News and Events
Mastering Public Policy
GSBM alumnus David Rodriguez
By Jovie Baclayon
As the old saying goes, the best way to learn about something is by doing. That’s exactly what alumnus David Rodriguez believed when he decided to pursue a career in politics and government. Rodriguez is one of eighteen Senate Fellows, a graduate level education program in the California state government sponsored by the Center for California Studies, the Office of the Governor and California State University, Sacramento. For eleven months, 64 college graduates are placed in four fellowship programs (executive, judicial, senate and assembly) to learn about and contribute to the development and implementation of public policy.
“These programs offer an excellent opportunity for recent graduates to learn firsthand about the inner workings of government and can lead to tremendous opportunities in the future,” says Rodriguez who works in the office of Senator Richard Alarcón and handles legislation related to education, energy, telecommunications and water. He is quick to point out that Pepperdine alumna Kimberly Yee, who was an Executive Fellow in 1996-1997, now works as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deputy cabinet secretary for Education and Consumer Affairs. Yee graduated from Seaver College in 1996.
Each program accepts 18 fellows except for the judicial program, which accepts only 10. Fellows earn graduate school credit, work full-time in high levels of state government, and receive health benefits and a $1,972 monthly stipend to cover their living expenses.
Rodriguez finds himself in excellent company in Sacramento. “In this year's class of fellows, there are six Pepperdine alumni, including myself,” he says. “That means that almost 10 percent of all fellows this year is from Pepperdine: two fellows in the Senate, two in the Assembly, one in the Judicial, and one in the Executive.”
Four of the six alumni are graduates of Seaver College: Andrew Hoag (B ‘04), Kyle Packham (B ‘04), David Raimer (B ‘04) and Louis Dezseran (B ‘02). Lance Christensen graduated from Pepperdine’s Masters of Public Policy program in 2004, and Rodriguez earned his bachelor's degree through the evening program at the Graziadio School of Business and Management in 2003. “Our involvement in these prestigious fellowship programs speaks volumes about the value of a Pepperdine degree,” he adds.
The Capital Fellows Program is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree regardless of major, although the majority of participants were political science majors. Rodriguez, who is 27, says that while some participants come straight from their undergraduate studies, others, like himself, join the program after working for a few years or obtaining a higher degree. One current fellow is even completing his PhD dissertation. “They try to accept a mix of mid-career professionals over the age of 25,” he says.
They search for candidates with academic success, community involvement, public service, and an interest in policy or politics. Many were members of their school’s College Democrats or Republicans club, volunteered on a political campaign or interned in Washington, D.C. Applications are due in February and consist of a personal statement, an essay responding to a question about policy, college transcripts and at least two original letters of recommendation.
Rodriguez cites the training, experiences and networking opportunities as some of the biggest benefits of the Capital Fellows Program. But he says the real meaning comes in a fellow’s ability to help draft good policies. “It’s great if you have an area you are passionate about. Mine happens to be education and right now I’m working on some education policy that I think is wonderful,” he says. “To have the opportunity to be in the position to shape that policy and feel as though you had some impact on it, is an amazing accomplishment. You walk away feeling like you did something good that could help thousands if not millions in California.”
To learn more about the Capital Fellows Program, please visit http://www.csus.edu/calst/Programs/.