PPLC 2009 Participant Interview

This is a reminder that the application deadline for our PPLC program is rapidly approaching.  The deadline is Friday, November 16th.  The program is available to students in their freshman or sophomore year of college.  Full program details, along with additional interviews, can be found by clicking here. Diana Won participated in 2009 and graciously agreed to provide us with some information about herself and her PPLC experience.

Name:  Diana Won

Harvard PPLC Year: 2009

Undergraduate School:  Rutgers University

Personal History

Diana Won attended PPLC in 2009 when she was a sophomore at Rutgers University. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2011 with a major in Planning and Public Policy, receiving high honors, and minors in Spanish and Women’s & Gender Studies. While a student, she was most significantly involved in a student organization that raised awareness on human trafficking, research and internships on community development such as at the Initiative on Regional & Community Transformation, and the Institute for Women’s Leadership Scholar program.

Immediately following her graduation, Diana lived in Bucaramanga, Colombia, for one year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at the Universidad de Bucaramanga (UNAB). As an ETA in Bucaramanga, she served as a cultural ambassador with the goal of promoting mutual understanding among Colombians and Americans through everyday interaction. In addition, Diana ran a conversation club at her university, taught hundreds of students, wrote for Paréntesis, a Latin American news blog written in English, and volunteered at a farm for landmine victims. Since returning to the United States, Diana has been working as a paralegal at Sheldon Lobel, P.C., a boutique zoning and land use law firm in New York City. She is looking forward to applying to graduate school during this upcoming admissions cycle to pursue her interests in international urban policy.

What does PPLC mean to you?

Though it was just one weekend, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Public Policy and Leadership Conference was truly a springboard for the progression of my career and interest in public service. It was a short, but impactful weekend that exposed me to the opportunities available through the pursuit of a Master’s program in public policy. Furthermore, the opportunity to meet such a diverse, yet similarly passionate cohort of PPLC-ers was inspiring.

How did you find out about PPLC?

I learned about PPLC from a friend of mine who was also interested in the conference. My experience at PPLC evoked the passion and idealism of underrepresented populations within public service. And since attending the conference, I have shared my experience at PPLC with friends and networks to encourage others to apply. 

What was the most enjoyable part of your PPLC experience?

Being with people who were so engaged in their communities was the most enjoyable part of my PPLC experience. My cohort was comprised of people passionate about social justice from all over the country and different ethnic and religious backgrounds. As one of my first exposures to people equally as interested in public service as I was, PPLC was the beginnings of an on-going community of support. Our cohort is still very much in touch, and I have run into many PPLC-ers through programs like PPIA and Fulbright that engage and inspire people who have “passion to serve.”

In addition to the friends and community I gained, I was also exposed to the incredible resources, students, and opportunities available at the Harvard Kennedy School. I learned about the versatility of a public policy education and its application in many career paths. To come to a conference like PPLC as a second-year college student was truly formative. Everyone at PPLC came with a contagious energy and left with a clearer understanding of how to utilize that energy and passion into making a difference in the world.

What is the thing that surprised you most?

The thing that surprised me most about PPLC was the availability of students, professors, and deans at the Harvard Kennedy School. We attended classes, meetings with ambassadors and accomplished professors, and, most of all, events with current Harvard Kennedy School students. During our time in Cambridge, we were the center of attention amidst hundreds of Master’s candidates and former White House cabinet members, and it really demonstrated HKS’s commitment to diversity. Furthermore, it was extremely impressive that three students (who had previously attended PPLC) had organized the entire conference.

Before PPLC, did you have a solid idea of what public policy education is all about?

I had started my requirements as a Planning and Public Policy major, so I did have an idea of what a public policy education entailed before the conference. However, PPLC truly solidified my passion for policy and its possibilities. The workshops and lectures at PPLC demonstrated the opportunities available to someone with a public policy education. We were exposed to many facets of a policy education including the courses, students, and professors and we were able to take advantage of experiencing that setting for several days. I learned about the Master in Public Policy program and what I needed to do in order to work towards gaining a Master’s degree.

What sorts of things did you learn or experience that might have an impact on your immediate and long-term future?

After PPLC, I took advantage of many of the public policy opportunities we were exposed to at the conference – fellowships and scholarships, internships, and public policy programs throughout the country. PPLC led many of us to pursue a PPIA Fellowship, where we were reunited after our weekend at PPLC. Through the completion of a Junior Summer Institute at University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, I learned more about the rigor of graduate classes in public policy.

Most of all, PPLC informed me of all of the wonderful possibilities for careers in public policy, which has really sparked my commitment to gaining a Master’s degree in order to reach my long-term goals of affecting urban policy. And all of these sentiments were echoed in my peers who were equally as excited as I was about public policy and future career plans.

Tags: PPLC diversity