Twenty-two-year-old Renaldine Lafleche has started her dream fellowship.
Lafleche is a Haitian American student who graduated with her bachelor’s in public policy and social service professions from FIU this summer and is currrently pursuing her Master of Public Administration degree at the Green School of International & Public Affairs.
But before she finishes her graduate studies, she headed to Washington, D.C., to work as a fellow in the office of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents the 24th district of Florida. She previously interned at the Miami Dade County mayor’s office.
Back on campus, however, she serves as the president of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) South Florida student chapter, a role that has her catering to the needs of fellow Panthers.
“I help students learn more about their major, in public service,and get connected to different agencies and to different people that can help lift and mentor them in their academic and career field,” she says.
Heading to Washington provides an opportunity to fulfill her ambition of working in the nation's capital. And FIU has helped her along the way.
“My goal has always been to work in D.C.,” says Lafleche. “Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to work in D.C. or in the federal government. So, this is just one step closer to achieving my goals, and then working for Congresswoman Frederica Wilson is just learning from the best.”
Earlier this year, Lafleche participated in a student fly-in sponsored by FIU in DC, a multiday seminar focused on sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The experience inspired her to apply for the congressional fellowship.
“I think that's when I fully knew that I was meant to be here. There were a lot of different agencies that we were able to go to, from think tanks to the State Department," Lafleche says of the exposure she received. "Just learning, to see the distinct roles everybody plays and how interconnected everything is, I wanted to be part of that.”
At the Green School, Lafleche has found a strong network.
“I've had great mentors who continue to provide support to me in all my decisions, from internships to this fellowship. They have been amazing and so supportive. It's great how much support and encouragement the Green School provides,” she says.
Assistant teaching professor of public policy and administration Nicki Fraser has guided Lafleche along the way.
“I am beyond proud of Renaldine,” says Fraser, who taught Lafleche as an undergradaute and quickly recognized the qualities of an "energetic student leader" whose "strong work ethic and good writing and analytical skills" made her an ideal candidate for the combined bachelor's-master's in public administration. The program allows students to earn both degrees in a shorter time than typically required.
The FIU-Congresswoman Wilson Graduate Fellowship that Lafleche was awarded is made possible by FIU’s partner Pay Our Interns and with support and mentorship provided by FIU in DC, The Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy and the Maurice A. Ferré Institute for Civic Leadership.
Lafleche is one of 25 FIU students with internships or fellowship in D.C. this fall. Fifteen of those are studying in the Green School. Seven, like Lafleche, are working in Congress, four at federal agencies (including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the General Accountability Office), and one at the White House.
"This is proof positive that FIU students, regardless of their discipline, are eager to work for critically important organizations in Congress and federal agencies,” said Carlos Becerra, associate vice president of governmental relations, who leads the FIU in DC program and venue.
“They're our best ambassadors. They're proof that our talent is ready for all the world's challenges in Washington, D.C., for sure."