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On the Path

January 31, 2011

The Maxwell School has attracted a new national fellowship program that promotes careers in the federal government.

Chad Deluca and Chris Grant, 2010 Robertson Fellows
Robertson Fellows Chad Deluca (left) and Chris Grant

Growing up with a father who was a foreign service officer, Chris Grant lived in Italy, Argentina, and Poland, with a bird’s eye view of government service. He liked what he saw.

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a BA in history, Grant spent several years living in the Middle East, learning Arabic and working for a financial consulting firm. His interest in a career in the federal government persisted, along with a desire to bolster his education.

Today, Grant is several months into a joint degree program in public administration and international relations at the Maxwell School, while engaged in a research project on global black spots that seeks to map areas of the world outside any government control. He hopes to someday work in the State Department, perhaps following in his father’s footsteps. “I’m interested in the connection between international security issues and international development issues. Those fields are becoming more tightly integrated,” he says.

He’s received a prestigious boost toward that goal as an inaugural recipient of the Maxwell School’s new Robertson fellowship.

The timing couldn’t be better. According to Timothy “Bo” Kemper, executive director of RFFG, an unprecedented number of federal employees are nearing retirement age. “This ‘human capital crisis’ comes at a time when the federal government’s needs and challenges have never been greater, particularly in the international arena,” says Kemper. “Our goal is to help fill this gap.”

Earlier this year, RFFG was created using funds that previously fueled a similar program at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School — a program that since has been dismantled. The original program had been funded in 1961 by Charles and Marie Robertson, with the intent of preparing graduate students to enter government. Robertson was a Princeton alumnus who served as a Naval intelligence officer and had an interest in national security; his wife, Marie, an heir to the A&P supermarket fortune. Their offspring have established RFFG to serve Charles and Marie’s intentions, with new educational partners.

The foundation has a distinguished advisory board that includes former National Security Advisor Gen. Brent Scowcroft, former Virginia governor and U.S. Senator Chuck Robb, and John L. Palmer, University Professor and dean emeritus of the Maxwell School.

“Given its reputation as the premier school of public administration, the caliber of the student body, and the quality of the graduate programs, we felt Maxwell was a perfect fit.”

Bill Robertson

RFFG chairman

“Dean Palmer introduced us to the School,” says Bill Robertson, RFFG chairman. “Given its reputation as the premier school of public administration, the caliber of the student body, and the quality of the graduate programs, we felt Maxwell was a perfect fit.”

While the selection of Maxwell as an RFFG partner is a “perfect fit,” it is nonetheless a coup, bringing with it a $480,000, four-year grant. Each year, the School will work with the RFFG to identify, encourage, and fund two high-caliber graduate students committed to long-term federal careers in foreign policy, national security, or international affairs. At Maxwell, the fellowships specifically fund students in two-year joint or dual programs. 

Robertson likens the foundation’s efforts to that of the service academies. “We are really offering to the United States government students who are not just well trained, but really committed to this type of career,” he says.

It’s a wonderful thing, says Palmer: “They’re really trying to strengthen the cohort of people who pursue and create careers in the federal government. In turn, this will enable the School to attract stronger students with those kinds of interests than it might otherwise because of the generous support.”

Among those “stronger students” is Chad DeLuca, Maxwell’s other inaugural Robertson fellow. DeLuca, who is pursuing a joint degree in IR and economics, is a graduate of Georgetown with a degree in international politics. He interned with the Nixon Center, worked for a firm that produced trade show marketing for international organizations, and taught at a boarding school before deciding he wanted to get back in the classroom as a student. He hopes to one day work at the U.S. Treasury, in a branch focusing on international affairs.

“It may be idealistic because I’m just getting started, but I’d love to see myself working for the government 15 years from now,” says DeLuca. “I think the foundation would like to see that as well.”

— Renée Gearhart Levy

Published in the fall 2010 print edition of Maxwell Perspective

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