An Alumna's Road to the White House: Special Assistant to the Director of the White House Fellows Program

An Alumna's Road to the White House: Special Assistant to the Director of the White House Fellows Program

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Maha Neouchy
March 15, 2013

Fatimeh's TWC Experience

 

TWC was excited to welcome back Fatimeh Shamseddine, a TWC alumna who received one of the first Center for Global Understanding scholarship awards in 2009. The Center for Global Understanding is a civic and educational non-profit designed to bring people together by building a bridge between different cultures and religions. The scholarship fund was established to provide access and opportunity to young Muslim professionals, which is directly related to TWC´s mission to provide excellent experiential education opportunities to students regardless of background or economic status.

 

Fatimeh is now the Special Assistant to the Director of the White House Fellows program and she recently moderated a White House Fellows panel for more than 400 TWC spring participants on March 4, 2013. At the start of the event, Fatimeh discussed her time at TWC. It was during her internship at a legal firm in Maryland when she realized that she no longer wanted to pursue a career in law, changing her major from pre-law to business. This switch in career paths eventually led her through a series of life-changing experiences including a fellowship at the Shinnyo-en Foundation, an internship at the White House and a Masters degree in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University. In her current position, she manages the White House Fellowships recruitment and outreach efforts, leading the development of innovative marketing and recruitment strategies. Before introducing the panelists, she left TWC's spring 2013 students with these words of wisdom: "pay attention to everything, let everything soak in and take advantage of your experiences."

 

After moderating the panel, Fatimeh sat down with TWC to discuss her internship experience as one of TWC’s first Center for Global Understanding scholarship recipients, what it's like to work in the federal government and why she became more civically engaged in her community.

 

Interview

 

TWC: What did your TWC experience mean in terms of your career and professional development?

 

Fatimeh: My TWC experience was life-changing because I came to Washington, D.C. thinking I wanted to go to law school. I was all about the legal field. I was fortunate enough to have an internship that I actually wanted, a placement with the public defenders office in Montgomery County, Maryland. I worked with one of the top attorneys there and he exposed me to anything and everything you can think of. I visited crime scenes, went to court, listened to hearings and helped with discoveries. During that time, I spoke to about 30 other attorneys and had the opportunity to talk to and develop mentorships with most of them. It was after these experiences when I came to the conclusion that I did not want to go to law school or enter the legal field. The TWC experience was amazing because I figured all of this out. It was also important because it allowed me to plan my next steps. Eventually I came back to D.C. and completed my Masters in International Commerce and Policy at George Mason University. I then completed an internship with The White House and was later hired.

 

TWC: How did receiving TWC’s Center for Global Understanding scholarship help shape your career?

 

Fatimeh: One of the most impactful parts of the entire program was the opportunity to meet Munir Moon, who is the founder of the Center for Global Understanding. He was very consistent and persistent in sending a message: that more Muslim Americans need to be engaged and proactive. As a minority group, it is mandatory if you want to witness change. Listening to him in combination with the fantastic speakers like Islam Siddiqui, Ambassador of United States Trade Representative (USTR), and Kalsoom Lakhani, Founder and CEO of invest2innovate, helped drive this message home for me.

 

TWC: What do you see as your biggest accomplishment?

 

Fatimeh: Great question. I'm never satisfied with where I am and I'm always pushing for more. One of my biggest accomplishments was getting the internship at the White House because it is very competitive and I always had my sights set on it. I remember being asked by friends about my future plans. When I told them that I wanted to pursue an internship with the White House, they always responded with laughter. I understood that it was far-fetched, but I believed that I was capable. Once I was offered the position, it didn’t really surprise my family or even me because when you're really passionate and give 100%, you're capable of anything.

 

TWC: Do you have any advice for the next generation of TWC students or the next cohort of CFGU scholarship recipients?

 

Fatimeh: My one piece of advice is to always enjoy the journey.

 

Here is an example: Some people see resume building as a charm bracelet. They become preoccupied with adding to their resume or "collecting charms". But as you gain new skills, jobs and internships, you shouldn't just check them off your list and forget about them. What you accomplish should be about the journey and the experiences. The journey is the most important piece of life.

 

[View photos of the White House Fellows SMLS on our Flickr channel]

[Read about the White House Fellows SMLS on our TWC NOW channel]

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