.

SINSI internships are grounded in service; students have helped formulate policy at the Federal Reserve, analyzed countries at the State Department, and distributed funding for community infrastructure, among other important objectives.

“I was part of a small team that hosted the first-ever White House Water Summit, which catalyzed approximately $5 billion in investment into advanced water technologies,” said Hannah Safford ’13, MPA ’17, who was most recently the director for transportation and resilience at the White House Climate Policy Office.

“The federal government is filled with people who truly believe in the power of public institutions to effect positive change, and who are thinking creatively about how to use different policy levers to do that.”
Hannah Safford ’13, MPA ’17

The Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative is made possible through the generous support of The Robertson Fund, The David K.E. Bruce ’19 Scholars Fund, The Brooks Emeny ’24 Trust, Andrea Echikson ’80 and Tom A. Bernstein, Frank Carlucci ’52, W. Hodding Carter III ’57, The Elkes Foundation, Frederick P. Hitz ’61, Gilbert Omenn ’61 and Martha Darling MPA ’70, Michael Morandi MPA ’83, Elizabeth T. and Jeffrey M. Peek ’69, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin ’61, and anonymous donors.

“Being a SINSI intern confirmed my passion for working ‘in the nation’s service’ and introduced me to a world of diverse and talented individuals who have continued to be a source of genuine community for me, answering my every question and constantly inspiring me to keep working towards more effective solutions,” Eck said.