Career preparedness listed among top attributes of PPIA fellowship

When Reynaldo Goicochea ’13 and Ellie Calixtro ’13 were accepted into the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program this summer, they were excited to hear about the graduate school application process and public policies.

After completing the seven-week program, though, Goicochea and Calixtro say they learned far more than they expected.

“PPIA has been the most academically challenging experience I’ve had thus far,” says Calixtro, a politics and American Ethnic Studies major. “Although the classes were rigorous and at times the program was exhausting, I was empowered by the support I received from my peers, the instructors and the program coordinators.”

Calixtro and Goicochea were chosen from a national pool of applicants to be part of the program. Calixtro studied at the University of California, Berkeley, while Goicochea — a Spanish and rhetoric and media studies major — studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“It was an unforgettable and amazingly empowering experience,” says Goicochea, who intends to pursue his masters in public policy. “I knew I had the passion to enter public policy, but PPIA was the test I needed to see if I had the capacity to succeed.”

In Michigan, Goicochea took graduate-level economics, statistics and health and international policy courses. He met with school recruiters and learned how to distinguish himself when applying for graduate school.

Calixtro learned similar skills, adding that she appreciated the insight on how to study for the Graduate Record Exam and secure financial aid to continue her education.

“I learned the importance of understanding public policy and the skills that I will need to succeed in the policy world,” says Calixtro, a Gates Millennium Scholar. “The things I learned at PPIA made me grow at an academic, professional and personal level.”

At Willamette, Calixtro founded the WU CAUSA chapter and has been involved in other immigrant rights groups — including PCUN Farmworker’s Union and the VOZ Hispana Political Action Committee. She is also president of the Associated Students of Willamette University.

Goicochea is an intern with the Office of the Governor and works in the Citizens’ Representative Office, where he is the only person able to handle constituent concerns in Spanish. He is also president of the Newman Club, Willamette’s Catholic ministry, and has mentored a Salem primary student for more than three years.

If students are interested in careers in public service, Goicochea says the PPIA program would offer invaluable support. 

“There is absolutely nothing to lose and so much to gain!” he says. “You’ll leave PPIA with more confidence and direction, and you gain an incredible social network of PPIA alums who are hard at work all over the country.”

For more information on the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program and other scholarships, see the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards.