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Four Students Selected to Attend Prestigious Public Policy and International Affairs Institutes

April 13, 2022

SU News

PPIA Fellows 2022Four Syracuse University students have been selected to participate in the highly competitive Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) junior summer institutes. PPIA fellows are rising seniors who are committed to pursuing a master’s degree in public policy or international affairs and a professional career in public service. The program supports students who demonstrate involvement in working to improve historically underserved or underrepresented communities. The program provides full tuition at a Junior Summer Institute (JSI), GRE preparation, a $5,000 scholarship at a PPIA graduate school (PPIA fellows often receive scholarships beyond this amount) and application fee waivers to graduate programs in the PPIA consortium.

PPIA is a summer program hosted by five institutions across the country with strong public policy programs. It promotes the inclusion of underrepresented groups in public service and advances their leadership roles throughout civic institutions. The program is designed to encourage participants to apply to graduate school in public policy, public administration, international affairs or a related field.

The four, all current juniors, are:

  • Maya Benjamin, a policy studies major in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program;
  • Andrea Sanchez, a political science and policy studies major in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Aidaruus Shirwa, a policy studies and economics major in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Hailey Williams, a policy studies major in the Maxwell School and College of Arts and Sciences, a political philosophy major in the College of Arts and Sciences, a Coronat Scholar and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program.

Benjamin will attend the institute at the University of California, Berkeley; Sanchez at Carnegie Mellon University; and Shirwa and Williams at the University of Washington.

Maya Benjamin

Benjamin, from Atlanta, Georgia, is also minoring in public communication studies in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She is hoping to sharpen her writing and economic policy analysis skills during her PPIA experience and plans to pursue a career as an education policy advocate to advance public policy and initiatives that will help end educational inequity in the United States.

This experience will help me become an education policy advocate because of the extensive PPIA JSI network,” she says. “During and after my time at my JSI, I am looking forward to speaking with legislators and those working at organizations focused on education inequity. I hope to talk to as many people as possible about their successes and challenges in creating education policy so that all students receive an equitable education regardless of their socioeconomic status or race.”

Andrea Sanchez

Sanchez, from Bronx, New York, is also minoring in information management and technology in the School of Information Studies. She plans to delve further into poverty policy, which is an area of particular interest to her. “PPIA is a program whose mission is to increase diversity in graduate studies in public policy and international affairs and public service,” she says. “Therefore, I know I will receive a level of support I couldn’t receive elsewhere because these individuals will understand my passion often comes from my struggle. This program will take my knowledge and understanding of public policy to new heights, and I am looking forward to and grateful for the doors it will open to me for graduate school.”

Sanchez plans to pursue a career in Congress. “I believe this experience will help that because I will be networking with others who have a unique perspective that is not represented by most legislators today,” she says. “While we may not always agree, we will be in a space to listen and learn from one another, which is another skill politicians today struggle with.”

Aidaruus Shirwa

Shirwa, from Syracuse, New York, hopes to learn about different approaches to solving long-existing problems, saying, “I am excited to expand my knowledge on how to achieve international diplomacy. I want to also engage with my cohort and learn from different perspectives, and explore the city of Seattle.”

Shirwa plans to pursue a career in community/grassroots organizing. “I hope to use the skills and experience at the Junior Summer Institute to improve the communities I work with in an efficient and compassionate way,” he says.

He is particularly grateful to Michelle Walker, director of community programs in the policy studies program in the Maxwell School. “Michelle was a huge help to my whole application. She guided me through the process and really got me where I needed to be,” he says.

Hailey Williams

Williams, from Annapolis, Maryland, hopes to build the skills necessary to develop sound policies that address racial inequality as an analyst at a policy think tank. “I know that the PPIA JSI will provide me with important training in synthesizing and analyzing quantitative and qualitative information,” she says. “I also hope to improve my soft skills through networking and mentorship. I am excited to be a part of a supportive community of students, educators and professionals committed to the necessary work of helping underrepresented groups join the government and nonprofit sectors.”

In her career, Williams wants to act as an advocate for those in marginalized positions exacerbated by racial inequalities and empower those communities by promoting diversity and inclusion in our political sphere. “I plan to work for a policy think tank that researches issues related to racial justice and offers policy recommendations based on that research. Attending the PPIA Junior Summer Institute will help me achieve my goals by teaching and reinforcing the skills I’ll need to understand and analyze policy effectively, and to think creatively and thoughtfully about policy recommendations,” she says.

The applicants worked on their applications with Walker; Melissa Welshans, assistant director of the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA); and Jolynn Parker, director of CFSA.

“We’re thrilled to have four students accepted to the PPIA institutes this year,” says Parker. “The program is a wonderful opportunity for students interested in careers in public policy, public administration or international affairs. The experience will give them very useful insight on graduate study in their field and will help them shape their plans for their future careers.”

Benefits of the summer institute include all costs of the program, including housing, travel, tuition, supplies and meal vouchers, as well as a small stipend and a one-time graduate scholarship to any of the PPIA partner institutions. There are two other summer institutes at Princeton University and the University of Minnesota.

Candidates must apply as juniors to be eligible for PPIA. The deadline for applying to next summer’s institute is early November 2022. Interested students should contact CFSA at or Michelle Walker at for more information.

By Kelly Homan Rodoski

Published in the Summer 2022 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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