White House Fellows Program Hosts Panel during First SMLS of Spring 2013

White House Fellows Program Hosts Panel during First SMLS of Spring 2013

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Maha Neouchy
March 04, 2013

For the first time, TWC hosted a special SMLS on the White House Fellows program. The event featured a panel of three White House Fellows moderated by Fatimeh Shamseddine, TWC alumna ('09) of the Center for Global Understanding (CFGU) program and Special Assistant to the Director for the White House Fellowship Program. The panelists all belonged to the current 2012-2013 cohort of White House Fellows, representing backgrounds and fields in military, science and law.


The panelists included:


  1. Candice Jones
  2. Amen Ra Mashariki
  3. Major Ariel Grace Batungbacal, USAF

Candice Jones comes from a law background with a focus in public interest. Prior to her current fellowship with the U.S. Department of Education, Candice held positions such as:


She received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science and African & African-American Studies from Washington University and her J.D. from New York University School of Law. Now she brings her background and expertise to the U.S. Department of Education, sharing with TWC spring interns that this unique opportunity provides her with the chance "to be part of cross-cultural disciplines."


Amen Ra Mashariki comes from a background in science. It was during his post-doctorate degree at the University of Chicago where he first learned about the White House Fellowship. He found out that Thomas Fisher, an emergency medicine specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, had been selected as a White House Fellow for the 2010-2011 program. This inspired Amen Ra to apply for the program himself and thought he would be a competitive applicant with his extensive lab-based background. Prior to his position as a White House Fellow, Amen Ra held positions such as:


He earned his bachelor's degree in computer science from Lincoln University, his Master's degree in computer science from Howard University and his doctorate degree from Morgan State University. At his placement with the Office of Personnel Management, he brings his research and academic background to the highest levels of the federal government.


Maj. Ariel Grace Batungbacal comes from a long background in military service. Growing up, she never pictured herself in the military. In fact, she aspired to be a dancer and struggled to choose between two majors: dancing and political science. After being admitted to the University of Maryland, College Park, Ariel decided to double major in Political Science and Chinese, where she participated in exciting opportunities like a study abroad program in Beijing. When she was asked to consider a career in the military, Ariel laughed at recruiters and often provided them with the contact information of friends. But after serious conversations with her parents and one special recruiter, she realized that "you're rarely going to have 100% of the answers or facts," and the only thing that was standing in her way was the "fear" of what could potentially happen if she was deployed. After making the tough decision to pursue a life of military service, Ariel is now a major in the U.S. Air Force. Prior to being selected as a White House Fellow, she also held positions such as:


  • Joint Staff J2/Director of Intelligence's Deputy Executive Assistant
  • Branch Chief for Middle East Strategy

Ariel received an Executive Master's in Leadership from Georgetown University, a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Norwich University and Bachelors degrees in Chinese and Government/Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park. At her current fellowship with the U.S. Department of Labor, she appreciates being outside of her comfort zone and feels tested professionally every day.


After sharing their inspirational careers and roads to the White House, the panelists answered questions from TWC's spring 2013 interns. James Lanier, Law and Criminal Justice intern and student at Stonehill Colllege, asked the panel about how much communities around the U.S. affect justice and on-the-ground issues such as gun violence. Candice responded that it's all about "the way you interpret community efforts, particularly around justice. The real challenge is about being able to work at the policy level. Unfortunately, there are points where friction and traction haven't made an impact. Gun violence is one of those issues."


Victoria Gosnell, International Affairs intern and student at The University of Alabama-Birmingham, was startled by how American-centric policy-making is in the U.S., something she is not used to in her native country of Canada. She asked the panel how they approach policy-making, both at regional and international levels. Ariel responded that through her personal experience, she looked through both an international and domestic lens in regards to developing policy, whereas those who specialize in the military don't necessarily focus on the policy-making process. Candice shared that while the panelists are in fact White House Fellows, they are not representative of all the fields within their cohort. There are "White House Fellows who have been placed at the State Department previously. We three don't reflect that but we aren't a reflection of the entire program."


Miriam Muller, Political Leadership intern and student at the University of Saskatchewan, asked an intriguing question during the SMLS: "Did you ever find yourself thrown in the line of fire where your personal beliefs didn’t align with what you were asked to do professionally?" Amen Ra felt that during his time in the corporate world at Motorola, "profit becomes the guiding motivation of people where sometimes employees will put in less and take out more." The way he handled this dilemma was by transferring departments. For Candice, "there never seems to be a clear black or white." She believes that every case should go to trial, but that belief doesn't necessarily align with how the justice system works or what actually ends up happening.


The panelists provided wonderful insight into opportunities like a White House Fellowship and the type of work you can do within fields such as law, science and the military. TWC would like to thank them for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with our spring 2013 interns and answer questions about the competitive program.


[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

[Read more about the Center for Global Understanding]

[Read more about the White House Fellows Program]

[Read full biographies of the White House Fellows]

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