Schaeffer Fellow Testimonials

Learn more about the student experience from the 2016 Schaeffer Fellows.

Washington D.C.  |  Sacramento, CA  |  Los Angeles, CA  |  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Washington D.C.

Cynthia T HeadshotCynthia Trujillo

Congressmember Karen Bass (District 37)
Majors: Anthropology and Comparative Literature

Cynthia was seeking to understand if government was the best fit for her future career.  She had positive experiences getting involved with issues on the local level but was curious how that would look differently in Washington.  Cynthia had an impressive résumé of experience to build upon, especially with regard to writing and marketing. She looked forward to defining her goals for her future while in this position.

Cynthia said about her experience: “I would say that interning in Congress requires a particular mindset that seeks competition with others and ourselves. My internship required tenacity and patience.  Our office was so busy that interns helped in various ways wherever assistance was needed. I’ll never forget the first staff meeting I attended with Karen Bass present. Seeing her thinking process at work in the metaphorical center of a web of staffers, fellows, interns, and constituents from her home city inspired me greatly. As the staff meeting wound to a close I resolved to ask one staffer how I could help on issues of the prison industrial complex. By the end of the internship, I created a comprehensive database of resources and connections to assist the staffer! Another time, I was assigned to be the note taker at the July Africa Policy Breakfast our office hosted. My notes were so good I was told to print them out for Ms. Bass to read herself. I’m so honored to have worked in her office this summer. I got to intern for someone who I truly admire personally and politically. I was able to have a conversation with her this summer and she spoke to me of the intersections between her own persona and politics and how closely tied these are for her.”

Vivian Le

Congressmember Becerra (District 34)
Major: Public Policy, Planning & Development

Vivian is a talented student with both a personal and professional interest in immigration reform.  Vivian is the daughter of war-time refugees and this experience has influenced her passion for particular issues.  She hoped to learn more about health care, specifically with regard to women’s health, and has career goals in public interest law or perhaps holding public office.  She impressed the faculty committee with her knowledge about the US government and her advocacy for those with diverse interests.

Vivian completed her experience in Washington D.C. and is now studying abroad in Vietnam as a Boren Scholar.  Boren Scholarships are awarded to outstanding U.S. undergraduates through a competitive national merit-based application process.  Boren Scholars go abroad to a critical country to study language and culture for up to a year and commit to working for the U.S. government for at least one year in the future.  In Vietnam, Vivian will study Vietnamese and examine people’s health behaviors and attitudes about medical interventions, gender roles, and Western medicine.  Her experience as a Schaeffer Fellow helped to prepare her for her Boren experience and provided her with a foundation upon which she can continue her career in public health administration at the federal level.

Minerva Solis–Rubio

Congressmember Roybal-Allard’s Office (District 40)
Majors: Spanish and International Relations

Minerva is a talented student with both a personal and professional interest in immigration reform.  Minerva impressed the faculty committee with her interest in research and public policy.  She wanted to better understand how the national narrative around social issues like immigration affects local conversations.  She has significant experience in grassroots activism and her interests aligned well with Congressmember Roybal-Allard’s committee membership.

Minerva learned a great deal from her Schaeffer Fellows experience.  She was exposed to the path for passing legislation, admired the dedication her colleagues have for their work, and witnessed how political disagreements can be facilitated effectively to make change.  From landmark Supreme court decisions to sit-ins on gun control, she saw first-hand the complexities of government.  Her most memorable experiences included a visit to a detention center and an ACLU briefing.  Upon returning to USC, Minerva was accepted into the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise, hosted by the US Army War College.

DODJamie Kwong

House Foreign Affairs Committee
Major: International Relations

Jamie secured an internship with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, for summer 2016. She was tasked with preparing briefs for the chairman of the subcommittee, Congressman Matt Salmon, developing subcommittee reports, obtaining signatures and support from other House members, and providing day-to-day support for the office. In addition, she had the opportunity to attend select committee hearings, UN Security Council sessions, various conferences and speaking events — all while experiencing the excitement of D.C. during a presidential election year.

