fbpx Students intern for gubernatorial transition teams | Harvard Kennedy School

Gifts to the HKS Fund made it possible for 17 HKS students to intern for gubernatorial transition teams in seven states after the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. This new, student-led initiative, dubbed “Transition Term,” was spearheaded by Alison Dorsey MC/MPA 2019, Daniel Goetzel MC/MPA 2019, and Sam Birnbaum MPP 2020. In a strong show of student interest in making a difference at the state level, over 100 applications were submitted to the initiative.

“I am very grateful to all the alumni who made this opportunity possible through their gifts to the HKS Fund. Without this support, we would not have been able to run Transition Term.”

Kat Hemsing MPA 2020 | Wisconsin

The internships “began as an idea for a small experiment to see whether HKS students could get some valuable experience contributing to state governments,” says David Gergen, public service professor of public leadership. “Thanks to the work of Alison, Daniel, and Sam, it turned into a remarkable success praised by not only the students but also by seven governors across the country.”

During their internships, students researched policy, drafted executive orders, and supported department heads. Below, one intern describes, in her own words, her experiences and what drives her to serve the public.

Student Perspective | Kat Hemsing MPA 2020

La educación es la única cosa que no te pueden robar,” my mom lectured, recounting memories of Fidel Castro’s regime that seized everything our family had earned. She was right: Education is the only thing that cannot be stolen from me. Access to quality public schooling fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life. I am inspired by state and city government because the scale and scope of local investments play such a key role in improving people’s lives.

As the daughter of a nurse and a City of Miami firefighter, I always knew that my career would be spent serving others. As a former strategy consultant, I am committed to applying my experience in transforming organizations to revitalizing communities. But while I have advised clients that operate across sectors, I have never formally worked as a civil servant or campaign staffer. Transition Term was my first hands-on public service education.

I supported Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ transition team before joining the Department of Administration (DOA) as Secretary Joel Brennan’s shadow. It was fascinating to witness a new administration form and begin to execute its priorities against a backdrop of controversy from the previous administration’s lameduck legislation. That is to say that beyond my newfound understanding of governmental functions and interdependencies, the greatest lessons I took away were about leadership.

I kept a daily bullet journal throughout my time in the state capital, Madison, documenting observations and reflecting upon them. I learned that rigorous policy analysis, clear strategic communications, and detailed execution plans are as critical to producing positive outcomes in state agencies as they are in Fortune 100 companies. But during that first week on the ground, the most important thing is to build your team, build relationships, and acknowledge what you don’t know. I accompanied Secretary Brennan as he toured the department. Each agency is made up of thousands of dedicated civil servants with the expertise to keep things running smoothly. We met such compassionate individuals and cannot underscore their impact enough.

I am very grateful to all the alumni who made this opportunity possible through their gifts to the HKS Fund. Without this support, we would not have been able to run Transition Term.