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Student Pathways

By Maureen Clark, MPH, Public Health Analyst, National Cancer Institute, PMF Class of 2015

This is the time of year that I recall with chagrin how I got my start in the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. The applications were due, and I applied at the last minute, the day of the deadline. While I do not recommend that strategy, I do, without reservation, recommend the PMF program.

The application period for this prestigious, competitive program for recent graduates of post-graduate programs is open now through October 13, 2015. If you’re just learning about the program or are on the fence about whether to apply, let me tell you more about my experience.

After being selected as a PMF-STEM finalist -- a track focused on science, technology, engineering, and math -- I was selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCI has been a perfect fit because of my educational background in public health, English, and pre-medical studies, as well as my passion for NCI’s mission: to conduct and support research, training, and programs aimed at reducing the cancer rate.

The PMF program looks a little bit different at each agency. At NCI, PMFs typically complete four to six rotations across the organization. My first rotation was in one of NCI’s program offices, where I worked on strategic planning and the identification of scientific trends related to health communications research. And right now I am in NCI’s Office of Government and Congressional Relations, which serves as the liaison between Congress and NCI’s scientific staff. Each experience presents unique challenges, but all of the offices have treated me as a vital member of the team.

PMFs are also required to complete 80 training hours per year over the course of the two-year program. I have participated in training specific to my current work, as well as a special session on leadership in the style of George Washington at his historic estate in Mount Vernon. I also had the chance to attend sessions on innovation, held at the White House, and on Congress, held on Capitol Hill. There are also extremely helpful informational interviews. During a typical session, I sit down with a colleague at NIH and ask as many questions as I can to learn about his or her career.

The fellowship has provided me with an insider’s view of how the Federal Government operates. I’ve watched the budgeting process and have come to understand the priorities that shape NIH’s mission. And my external rotation -- one of the key features of the PMF program -- in the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Communications gave me a broad perspective on opportunities across government agencies.

I still have another year left in the fellowship, but because of the experiences I’ve had, I have some ideas about what’s next for me. I’d like to continue to address health disparities, particularly as they relate to health literacy and health care access. I am going to use the health communications skills I have been able to develop. And I do hope that my next job will be in the Federal Government.

I’m very glad that I made that last-minute decision to apply to the PMF program nearly two years ago. And I’m grateful for the training, networking, and career opportunities that I’ve had since then. I am most thankful for the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of people across the country.

Visit for more information about the PMF program.

As I celebrate my one-year anniversary as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, I have reflected on OPM’s accomplishments over the past few months. I think about how honored I am to be a part of a team that has done so much for the American people. And today I hosted a digital town hall to talk about how OPM will continue to move America’s Workforce forward in the coming years.

As Director, I have met so many Federal employees from across the country. Their wisdom and their suggestions have enlightened me and guided me. Their feedback and input inspired us to create a new initiative that focuses on how we can recruit, develop, and engage a diverse workforce for today and for the future. I’m calling this initiative REDI, which stands for Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion.

When it comes to recruitment, REDI will help us hire more people like the guests I highlighted at today’s town hall. Gioia Massa, whom I met at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is living her childhood dream of growing plants in space. Miriam Martin, whom I visited with at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, is a woman veteran who wants to use her military logistics skills in Federal service. And Matthew Gonzales, a young man I met in Los Angeles who works on satellite communications for the Air Force. There are many Gioias, Miriams, and Matthews, driven by innovation and imagination, who want to be a part of the Federal family. REDI will help hiring managers bring such talented people into their agencies.

With the REDI initiative, we are also rethinking how we better recruit and communicate with job-seekers. And as our workforce ages, we need to focus on recruiting more young people. The millennial generation wants to work at places where they can innovate and make their marks. We are increasingly using social media to reach them, and that outreach will continue to grow in the coming months. We also must create the right pipelines for people to come into government. That’s why we are enhancing Pathways, OPM’s programs for student interns, recent graduates, and Presidential Management Fellows. Pathways participants get a taste of government service through fulfilling experiences that include training and real-work exposure. And then maybe, they will join the next wave of Federal employees.

I will be talking more about our efforts in the coming weeks and months and I look forward to sharing them in more detail with you. This past year has taught me that Federal employees are constantly looking for better ways to do their jobs better and to serve the American people. I know that REDI will help them do that.

So thank you to my Federal family for an incredibly rewarding first year. Thank you for all you do each and every day to serve America. Going forward together, we will continue to show every American that they are served by a mission-driven, talented, and model Federal workforce.

The College Tour continues. Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting with students at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

It was my first visit to Charlottesville. What a beautiful campus!

I brought some members of my Office of Personnel Management team with me to talk to the students about what it’s like to work for the Federal government and what the opportunities are for Federal service.  They had a good discussion and the students had lots of questions.

I shared some of my earliest experiences in public service and urged the students give us a try. It’s a message I want to take to young people across the country. We’re looking for fresh talent. We’re looking for people who want to use their skills to help their fellow Americans. We’re looking for our next generation of public service leaders.

They asked important questions about how to make a resume stand out from the pack and about the process for applying for a Federal job.

I talked about the incredible variety of jobs in the Federal government that are available all across this great country. I pointed them to and we showed a short video that chronicles the breadth of careers available. 

I plan to continue my college tour to spread the word about the opportunities in Federal service. I urge all of us in the Federal family to do the same.

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