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2 ASU juniors selected for fellowship prepare for graduate school, public service careers

Sami Al-Asady sitting in a class with other students surrounding him.

Sami Al-Asady, a junior at Barrett double majoring in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership, will spend time this summer at the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs in the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellowship Program. Photo courtesy Sami Al-Asady

March 02, 2023

The Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement has announced that two Arizona State University juniors in Barrett, The Honors College have been selected to participate in the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellowship Program, a prestigious program focused on preparing undergraduates for public service careers.

Sami Al-Asady, a double major in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership, will spend time this summer at the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs, while Jordan Harb, a global studies major with a minor in Arabic, will be at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) is a not-for-profit organization that has supported efforts to increase diversity in graduate studies in public policy, international affairs and public service for over 40 years. Its Junior Summer Institute (JSI) Fellowship Program was started to address the lack of diversity across the spectrum of professional public service, including government, nonprofits, public policy institutions and international organizations.

The fully funded JSI Fellowship prepares students to obtain a master’s or joint degree in public policy, public administration, international affairs or a related field. The JSI curriculum includes economics, statistics, domestic/international policy issues and leadership topics and is designed to sharpen students’ quantitative, analytic and communication skills that are vital for admission into top public and international affairs graduate programs.

Once students have completed their JSI, they join an alumni network of more than 4,000 leaders. Alumni network participants have access to mentoring and career development, as well as the opportunity to receive financial support for graduate school by attending one of the programs in the organization’s Graduate School Consortium.

Al-Asady, the son of Bosnian and Iraqi war refugees, said he feels gratitude for the protections of the United States Constitution, open government, freedom and the access he has had to education. That is why he is committed to pursuing a career in public service.

He got a firsthand look at government in action as a White House intern for 14 weeks last fall, where he worked with experts on the COVID-19 Response Team to develop strategies, structures and solutions to rebuild trust, partnerships and equitable health outcomes. He was involved with planning the White House Summit on COVID-19 Equity & What Works Showcase that highlighted the critical role community-based organizations played throughout the pandemic.

“It (the internship) really clarified that government service is what I want to do, and I realized that I really thrived in that environment, being able to work on issues that really matter,” he said.

“And something I really appreciated was being able to bring my perspective as a child of refugees and as someone from the Southwest who has attended state and public institutions my whole life, you know, bringing a different perspective to the East Coast.”

“It was also an extraordinary moment for my family going from escaping wars and genocide to seeing their first son being able to walk in the White House among these esteemed policymakers,” he added.

Al-Asady also gained exposure to government and public policy as a participant in the Harvard Kennedy School Public Policy Leadership Conference last fall.

Portrait of Jordan Harb standing on a balcony with a city in the background, smiling and wearing a black and white striped shirt.

Jordan Harb. Photo courtesy Jordan Harb

Harb first became civically engaged after the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 when he was still a high school student.

“Feeling unsafe and neglected in public schools resonated and pushed me to start the Arizona Chapter of March For Our Lives,” he said.

As a March For Our Lives Arizona leader, Harb participated in marches, protests, sit-ins and other actions supporting stronger gun safety measures. He helped introduce a bill in the Arizona Legislature calling for more school counselors to bolster safety and student support in schools.

“We passed state legislation to increase counselors in school just as a bunch of high school students. I later went on to run national strategy for the broader (March for Our Lives) organization. For me, the experience emphasized the importance of collective action and activism,” Harb said.

Harb worked as a March for Our Lives national field strategist and served as a policy consultant for the Arizona Department of Education, where he focused on policy recommendations for the state's school safety task force

Harb, who said he has grappled with mental health issues, expressed excitement for the opportunities the program will present, especially the support for graduate school.

“I did not have the strongest GPA due to mental health struggles. I’m relieved that I will have the opportunity to prepare myself academically for graduate school,” he said. 

“I intend to work in public policy and advocate for public education and mental health care for at-risk students, especially as someone who has struggled and overcome.” 

Current ASU juniors who would like to apply to the PPIA Junior Summer Institutes program for the summer of 2024 can receive guidance from the Office of National Scholarships Advisement, which aids ASU students and alumni with application strategy, writing guidance and interview preparation. The next deadline will be in November.

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