Six From UConn Named Presidential Management Fellows

The program is the federal government's flagship leadership development program for advanced degree holders across all academic disciplines

Aerial image of the University of Connecticut during Fall 2023.

(UConn Photo)

Six University of Connecticut graduates or current graduate/doctoral students have been named to the latest class of Presidential Management Fellows (PMF), which is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The program is the federal government’s flagship leadership development program for advanced degree holders across all academic disciplines. It was established 45 years ago and has gone through changes over the years, but the essential mission remains the same: to recruit and develop future government leaders from all segments of society. Alumni of the program occupy positions throughout the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, and serve as leaders in both corporate and nonprofit organizations.

Those chosen for the fellowship have 12 months to secure an appointment as a fellow, which is a two-year, full-time, paid fellowship at a federal agency.

Among the UConn recipients are:

Nickole Corella ’22 MS, who earned her master’s in accounting from UConn and then went to work as an auditor for a Fortune 500 company. She is now the finance manager for a start-up.

“Earning this fellowship is a reminder to me, and others, that it is never too late in life to go after what you want,” says Corella. “I have a non-traditional background with various degrees and careers – each of which has taught me something and enriched my life. I have prior experience in non-profit and local government work, and after years of working in varied corporate environments, I longed to get back to the non-profit and government world.

“While there was every chance I might not get the fellowship, the application process helped me realize how much I wanted to work in the federal government. I am very happy that I am now able to pursue my ambition through the PMF program.”

Benjamin North ’14 (CLAS), ’23 MBA, who is currently working as a research analyst in the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy.

Becoming a PMF awardee is deeply meaningful to me and something I never would have imagined before starting at UConn,” says North, a native of Woodbury. “After applying to the PMF program the previous year and not getting selected, applying again this year to become a finalist is extremely exciting and shows that persistence pays off. I hope this selection inspires other UConn students to apply to the program and further reinforces the fact that UConn graduates can compete against the very best talent across the country.”

Clarisa Rodrigues ’23 Ph.D, who earned her doctorate in educational psychology with a concentration in special education.

“My experience interning with the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in 2023 allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for the important and impactful work being done by the U.S. Department of Education,” says Rodrigues. “After this experience, I wanted to continue pursing government work opportunities and after learning about the potential for professional growth, mentorship, and networking through the PMF program, I was excited to apply. I am thrilled about the prospect of contributing meaningfully as a fellow within the PMF program while broadening my knowledge and expertise in federal work.”

Grace Vaziri, a sixth-year doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology, who will earn her degree this spring.

“Earning this fellowship is an exciting opportunity that opens doors to a career in the federal government,” says Vaziri. “It provides extra training in management, which is not something that is always available on a formal basis in the academic career trajectory. The process of earning this fellowship has opened my eyes to new opportunities and has piqued my interest in a federal government job.”

Elizabeth Zagata, a fourth-year doctoral student in educational psychology (special education), who will earn her degree this spring.

“As a former intern with OSEP at the Department of Education, I was able to see firsthand the impact of federal agency work, particularly for students with disabilities,” says Zagata, a native of Avon. “I was fortunate to work on a wide range of projects, and I was consistently impressed by the dedication of OSEP team members. I knew that I wanted to explore potential career opportunities in this area, and the PMF program is a unique opportunity to find leadership roles within the federal government.”