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Aiming High: A Pentagon Opportunity for an MPA-DC Fellow

News Type Public Address
Learn more about the Glenn College MPA-DC program.

Meet the Fellows 

This year’s 12 MPA-DC Fellows have placements at internships including the U.S. Agency for International Development, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Transit Administration. Other examples: 

Haley Foster, Partnership for Public Service 

Irene Lewis, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services, Office of Civil Rights 

Malaika Michel-Fuller, District of Columbia Department of Health 

See the Fellows and their Placements

By Joan Slattery Wall

When Matthew Fisher applied to the Glenn College of Public Affairs Master of Public Administration program in Washington, D.C., he had a request that he knew was a long shot: An internship at the Pentagon. 

He sought an opportunity to merge his interests in human resources, the military and what he calls “the public service bug.” 

A scholarship and Glenn College alumni connections delivered mission success: He landed a position at the Directorate of Military Force Management Policy at the U.S. Department of the Air Force. 

“I wanted to use the nine months in this program to figure out if active duty, reserves or something as a civilian would be the best fit for me,” he said. 


Just four months into his Pentagon internship, he had his answer: He’ll pursue a human resources career in active duty. 

“In all of the jobs I had during college and prior to college, what always interested me most about the position was the people element. If I could have some sort of impact that may either make someone’s day better or their life better, that’s what motivated me to get up and go to work,” he said. 

The Glenn College MPA-DC program allows its Fellows to complete specialized coursework in federal policy and management while gaining professional experience and growing their network in the nation's capital. After a year of studying in Columbus, year two is spent living, learning and working in Washington, D.C.  

At the Pentagon, Fisher helps to coordinate diversity and inclusion responsiveness within the Air Force, analyzes white papers for senior leadership to inform their decisions regarding policy, and serves as a liaison among his office, supporting offices and entities outside of the Pentagon, such as think tanks and other agencies. 

In the Glenn College MPA-DC program, Fisher (left in top photo), works at the Pentagon with his supervisor, Maj. Gen. Troy Dunn (right in top photo), who serves as director of military force management policy, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services for the U.S. Air Force.

His mentor in the program, Glenn College alumnus Jay Aronowitz, had a 34-year career working at the federal government — including the Pentagon — in positions including chief human capital officer for the Headquarters Department of the Army; deputy assistant secretary of the Army for force management, manpower and resources; and the Army’s acting deputy assistant secretary for diversity and leadership.  

Jay Aronowitz (left), a Glenn College alumnus retired from a human resources career at the Pentagon, makes a perfect match as a mentor for MPA-DC Fellow Matthew Fisher, who wants to pursue a human resources position in active duty with the military.

Aronowitz, now president and CEO of his consulting company, The JDA Group, guides Fisher with the experience he gained from his own career.  

“I was a civilian. Having gone into the Pentagon at his level — it’s literally drinking from the fire hose,” he said. “I told Matt the environment, the culture, the pressure gauge when I walked through those doors — it all went up. You could literally feel it.”  

Fisher’s conversations with Aronowitz reinforced the idea that, especially in his first couple months at the Pentagon, the more he listened, the more he learned. 

“There is a place for clarifying questions, that's fine,” Fisher said, “but really just learning through observation is probably how I’ve gained the most from the experience so far.” 

Fisher is this year’s recipient of the Charles R. Wise MPA-DC Scholarship, established by Charles Wise, Glenn College founding director and professor emeritus, for students pursuing a career in the federal government.  

“I am exceedingly pleased that Matthew Fisher was selected to receive the Wise Fellowship,” Wise said. “In all my interactions with him, he has proved to be a bright, hard-working, insightful and dedicated professional public servant. He has displayed all the leadership qualities that will carry him to a most successful career in federal service.” 

Wise said the next phase in the development of the Glenn College as a national leader in public affairs is to extend the reach of the faculty and students, not only from the Glenn College but from all of Ohio State's colleges, to the federal government.  

“The MPA-DC program is a critical lead component of that initiative. Some students require financial assistance to participate and be able to launch their careers in federal service. I am happy to be part of the effort to support them,” he said.  

“I can say hands down that every single thing I’m doing here in DC right now would be entirely impossible without that financial support, so I am incredibly grateful for that,” Fisher said.   

My position essentially was created from connections through the Ohio State alumni network, and the mini-immersive experience I’m having is really unparalleled. Just for a little bit of context: My direct supervisor is a two-star general.

Matt Fisher
MPA-DC Fellow

One of the things he’s realized from this program is the need to take a step back, slow down and take stock of the situation, the resources and the stakeholders before crafting a game plan that will lead to success. 

“What I appreciate about this program,” Fisher says, “is being able to look at something, whether minor or moderate, or even a wicked policy problem, and being able to detach myself from the research and academia and actually dive in as a leader and a manager to be able to solve those in practice.” 

“From my experience of starting off as supervisor, then a manager, and then a leader, what we’re all looking at are people with critical thinking skills,” Aronowitz said regarding guidance he’s provided to Fisher, whose prior jobs, particularly in local government as a recruiter, were more task oriented. 

“What I do for the Air Force is big-picture, strategic thinking: How does the problem and potential solution I’ve created fit into the broader puzzle of where the Air Force wants to go strategically as an organization, and how does this fit into what its mission and what its vision are?” Fisher said. 

Moving on in Federal Service  

The Presidential Management Fellows Program has accepted two of the current Glenn College MPA-DC Fellows: Sarah Pol, working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service, and Ethan Schwartz, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water. The Presidential Management Fellows Program is a two-year opportunity that provides leadership training and eligibility for appointment at a federal agency that could lead to a permanent or term position.

Over time, Aronowitz said, he can tell Fisher has become much more reflective of what he sees as a career in federal service.  

“At the end of day,” he said, “you do want to go work somewhere where you’re going to feel valued and you’re going to feel supported, and it’s got to be a good match between yourself and your employer.” 

Aronowitz has supported Glenn College programming in Washington, D.C., for nearly 10 years and received his master’s degree in public administration from the college.  

“I know that the Glenn program is looked upon as an incredibly meaningful program where all the graduates have options,” he said. “I imagine a lot will go back to work at the state or local level, but my goal is to really open up the aperture for considering the federal government for service.”