By Kelley Cortright, Event & Communications Coordinator, Center for East Asian Studies
Despite her long fascination with the country, Elizabeth Bachman had never been to mainland China before last summer. Now, following intense studies of international relations and Chinese language and culture, Bachman has been selected as a finalist in the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program, which she hopes will give her valuable work experience in the U.S. government focusing on Chinese relations.
Bachman, currently an M.A. candidate at Stanford’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS), is expected to graduate this June, but is already doing job searches through the PMF program, which gives its finalists access to a special selection of jobs at participating federal agencies. Should she be hired for one of these jobs, Bachman would move to Washington, DC, to pursue a two-year government appointment supported by the program.
The PMF fellowship program, which is run by the Office of Personnel Management, was created over 30 years ago and focuses on developing leadership and public service skills to develop a cadre of governmental leaders. The program is especially desirable given that it provides salary and benefits during the employment period, and a chance to rotate agencies for further experience. Bachman is one of the program’s 6,040 applicants and 425 finalists for 2018. This year’s finalists represent 69 different disciplines and 161 academic institutions.
Bachman first learned about the PMF program in the fall of 2017 when she went to speak with Dorothy Ngutter, the current U.S. State Department’s Diplomat in Residence for the Northwest Region during one of her visits to Stanford.
By coincidence, CEAS recently hosted an event with alumna Rana Siu Inboden, who had been a PMF fellow before beginning her award-winning work at the U.S. State Department. Bachman spoke with Inboden at the event, and says “hearing about her experience with the program made me a lot more excited, because that helped launched her State Department career.”
Right now, Bachman’s thesis research focuses on how China interacts with the rest of the world, specifically interactions between China and the United Nations, and how the country’s values have changed overtime.
Being part of the CEAS program has given Bachman academic resources and experiences she never had before. “I came from a liberal arts background, so a lot of the people that I have interacted with in learning about China before did not have government experience; they were all strictly academics. And then coming here, being able to work with a lot of the folks at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies who have been in government has been really invaluable.”
Bachman notes that the classes she is able to take through CEAS have also given her unique tools for her future goals. “Faculty with government backgrounds want us to practice writing policy memos, which have a completely different writing style than an academic paper.” Instead of writing a 15 page research paper, Bachman says her teachers ask her to write three page policy memos. At first this may sound easier, but writing memos presents its own challenges, including fitting a large amount of information into a small space. “But that experience has been really helpful for me,” Bachman says.
Designated by the Department of Education as an East Asia National Resource Center, CEAS is able to provide Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for select students each year, of which Bachman is one. Using this FLAS funding, Bachman spent the summer of 2017 at the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. “I had been to Taiwan previously, but I think I was the only person at CEAS that hadn’t actually been to mainland China yet,” she notes. “So it was a really important and valuable opportunity. Also, my Chinese improved so much in that two month period of time.”
Now, Bachman is ready to build off these various experiences and put her CEAS training in Chinese and international relations to use for the American people through the PMF program. She is excited at the prospect of acquiring government experience and seeing if it’s a place she can work long-term.
Learn more about the PMF program.