Jamie said about her experience: “I helped prepare Chairman Salmon’s materials, write up post-hearing reports, and edit transcripts before they were officially filed.  I was lucky enough to have a boss who wanted to make sure I made the most of my experience…He sent me to briefings where I had the chance to learn about an array of topics tailored to my interest in the region.  Thanks to [Mr. Schaeffer’s] introduction I gained insight from Ms. Churches at Brookings.  She helped me set up meetings with various scholars, all of whom gave me incredible advice on my next steps and future as a woman in the field.  It was an extremely eye-opening, formative experience that gave me incredible insight on what I want to do after graduation.”


David Jun (J.D.) Lee

Central Intelligence Agency
Major: International Relations; minors in Russian, French, and East Asian Languages and Cultures

J.D.’s internship is ongoing with the CIA.  He is interested in understanding and working on many issues concerning certain countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including top leadership, economics, policy-making, internal politics & society, and regional security. His foreign language skills, relevant area expertise and cultural knowledge are used to contribute to the organization and overall mission.

J.D. said about his experience: “Working at the CIA is an incredibly selective and rare opportunity, and unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. Due to the nature of the work, I cannot share many details, but I work on a myriad of issues with many different tools and technology, and have numerous different and incredible experiences throughout my stay. It challenged (and deepened) my abilities, helped me vastly grow my network, enlarged my perspectives on the world, and overall left me as a far more competent individual than when I started.

8E2A4725Zoe Poynor

Congressmember Jared Huffman (2nd District)
Major: International Relations; minor in Spanish

Zoe secured an internship in Washington, D.C. with Congressman Jared Huffman, representative of California’s 2nd District, within her home county of Marin.  Congressman Huffman has worked to increase bipartisanship in Congress and he has been successful passing bills in Congress. Working with and for him was a valuable experience where she saw how he accomplished working in a severely divided Congress. Learning how to negotiate and communicate with people who may not agree with her viewpoints was an important life skill she was eager to learn.

Zoe said about her experience: “My internship consisted of attending to daily tasks, aiding Congressional staff members with projects, corresponding with constituents, and shadowing the Congressman when permitted… The most memorable thing that I was able to witness while in DC was the sit-in against gun violence, lead by the legendary Civil Rights Movement activist, John Lewis…It was emotional, moving, and indescribably incredible to witness. It made me realize how even though the American public only hears about the gridlock in Congress, there are still many passionate and hard-working representatives who are genuinely trying to make America a more progressive and safe place for every member of the American community. The sit-in and my experience working for Congress definitely opened my eyes to the personal side of American politics. Over the summer many pieces of legislation came through our office, however I was the only intern was asked to research and write-up an advisement form for the Congressman directly.  I am proud to say that both the Congressman and his Chief of Staff thought my reasoning was correct and took my advice. It was extremely gratifying to know that my research and opinion was reasonable enough to influence the Congressman’s decision. Interning for Congressman Jared Huffman was undoubtedly the most challenging and rewarding internship I have had. It was fast-paced, interesting, and taught me valuable professional skills that I will use throughout my career.”

Back to Top

Maureen Clougherty

CA Assemblymember C. Garcia (District 58)
Major: International Relations (Global Business)

Maureen was eager to develop a deeper understanding of the functions of government, why policies are chosen, how they are implemented and how these choices impact outcomes.  She plans to apply this knowledge to a future career in government.  In her studies she has become confident that here is no more direct way to serve society than through government service.

HeadshotPleres Choi

CA Assemblymember Kim (District 65)
Major: International Relations and Economics; minor in Korean Studies

Pleres grew up in Fullerton and Buena Park, both of which are part of District 65 and, as an active member of the Korean-American community, she related closely to Assemblymember Kim’s upbringing and cultural heritage.  This opportunity offered her a unique glimpse into the legislative process, as well as unparalleled professional and leadership growth.  She hoped to gain experience with public policy to eventually become a policy influencer and improve California’s education system for all students, regardless of their families’ wealth.

Pleres said about her experience: “The experience I had this past summer through the Schaeffer Government Service Fellowship was nothing sort of amazing. I learned more about the California state political process and the work culture of a political office than I ever did in the classroom setting. I am very grateful to have been able to share a similar work experience with the fellows from the nationally-acclaimed Capital Fellows Program, because I now know that I will be applying to that same program this coming winter… I had the opportunity to lead meetings with local ‘Third House’ representatives and activists, participate in policy briefings with committee consultants, and attend committee sessions in Education, Banking, and Jobs Development all of which Young was a member of… Young also made sure to take me with her to all of her networking and fundraising events, where I had the opportunity to have conversations with other Assemblymembers and Senators, as well as their staff and consultants. Thus, I was exposed to different roles in the political arena and learned of the various career paths that I could take… It was through one of the alumni mixers that I met Grace Koch, a distinguished public servant working in the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Grace was generous enough to give me a tour of the department and share wisdom from her life-long public service career. In sum, I am incredibly grateful to Mr. Schaeffer for having provided this opportunity to myself and the other fellows. Without the fellowship, I would not have gained the comprehensive and intimate exposure into state politics and policymaking as I have this past summer.”

IMG_8097Kaitlyn Murray

CA State Senator Mendoza (District 32)
Major: Political Science

Kaitlyn had the opportunity to intern for The Carmen Group, in Washington D.C. before her Schaeffer Fellow experience and that position opened her eyes to how significant government influence can be in our daily lives. As a Schaeffer Fellow she was eager to see how legislative leaders navigate the governmental arena in order to serve their constituents, and how state government differed from her time in our nation’s capital.

Kaitlyn said about her experience: “I can confidently say that this opportunity far surpassed all my expectations. Being able to work in Senator Mendoza’s office gave me the ability to not only apply the material I learned inside the classroom, but also allowed me to interact with incredibly accomplished and passionate individuals. This opportunity benefited me beyond the three months in Sacramento for it allowed me to create a clearer image of what I can see myself doing post-graduation…I was tasked with “staffing” one of his bills, [which] required me to meet with other members of the legislation as well as various lobbyists. It was my duty to make sure the bill passed out of each committee it was being heard in. In addition to staffing a bill, I was also responsible for briefing the Senator on all bills being heard in the Business and Professions committee which he would be voting on…I was able to interact with extremely accomplished individuals who gave me great insight into the world of politics. My mentor met with me numerous times and was very helpful both in terms of navigating work in the Capital but also life in Sacramento. This summer was an experience unlike any other. I was given a level of responsibility most other internships don’t offer.

headshotSonali Seth

CA Assembly member Jones-Sawyer (District 59)
Majors: Public Policy, Planning & Development and Political Science

Sonali is a talented student with a strong interest in maximizing social impact on her community through issue advocacy.  Sonali was interested in learning how complex issues are resolved through coalition building.  As a writer for the University’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Trojan, she has strong writing skills and significant experience with political commentary.  She was eager to learn about policymaking at a more intimate level.

Sonali said about her experience: “During my time, I gained a greater understanding about how the state Capitol operates — the importance of networks, how people move around, and how various (and often competing) interests interact with each other. As a political junkie, I have always inhaled issues and media, but being entrenched in the day-to-day experience gave me an insider’s perspective of the long and complicated policy process.  I am a writer at heart, and so I was more than excited for the opportunity to write speeches and op-eds and conduct policy research. I wrote policy papers on standardized testing in higher education and the role of the motherhood penalty in the wage gap, and I drafted op-eds and speeches on the topics of education and incarceration, the achievement gap among boys and men of color, and youth development… being in the thick of policy-making spoke so clearly to my passion for how politics affects people. Speaking to the committee consultants suggested to me that a future in a policy committee, instead of an elected office, would be something I would be deeply interested in…I am reminded that policy-making is slow — excruciatingly so — but that the end result, even if it does not resemble the beginning idea, is something that has the potential to change the lives of millions of people. That is something that still deeply excites and thrills me.”

Back to Top

Los Angeles, CA

SSoolgi Hong Photooolgi Hong

Mayor’s Office of Economic Development:
Majors: International Relations and Business Administration

Soolgi is a double major in International Relations and Business Administration, and some of her most rewarding, insightful classes have been her economics courses. More specifically, she enjoyed learning about interdependence at the micro-level and how government fiscal policy impacts the daily lives and economic relations between differing nations on the macroeconomics level.  While her coursework has prepared her to be a part of this project she was excited to apply her learning in a practical setting.

Soolgi said about her experience: “I had a great deal of independence, which allowed me to grow and adapt faster…I helped organize and decide the budget, chose venue locations, facilitated meetings, and more…I aided the Director of International Trade on projects such as the Tripartite Summit amongst Guangzhou, China; Auckland, New Zealand, and Los Angeles.  I enjoyed watching how economic growth and corporate deals came directly from this summit and I am interested in pursuing this field in the future.  I had the opportunity to meet and talk to many of the ‘higher-ups’ of City Hall, and I learned about their stories and path to get to where they are today.  I believe one of the most valuable things I took away from this internship is the network of smart, driven professionals who care about what I do…My experience has improved my hard and soft skills, better defined my career aspirations, and gave me a strong understanding on how city government flows.”

