The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

First Year Fellows

First-Year Fellow Alumni Mentors are Instrumental to the Program

Since 2007, the Rockefeller Center has offered students and alumni a dynamic opportunity to engage with one another through a unique program called First-Year Fellows (FYF). FYF combines coursework, leadership programming, and mentorship.

Over the past decade, more than fifty-five alumni have hosted students at their organizations for the eight-week summer fellowship portion of the program. This connection provides these undergraduates with the opportunity to engage meaningfully in public policy early in their college careers with the additional support of an alumni mentor who is interested in their success. 

Ryan Spector ’19, who worked at the Congressional Research Service with Mary Beth Nikitin ’96 explains, “With Mary Beth as a mentor, it was very easy to expand my professional network, as well as my knowledge and confidence. The common experience of Dartmouth allowed us to bond quickly, as we always had something to discuss, and she was able to expand my professional network by directing me to alumni that she knew.” 

Class of 2020 First-Year Fellow: Andrew Xiang

Andrew Xiang '20 comes from San Antonio, Texas and graduated from Reagan High School as a National Merit Scholar. At Reagan, Andrew was the class president, captain of the debate team, and an all-state musician. Andrew was also an AAU basketball player, youth basketball coach, and officer with the Math Honor Society.

At Dartmouth, Andrew plans to pursue a double major in Government and Economics, with a minor in public policy. He is also a member of the Dartmouth Forensics Union and qualified for the National Debate Championship as a freshman.

As a First-Year Fellow, Andrew interned at the National Disability Institute under the mentorship of Director Michael Morris. He went to Capitol Hill for regular briefings on the status of healthcare legislation, partook in conference calls and policy meetings about advocacy strategy, and summarized the relevant points from these briefings, meetings, and other events into reports.

Welcome Class of 2021

Students who come to the Rockefeller Center find a home, mentors, and engaged peers.

The Rockefeller Center has a specially designed First-Year Fellows program for the Class of 2021 that begins by taking Public Policy 5 in the winter term of 2018. Public Policy 5 is the introductory course in the Public Policy minor, which allows students to customize their own interdisciplinary plan of study around an important public policy area that they define, such as health, education, the environment, leadership, law, poverty, or urban issues.

There are additional programs open to first-year students, such as Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors, Student Discussion Groups, and Peer Mentoring.

First-Year Fellow Mentor: Jennifer Chandler Hauge '82

The First-Year Fellows program is a unique opportunity for first-year students to engage meaningfully in public policy early in their Dartmouth careers. Each year, around 20 students are selected and placed in fellowships with Dartmouth alumni in Washington, D.C., who are willing to take on a significant mentoring role.

The Annual Student and Alumni Reception in Washington, D.C.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center hosted its annual Student and Alumni Reception in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, June 15, 2017. Each year the occasion provides an opportunity for the Center’s First-Year Fellows, newly arrived to the city and ready to embark on their 8-week summer internships, to meet and network with their Dartmouth Alumni mentors.

“The First-Year Fellows program is a great example of the partnership between the Rockefeller Center and Dartmouth alumni, who find many ways to contribute to the education of each successive cohort of Dartmouth students,” noted the Center’s Director, Professor Andrew Samwick, during his brief remarks at the reception.

This summer, 23 First-Year Fellows, all members of the Dartmouth Class of 2020, are serving fellowships in a diverse range of host organizations with a Dartmouth alumni mentor.

The Class of 2020 First-Year Fellows in D.C.

The Class of 2020 First-Year Fellows arrived in Washington, D.C. this week and are currently participating in the Civic Skills Training (CST) component of the program. The Fellows have already completed four on-campus training sessions during the spring term and will now spend an additional five days of training in Washington, D.C. before their fellowships begin on Monday.

The CST curriculum covers everything from public speaking, networking, and advocacy writing to project management, team work, and professionalism and is designed to prepare the students for a successful internship experience and beyond. The week includes classroom sessions facilitated by Deputy Director Sadhana Hall and Program Officer Sam Williamson, workshops hosted by area alumni, and excursions around the city to familiarize the students with Capitol Hill and the surrounding area.

Introducing the Class of 2020 First-Year Fellows

Since 2007, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center has offered first-year students and Dartmouth alumni a dynamic program called First-Year Fellows (FYF). This program provides first-year students the opportunity to engage in public policy early in their Dartmouth careers.

For students the program starts on campus during the fall and winter terms as potential participants are required to take PBPL 5: Introductory to Public Policy and a research methods course. They are also expected to participate in the Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors program. 

During the spring term, Fellows are selected through a competitive application and interview process and then matched with an alumni mentor and placement organization best suited to their academic and career interests.

Class of 2019 First-Year Fellow: Chris Rowan

Chris Rowan Kouekem ’19 is from New York City, NY and graduated from Democracy Prep Charter School as the highest achieving scholar for Math and Civics. While at Democracy Prep, Chris participated in student government for all four of her high school years. Chris is fluent in French and worked as a teacher intern helping to build a curriculum for high school and middle school teachers that improves the quality of linguistic and cultural education for bilingual students.

As a First-Year Fellow, Chris worked at the DC Prep Charter School under the mentorship of Deborah Hamner ’99. Her primary responsibility was assisting the summer school teachers in preparing for the parent-teacher conference that took place at the end of the summer. The task required a lot of communication with staff and parents. The role afforded Chris many opportunities to put into practice the tips on effective communication and professionalism she and the other Fellows learned during Civic Skills Training in the spring.  

Class of 2019 First-Year Fellow: Claire Rafson

Claire Rafson ’19 hails from Highland Park, Illinois, graduating from Highland Park High School.

Claire spent her First-Year Fellowship interning in the Chambers of Judge John Mott ’81 at the District of Columbia Superior Court. As a Judicial intern, she learned to prepare case briefs, benched memorandum, studied case law, and assisted the Law Clerk during a trial.

“Being able to watch some of DC’s best lawyers in their environment is something I will never forget,” says Claire. “Additionally, being able to ask Judge Mott questions along the way allowed me to understand the proceedings and really expand my knowledge beyond just reading and writing for other cases.”

Following her summer interning at the Superior Court, Claire spent the fall term off campus working as a Field Organizer for the Ohio Democratic Party.

At Dartmouth, Claire is studying History with a minor in Economics. She is a member of SHEBA Dance Troupe, an active participant in the Dartmouth Outing Club, and a student facilitator for the Dartmouth Leadership Attitudes and Behaviors program.

After graduating, Claire plans to attend law school.

Class of 2019 First-Year Fellow: Ryan Spector

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Ryan Spector ’19 graduated Glenbrook North High School and continues to serve as Glenbrook North Debate Team’s assistant coach.

As a First-Year Fellow, Ryan was placed at the Congressional Research Service with alumnae Mentor, Mary Beth Nikiti ’96 in the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division. During the 8-week experience, Ryan was tasked with research and analytic tasks and had the opportunity to work with multiple members of staff.  

His favorite element of the fellowship experience was living with the other students in the program. “Not only were they a support system, but it was incredible to share our experiences with each other,” says Ryan. “The sense of community we were able to construct—through group dinners, outings, and events—ranks as the single most rewarding component of First-Year Fellows.”  

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