Five Batten Students and Alumni Selected as Finalists for Presidential Management Fellowships

The Capitol
The Capitol Building


The prestigious program is the federal government’s flagship leadership development opportunity 

Five Batten students and alumni are finalists for this year’s highly competitive Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. The federal government’s flagship development opportunity for advanced degree holders offers an accelerated track to U.S. government leadership positions. 

On average, just 8% of applicants are chosen. Successful finalists win a two-year, full-time fellowship at a federal agency and receive 80 hours of additional training and development each year. Fellows typically are placed in the executive branch, though some Fellow work in the legislative and judicial branches. They also can take advantage of rotational opportunities that allow them to learn more about the work within other agencies.  

This year’s finalists include two current Batten students and three alumni. All say the coursework and connections from Batten laid the groundwork for their success. 


Rachel Ellis (MPP ’23) 

Policy interest: Generalist with an emphasis on foreign policy 

Ellis considers herself a policy generalist, but her academic and professional work have been tied to foreign policy. “To tackle some of today’s most significant policy problems, such as climate change, nuclear threat and social and wealth inequality, it is essential to focus on the United States’ relationships with its allies and understand the international context for addressing these wide-reaching challenges,” she said.  

She first learned about the PMF program at her Batten orientation. A Batten and PMF alum, Brenan Richards (MPP ’09), who completed her fellowship with the U.S. Coast Guard, shared her experience with the 2023 cohort. Brenan’s supervisor during her summer internship in Washington, D.C., who was also a PMF fellow, influenced her decision to apply as well. 

“What entices me the most about the PMF program is that it not only provides a direct pathway into federal government employment, but also gives fellows the option to explore various positions at more than one agency through rotation opportunities during their two-year fellowship,” Ellis said. “These rotations provide fellows with an advantage of learning about and being employed at multiple agencies throughout a short period of time to jumpstart their careers.”  


Victoria Hume (MPP ’23)  

Policy interest: Workforce issues and education policy 

Growing up in rural North Carolina, Hume experienced and observed wealth inequality, sexism, job insecurity and environmental injustice. Those childhood experiences are a foundation for her policy interests. “I’m motivated to pursue these policy areas because I believe in the ability of education to bring about more equitable outcomes,” she said. 

Hume learned about the PMF opportunity through Batten, and staff there helped her effectively apply and craft her application, she said. She is excited about the opportunity to build on her professional skills and develop a strong network of people who care about policy change. 

“I hope to grow my professional network and develop skills that help me add value to my future workplace,” Hume said. “I think the PMF program will help me gain a clearer understanding of the kinds of federal agencies I would want to work at and the type of policy work I most enjoy.”  


Alyssa Candelmo (MPP ’22) 

Policy interest: Equity policy 

Candelmo’s experience as a first-generation college graduate and second-generation American is behind her desire to address unequal access to opportunities such as housing, employment and education, which are critical to building economic security, she said. 

After graduating from Batten, Candelmo went on to work as a fellow for Character Lab, an education nonprofit. Batten, she said, gave her the problem-solving skills, confidence and critical and strategic thinking abilities to be a leader. She’s excited about the opportunities the PMF program provides and the path it will put her on. 

“I want to continue in public service long after the conclusion of this fellowship,” she said. “I’d love to work for Congress one day, writing legislation at the national scale. I want to bring fresh, new ideas and a willingness to take on challenges at our highest level of government. I want to give all I have to a cause greater than myself: equity.” 


William Rockwood (MPP ’22) 

Policy interest: Defense and foreign policy 

A former Marine Corps officer, Rockwood went on to work for a small management consulting company after graduating from Batten in 2022. He learned about the PMF program through other Batten students and during a U.S. Department of State internship in summer 2021. 

Batten prepared him for the fellowship opportunity by exposing him to a variety of policy areas, he said. So did the connections he made with people at Batten — from his “really smart classmates,” who learned from each other, to Steve Hiss, Batten’s director of career services, as he navigated his job search.  

Rockwell is eager to expand on his experience in the federal government and the policy world through the fellowship. But “most of all, I want to be a part of something that is bigger than myself,” he said. “I really want to make a difference, and this program is the way that I can use my past experience and the skills I learned at Batten to really do that.”  


Sherese Bonner (BA ’21)  

Policy interest: Social policy  

An office hours conversation with a Batten teaching assistant, Meghan Clancy (MPP ’21), now a PFM fellow herself, sparked Bonner’s interest in the program. 

At the time, Bonner knew she was headed to graduate school. She is currently completing her master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But she kept in touch with Clancy, who, along with Jill Rockwell, Batten’s senior assistant dean for student and career services, supported her through the application process. 

That assistance, along with Batten’s rigorous coursework and leadership training, helped make Bonner a strong candidate for the fellowship, she said. Now, she’s ready to launch her federal government career through the program.  

“The ability to work for the federal government, see things at a higher level and see how decisions are made and how they're passed down is really exciting to me,” Bonner said. “And that's what attracted me to working for the federal government and doing this program.” 


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