Inaugural class of Arizona Junior Fellows reflects on their experience, road ahead

Founded in 2020, the Arizona Junior Fellows program is set to onboard its third class of Fellows in September. The Arizona Junior Fellows is the only statewide program dedicated to developing next-generation, civically-minded, pro-enterprise leaders through applied experience in public affairs, business writing, communications, research and analysis, and organizational management.

In addition to its direct collaboration with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Fellowship has cultivated a partnership with Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (ASU SCETL). This connection allows Fellows a window into higher education and its management, culminating in the planning of panel discussions on-campus in partnership with ASU SCETL.

Eileen Klein, former treasurer for the state of Arizona and president emerita of the Arizona Board of Regents, serves as program adviser. Joe Pitts, a student at Arizona State University studying Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (B.S.) and Business Management (B.S.), serves as the program’s inaugural director.

Now, the Fellowship’s inaugural class is looking back at the program and how it’s impacted their personal and professional trajectories.

Taylor Hersch

Taylor graduated from Arizona State University in December 2021 summa cum laude, after being a Fellow from September 2020 through May 2021. Today, Taylor is in her first year as a student at William & Mary Law School. She has been designated as a McGlothlin Leadership Scholar, which comes with a full tuition scholarship. She has plans to specialize in national security or international law and will graduate in 2025 with her JD.

“The Junior Fellows program prepared me to explore my own vocation, and seriously consider how best I can use my skills and interests to serve others, and ultimately the common good,” said Hersch. She was exposed to legal issues as a Fellow after the program hosted former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, former Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb, and former state land commissioner Maria Baier for an event covering Arizona’s initiative process.

Leading up to the panel, she co-authored “From Idea to Law: Arizona’s initiative process,” which provided elected officials, policymakers, and citizens a summary of the state constitution’s direct democracy provisions.

Diego Píña Sterling

Diego is a senior at Arizona State University, set to graduate in December of this year. After his time at the Fellowship, Diego went on to serve as an intern at the Arizona Manufacturers Council, working with leading manufacturers in the state and elected officials.

Now, he works on Juan Ciscomani’s U.S. congressional campaign, staffing the candidate and coordinating interns for voter outreach.

“The Fellows program allowed me to expand my interpersonal skills, and ultimately discover my passion: serving the community and those within it by delivering sound policy solutions,” said Píña Sterling.

The program exposed Píña Sterling to the impact sound policy and strong leadership can have on communities, and the necessity of becoming civically engaged from a young age. 

With a background in foreign policy and extensive multicultural knowledge, he aims to continue his career in D.C. working on the Hill, and continuing to pursue his passion for policy work.

Stephen Matter

Stephen is a senior at Arizona State University, set to graduate in May 2023. He just returned from Washington, D.C. where he spent his summer at the Hudson Institute, “[a t]hink tank and research center dedicated to nonpartisan analysis of US and international economic, security, and political issues.” He was awarded a fully funded fellowship with an 1.8% acceptance rate to study policy and political theory at Hudson. 

Stephen is now taking classes at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law as an undergrad, with plans to pursue a JD/PhD program after he graduates.

“Having the opportunity to interact with industry leaders and highly talented staff in a professional work environment has greatly prepared me for my future,” said Matter. “My study of complex policy topics shaped me towards a career in public service, and leadership.”

The most impactful element of the Fellowship for Stephen was the access Fellows had to top private- and public-sector leaders in the state. During his time as a Fellow, he had the opportunity to meet elected officials, including Gov. Doug Ducey and state House Speaker Rusty Bowers, as well as industry professionals, including Steve Trussell of the Arizona Rock Products Association and Monica Coury of Arizona Complete Health. 

The next generation

As the Fellowship enters its third year of existence, it plans to host more tha 30 private- and public-sector leaders for private one-hour discussions, participate in over 10 business and government site tours, and host 2-3 public events.

“This program is oriented towards forming next-generation leaders who will be prepared to meet this moment with clarity, competency, and civic leadership,” said Pitts. “There is no other program doing what we are doing, and that says something: not enough attention is being given to developing pro-enterprise, civically-minded leaders.”

There is no shortage of public policy internships, but the Fellows is a cut above, argue its leadership and its graduates. Most internships in this space consist of paper-pushing and Excel document formatting, said Jacob Salas, who was a member of the second class of Fellows, but “the Arizona Junior Fellows program trains you as a professional who can work in any industry.”

“It’s an interdisciplinary opportunity which I’m sure has future business executives, legislators, and even members of Congress among its graduates,” he said.

In his prepared address to the third class of Fellows, Pitts will emphasize the importance of their participation in the program: “You will go on to serve as civically-minded leaders in the public and private sectors; in law, in government, in industry, in the academy. You are the future of our state, our nation, and our world. With that vocation comes great responsibility.”
To keep up-to-date with the Fellowship, check out their website and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Robert Clarke

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