Alum Spotlight: Presidential Management Fellow Reflects on Transition to the Public Sector

by |May 1, 2019
Stephanie Hunsucker

Stephanie Hunsucker is currently a Presidential Management Fellow at the International Trade Administration.

By Shagorika Ghosh

Stephanie Hunsucker (SIPA, Class of 2018) is currently a Presidential Management Fellow working at the Department of Commerce in Washington, DC. Stephanie works in the Petition Counseling and Analysis Unit of the International Trade Administration as an international trade specialist, where she helps address fair trade challenges faced by domestic industries within the United States.

Stephanie is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she completed her degree in international trade and marketing, before coming to Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs for the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) program.

MPA-ESP intern Shagorika Ghosh talks to Stephanie to learn more about her time at SIPA and her work as a fellow.

Could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got interested in sustainability?

I was studying international trade at the Fashion Institute of Technology when I got interested in corporate social responsibility and the supply chain in the apparel industry, and then this led to a broader interest in sustainability. Having always been focused on marketing in the private sector, I wanted to make a shift to researching the public sector, and coming to SIPA and the MPA-ESP program facilitated that shift.

What specifically motivated you to choose the MPA-ESP program at Columbia University? What were some of your favorite classes?

I was interested in the MPA-ESP program at SIPA because I was invested in its half technical, half policy-oriented approach in the curriculum. I think that the ability to understand and be comfortable with technical terms and also be able to use them in a policy context is very important, especially when aiming to be a well-rounded professional. I also found that the staff was incredibly talented and warm — something that I found to be essential when looking for a graduate program

Stephanie Hunsucker, MPA-ESP Class of 2018

I really enjoyed my time in the ESP program with my cohort. The portion of the program I benefited from the most was the workshop class. Coming right out of undergrad, it was a great experience and the most applicable to my life after SIPA. It also was an opportunity to do group work with mentors, which gave me the opportunity to work closely with people from diverse backgrounds, while receiving constructive feedback.

I also found one of electives available to me as an ESP student through the SUMA program, ‘Energy and Sustainable Development’, taught by Professor Philip LaRocco, extremely interesting and useful. It was a project management class with both SIPA and Sustainability Management students, so a wide variety of interests were represented. The professor maintained a good balance between covering the syllabus and contextualizing the course content to the students’ interests.

What was your experience with transitioning into the Presidential Management Fellowship?

I applied for a few opportunities — the Presidential Management Fellowship being key among them. After being selected as a finalist for the Fellowship, I applied to a few agencies to work at — the US Forest Service, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Department of Commerce, among others. After interviews from March onwards, I accepted an offer from the International Trade Administration (ITA) at the end of summer. The security clearance came in the fall, and then we had the government shutdown. I have been working at the ITA only a few months, and my focus is on fair trade.

What is your work as a fellow like? How did your time at SIPA prepare you for your fellowship?

I work within the ITA’s Enforcement and Compliance business unit where my day-to-day is focused on initiating anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations. The domestic industries can come to the ITA if they would like to petition the U.S. government to investigate a foreign country’s trade practices, and we help them navigate the petition process. We also conduct research for potential anti-dumping or countervailing duty cases to be self-initiated by commerce.

The MPA-ESP program really helped put me in a position to succeed in my current role. I am a quantitative, policy-focused person and I was looking for an opportunity to strengthen my research and analysis skillsets. The MPA-ESP program was quite an academic adventure — in the summer you learn and absorb a lot of technical information, followed by learning how to apply that information in the Fall and Spring semesters. My current role is multidisciplinary and requires a lot of critical thinking, and the ESP program helped me prepare for that.

What would your advice be for current and prospective students of the program be?

I would tell them not to stress too much, and to have fun. If you put the work in, everything will fall into place. The MPA-ESP program goes by very quickly, so definitely make time to be a New Yorker and build bonds with your classmates. The friendships you make are very valuable, and they make those hours spent in the library a warm memory. Everyone who comes to SIPA has a common mission, and that’s what makes your bond really strong.


Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute.

Since it began in 2002, the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program has given students the hands-on experience and analytical and decision-making tools to implement effective environmental and sustainable management policies. The program’s some 800 alumni have advanced to jobs in domestic and international environmental policy, working in government, private and non-profit sectors. Their work involves issues of sustainability, resource use and global change, in fields focused on air, water, climate, energy efficiency, food, agriculture, transportation and waste management. They work as consultants, advisers, project managers, program directors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers and environmental scientists and engineers.

Follow the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy on social media: FacebookInstagramTwitterRegister here for upcoming information sessions and events or join our mailing list for updates.

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