- Name: Armani Madison
- Year: 2016
- Concentration: Political Science and History
- What type of fellowship/research experiences have you been involved with during your time in college?
I have been involved with fellowship experiences that have related to policy and social justice. The three programs that I have been involved with are the Penn Program for Public Service, the Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellowship, and the Young People For program. The first program has both a research and a social justice component, encapsulated in the type of academic course which also constitutes part of the experience, a “Faculty-Student Collaborative Action Seminar”. The PPIA program was explicitly academic and research-based, and Young People For is a community action research and implementation fellowship program.
- How did you find out about this these opportunities?
I learned about all of these programs from personal connections that I had forged at Brown. As a first-year who had frequently expressed interest in implementing an education-focused community program through the Swearer Center, I received advice to apply to the Penn Program for Public Service. As a junior, I worked during the year with the College Advising Corps, supporting a staff that included a recently-graduated alumnus who introduced me to, and wrote a recommendation on my behalf for, the PPIA program. A student in the class above mine encouraged me to apply to Young People For, after noticing my passion for social justice and community organizing.
- What is your favorite part about being involved with the programs that you have been involved with ?
For the Penn Program for Public Service, my favorite part of the program was the action component, in which I worked full-time for a youth-focused nonprofit, the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative. I was able to interact and form close relationships with similarly-aged coworkers, and to engage in direct service work, in which I could observe some of the same phenomena that I researched, from an up-close perspective. This was the component that left the largest impression on me, and which launched my interest and subsequent involvement in social justice and policy advocacy.
For PPIA and Young People For, my favorite part was in being engaged with other aspiring and genuine college students, interested in truly creating positive change in our world. I drew an incredible amount of inspiration from my peers, and created valuable networks and connections. The cohort-based focuses of these programs help emphasize the importance of different perspectives and teamwork in research and in professional, academic, and personal development.
- How has being involved with this experience shaped your future goals and plans?
As a result of these experiences, I have been able to visualize how I could create a career from my interest and passion for social justice and policy. These experiences have expanded my skill-sets and my networks, and they have given me a wider array of prospects for my future. I have gained encouragement for and insight into my future goals and plans. I have also grown to understand the requirements and expectations necessary to fulfill in order to achieve my professional objectives. I plan to become a civil rights attorney and public servant, with the eventual goal of founding a non-profit organization that provides free legal representation to indigent clients, as well as career development and college access programming to youth from underserved communities.
- Any advice for students looking to apply for research/fellowships?
Search for fellowship opportunities as early as October, and bookmarking the programs that peak one’s interest, is a way of keeping options open. Cast your net wide, and apply to several different programs. It is also important to revolutionize your definition of research. For a significant portion of my college career, I saw research as a drab experience, a concept that conjured up images of isolated desks filled with books, obscure newspaper clippings, a tired and bored student, typing away at a laptop. In actuality, research can take incredibly varied forms; there is always a way to take a passion of yours and make a genuinely engaging and enlightening research opportunity from it. For me, it was the discoveries of the field of policy and the concept of action-based research, where one learns by doing, that made research a genuinely appealing practice for me.
I would highly recommend that students make genuine connections with their peers, with older students, and with faculty and staff members. All of my fellowship opportunities came about as a result of a referral from graduates of the program of interest, or from professionals familiar with the program. If these relationships exist early, and independent of their affiliation with your program of interest, these individuals can truly advocate on your behalf, and effectively recommend you.
It is important to build and utilize networks, to see these networks not just as a professional means to an end, but as individuals and groups to build meaningful connections with. I also highly recommend that students keep an open mind, when sorting through programs of interest. In my experience, it has been proven true that there are passions and interests that are yet to be uncovered, through experimentation and openness to different experiences.