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Student Profile: Ashanta Douglas, MPA '18

June 20, 2017

Fels Public Leadership and Service Fellowships (PLAS) provide students with funding to pursue work at non-profit and government organizations that would otherwise be unpaid. Ashanta Douglas, MPA ’18, a former Teach for America volunteer, is interning this summer with Uncommon Schools through the support of PLAS. Fels student Meghan Pierce sat down with Ashanta to discuss her Fels experience.

What professional/academic work were you engaged in before you came to Fels?
Before attending Fels, I taught 9th grade students in Miami, FL with Teach for America. After serving in the classroom, I continued my work with students through City Year as a Program Manager and Impact Coach working to improve education for students in low-income communities.

Why did you choose Fels to pursue your MPA?
I chose Fels for the small cohort experience and the opportunity to build relationships with faculty and staff. Attending a large undergraduate university did not allow for me to truly connect and network in a significant way, and Fels has allowed me to have a different experience. I definitely made the right decision in choosing a Master’s program.

How do you seek to use your Fels degree post-graduation?
I hope to continue serving students in low-income areas by using my Fels degree to run an education-focused nonprofit.

How has Fels influenced your understanding of public service?
From my experience at Fels, I have learned to recognize the importance of context. Public service requires you to understand political context and climates in order to take action that will truly affect change. 

Fels PLAS has financially supported your unpaid internship. Please describe your internship role:
This summer, I am working with Uncommon Schools and the operations team at King's Elementary School in Brooklyn. I am responsible for assisting with their move to a permanent space and the expansion of their school to serve kindergarten and 1st grade. I will also be designing a school start-up playbook to be used for subsequent school launches. This role will also require me to research and design systems for daily operations, facilities, teacher professional development, technology, finance and talent management, which will allow teachers and administrators to focus on student learning.

What is the most challenging aspect of your internship?
There is a limited amount of time to get everything done for the next school year, so this project requires that I to jump in and learn quickly.

What is most interesting about the work you’re performing?
Working with such an organized and high-functioning school has allowed me to see what is possible when educating students in low income neighborhoods. More specifically, I am able to see what steps and skills are necessary to ensure that an organization runs smoothly and efficiently, and how to create a positive culture for students and staff.

How did PLAS assist you in securing the internship?
Funding for nonprofits and school districts are often limited, and having PLAS allowed me to explore all of my options without feeling limited to only paid opportunities. 

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu