As a “San Francisco Fellow,” a one-year immersive fellowship program with the City and County of San Francisco, I was placed at San Francisco Public Library's (SFPL) Finance and Facilities divisions. During my tenure, I worked on several projects including the development of the Library's inaugural capital planning process and the community outreach process for the twenty-million-dollar renovation of a branch library. My most meaningful experience through the fellowship was collaborating with a local law school to lay the foundation for an external hearing process that allows suspended library patrons to appeal their suspensions to a party not affiliated with the Library and helps preserve due process for individuals who depend on SFPL services.
On a personal note, throughout my experience with San Francisco's local government, I felt the visceral effects of extreme inequality. On my daily commutes into work, I saw individuals experiencing homelessness and dual-diagnoses of mental health illness and addiction sharing the same spaces as, yet being completely invisible to, young tech workers sipping five dollar drips strolling towards comfortable bubbles in San Francisco's affluent tech-center. While the palpable inequality oftentimes seemed insurmountable, the tireless work of public servants tackling decades of wanton policy and its ramifications inspired me to continue my education and enter the sphere of law. After the Fellowship, I plan on completing law school applications and volunteering in local midterm campaigns in the Lehigh Valley (because as a friend persistently reminds me on social media: #MidtermsMatter).
Throughout my Lehigh experience, in both my undergraduate and graduate classes, I was challenged by professors to think holistically about policy issues and theories. Recognizing that policies and ideologies do not manifest themselves in vacuums but rather in the intersections of history, society, culture, and a myriad of other factors, allowed me to develop a lens of intersectionality. This lens has helped me professionally by recognizing the need for including diverse voices at the decision-making table while stressing the need for coalition-building and compromise. Personally, this lens has challenged my own prejudices by encouraging me to deeply understand different opinions before passing judgment. My Lehigh degrees also contributed to more technical, "hard skills" through the development of critical reading and writing skills in theory-heavy classes as well as quantitative analysis skills in methodology classes.