Posted on March 23, 2023 by Amanda Cerreto

Junior Summer Institute attendees

Junior Summer Institute attendees

March 23, 2023 – Two undergraduate students in HCAP have been accepted into the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute.

This highly competitive program gives students access to graduate scholarships to study public policy. Margot Duque and Deniff Lara will attend the program this summer and study at the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Margot Duque
Margot Duque

The Junior Summer Institute is a rigorous program that was founded to address the lack of diversity across the spectrum of professional public service, including government, nonprofits, public policy institutions and international organizations. The JSI Fellowship prepares students to obtain a master’s or a joint degree in public policy, public administration, international affairs, or a related field.

Both students receive 100% tuition coverage and a stipend for meals and personal spending. The coursework includes economics, statistics, domestic and international policy issues and leadership topics under world-renowned faculty, all designed to sharpen students’ quantitative, analytic and communication skills. These skills are vital for admission into top public and international affairs graduate programs.

“I hope to learn how to use software like R, Excel and Tableau to do policy research and find solutions to policy problems,” Duque said. “I also hope to learn more about what a graduate degree in public policy would look like.”

After successful completion of the program, if admitted into schools within the PPIA Graduate Consortium, students are eligible for academic scholarships. In particular, Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College offers the opportunity to earn a full-tuition scholarship and additional stipend support for students interested in using data analytics to address societal problems along leading research centers. 

Deniff Lara
Deniff Lara

“I am thrilled to be offered the opportunity to expand my quantitative analysis skills without delaying my graduation," Lara said. “It will catalyze my ability to see power differences to one day aid in the dismantling complex systems of oppression within health, housing, welfare and so much more.”

In addition to coursework and skill-building, admission to the program comes with other benefits. Students are able to join the PPIA alumni group, participate in professional development workshops with government offices and federal agencies and gain insight into the daily life of public professionals. 

Post-graduation, Duque plans to join Teach for America before pursuing her master’s. “I hope to one day work for an education policy and advocacy organization like Raise Your Hand Texas or the Intercultural Development Research Association,” she said.

Lara is considering graduate school at UT Austin – though admittedly that was not in her initial plans. As a first-generation student, she could barely see herself finishing her undergraduate studies and never imagined pursuing an advanced degree. “This program has made graduate school a reality for me,” she said. “Gina Amatangelo’s mentorship is what really encouraged me to push myself and apply to everything, like PPIA,” she said.

Both students encourage their peers to find opportunities like this and go for it – no matter how far outside of their comfort zones it might be. “The Public Administration department was able to give me a lot of support in the application process through webinars and in-person meetups with UTSA alums of the program,” Duque said. “I highly encourage any students interested to apply.”

Lara echoes Duque’s sentiments. “Regardless of the outcome, I believe all students from any major can and should apply for this experience,” she said. “Some students never consider paths in public service because they are not sure how their own passions and skills correlate. Nonetheless, we would encourage them to be ambitious and apply!”

— Amanda Cerreto