Carnegie Mellon University

Friedman Fellows gather for a roundtable discussion with Cynthia Friedman and her son Gordon

September 08, 2023

A Seat at the Table: Friedman Fellows Engage in Roundtable Discussion with the Friedman Family

By Lindsay Marcellus, Jess Regan

Lindsay Marcellus
  • Communications Specialist

For over twenty years, the Friedman Fellowships have helped Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) students gain firsthand, policy-related experience in Washington, DC. Fueled by her own career experience in politics in DC, Cynthia Friedman, a trustee emerita, established the Milton and Cynthia Friedman Fellowship in memory of her husband, an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon. The fellowships encourage undergraduate and graduate students at CMU to experience DC both as a student and a burgeoning professional and have enabled more than 300 students to engage in the DC experience since its inception in 2000. 

The Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP), sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Strategy & Technology (CMIST) provides students from any department at CMU the opportunity to live, intern, and study in the nation's capital. Students gain real-world experience through internships in any sector or field of interest within Washington, DC, while taking classes taught by Carnegie Mellon faculty. 

As a kick-off to the fall semester, on August 26, 2023, Cynthia Friedman and her son Gordon invited former Friedman Fellows to a roundtable discussion to share firsthand accounts of their DC experience.  Eight students were available to participate in the dialogue, including Steven Aceti, Eli Achtzehn, Keilani Barba, Ava Folloni, Lauren Harpole, Victoria Jung, Sophia Levin, and Ashley Onuigbo. 

The event was hosted by Richard Scheines, Dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. CMIST Director Audrey Kurth Cronin gave the opening remarks, during which she discussed the recent transformation of the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) into CMIST, the new initiatives of the institute, and the notable focus of CMIST in Washington, DC. Students were then invited to share their personal experiences directly with Cynthia and Gordon Friedman. 

Students opened up about their internship assignments, which ranged from the Executive Office of the President to the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as their classroom and cohort experiences. For example, Master of Science in International Relations and Politics student Lauren Harpole completed an internship this summer with the Office of the Principal Cyber Advisor (PCA) to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon. Her hands-on experience with Army cyber policy and capabilities has carried over into her coursework this semester, especially CMIST assistant professor Justin Canfil’s new course on emerging technology and the law. “Many of the challenges addressed in the course are issues the PCA had to overcome during my internship. That knowledge has been extremely valuable to share with peers and has aided my understanding of just how far behind policy has fallen in regulating these emerging technologies,” Harpole explained.

In addition to the knowledge they gain, students also expressed appreciation for the connections made during their internships. Ashley Onuigbo, a junior majoring in business administration with a minor in politics and public policy, shared, "After my internship, I was lucky to stay in contact with the Chief of Staff's Assistant who allowed me to send over my resume for consideration for possible positions in the future. I am very fortunate for the Friedman Fellowship Scholarship that allowed me to attend the CMU/WSP comfortably. The entire program led me to a great internship experience that I hope I can leverage in the future."

This informal event also allowed students to connect personally with their benefactor, providing valuable feedback and the opportunity to express their appreciation for the fellowship in person. “My favorite part of the Friedman Fellow roundtable was feeling supported in my professional and personal aspirations by Mrs. Friedman and her family,” said Keilani Barba, who is majoring in both international relations and political science and professional writing. Last fall, Barba completed an internship in the Executive Office of the President through the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP).

Although the CMU/WSP is roughly the same cost as a typical semester at our Pittsburgh campus, the fall and spring Friedman Fellowships help offset peripheral costs associated with living and working in DC. Furthermore, being a Friedman Fellow provides students in the program access to networking opportunities and leadership events around the nation’s capital. The summer awards enable high-achieving students who may not be able to participate in the CMU/WSP, including CMU graduate students, to nonetheless benefit from the experience of interning in Washington, DC. Whether students complete their internships during the summer or during the academic year, the fellowship is designed to foster significant work experiences that complement students’ academic work and assist them as they make career and graduate education decisions. 

Applications for CMU/WSP Spring 2024 are open now through October 1, 2023. Students are accepted on a rolling basis to allow time for internship placement- so we encourage those interested to start the process early. For a deeper dive into the program, students are invited to register for a virtual information session on September 13, or to reach out to Ashley Barnes, Washington Program Manager directly.

Students who would like more information about the Friedman Fellowship during the Fall or Spring semesters should contact Emily Half, CMIST Deputy Director, while students looking for more information about the summer fellowships should contact Mark Gardner, CMIST Graduate Program Manager.

news-2023-sept-seat-at-the-table-embed-in-article.png(L to R: Sophia Levin, Steven Aceti, Gordon Friedman, Lauren Harpole, Cynthia Friedman, Ashley Onuigbo, Victoria Jung, Keilani Barba, Eli Achtzehn, Ava Folloni)