HeadshotJohn (Jack) Romero

Mayor’s Office of Economic Development
Major: Real Estate Development

Jack felt his skill set and long-term goals fit well with local government.  He saw how the “Start-up in a Day Program,” could help to streamline the process by which people create their own business and corporations in the city. He believed this was a key initiative which had the power to improve the health of the local economy and social atmosphere, allowing for people to take their innovative ideas into their own hands and try them out in the market, for better or for worse. He is confident that the more the municipal government protects and encourages these actions, the stronger the local economy will become.

Jack said about his experience: “[Our supervisor] had us do presentations, network at business events, and do walkthroughs.  Looking back, I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to work for the government in the capacity that I did.  I was able to experience local government and industry…from the inside and meet people who were extremely passionate and skilled in their jobs.  I was also able to get a firsthand look at a lot of shortcomings of our local bureaucracy…I was able to get real work experience as we had many opportunities to act autonomously.  Sometimes, I felt less like an intern and more like an employee of the city whose decisions mattered.”

Brian Martin

Congressmember Brad Sherman (30th District)
Majors: Political Science and Spanish

Brian secured an internship in the San Fernando Valley with Congressman Brad Sherman, representative of California’s 30th District.  Congressman Sherman has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997 and is now serving his tenth term in Congress.  As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia, and the former Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, Congressman Sherman offered Brian the opportunity to engage in local politics through the DC lens, a perspective that will surely be an advantage in the future.

Brian said about his experience: “I was surprised by the amount I was responsible for… Because the Congressman has his staff do casework much of the day all of the responsibilities that would normally belong to the staff assistant were delegated to the interns.  I would answer calls and help constituents with basic questions about the federal government on the spot.  I have a much deeper understanding of the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Immigration, and Section 8 Housing than most interns would likely gain from working in a congressional office. I have stayed on as an intern for this semester and unsurprisingly, I am now doing some very basic casework myself.  Although I’m not certain that this is the field of work I want to be in for the rest of my life, I learned a great deal about how the federal government works and how to solve some of the inefficiencies and defects of the services offered to citizens of this country.”

Back to Top

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ida Abhari

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees
Majors: International Relations and Philosophy; minor in Iranian Studies

Ida Abhari Headshot

Ida was selected as a Schaeffer Fellow for a second year (she also participated in Summer 2015).  In her roll with the UN she worked abroad in Malaysia assisting the External Relations Officer and Public Information & Fundraising Associate with planning and implementing activities for World Refugee Day 2016.  She assisted with external affairs and outreach activities including the coordination and implementation of UNHCR’s public events, seminars and external meetings.  Additionally, she contributed to the database of stories by coordinating and conducting interviews with refugees and other individuals.

Portrait RightAfter her first experience as a Schaeffer Fellow with Congressmember Bass in 2015, Ida has stayed on the move developing a wealth of public service experiences.  Ida studied abroad in Turkey in the midst of political turmoil which challenged her to consider public service on a global scale and actively become part of the solution.  Interning with UNHCR and seeing firsthand the long process refugees and asylum seekers undergo expanded her understanding of how organizations ranging from local governments to the UN are attempting to manage the global refugee crisis.  “They are people first who have been put into this situation and then classified as refugees.  I wanted to be able to tell the stories of the hardships these people have faced so that the public doesn’t just see them as people who have come to take our jobs.”

Ida said about her experience: “I learned that while working for UNHCR was definitely an attainable career, and I enjoyed many aspects of the work, such as the direct impact on refugees, I ultimately want to work more as an advocate in the legal realm. I was particularly fortunate that I had the opportunity to meet several staff members who came from law backgrounds and yet have spent much of their careers in related fields – they are not necessarily working as lawyers…Ultimately, I left my internship with a greater sense of purpose for what I want to do, and a sense that though I want to have a positive impact, the work I hope to engage in is not just some abstract version of ‘saving people’ – I want to better understand processes and legal frameworks in order to more effectively leverage the possible solutions that exist.”

Back to Top