IUP Cook Honors College Alumna, Jennifer Swartz, Begins Her Career in the Executive Office of the United States President

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2007 IUP Cook Honors College graduate retained as a procurement program specialist in the Office of Management and Budget Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

CHC helped me by teaching me to question everything,” she said. “Part of my success in graduate school and with internships is reading through something or listening to someone and knowing which parts need to be thoroughly analyzed.

A 2007 alumna of the Cook Honors College (CHC) of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) has been retained as a procurement program specialist in the Office of Management and Budget Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

Jennifer Swartz, a native of Milton, PA, completed graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh in December prior to starting her career in the Executive Office of the United States President.

“It's a career position working on all policy surrounding executive branch agencies' government contracting, which accounted for over $500 billion of government spending for fiscal year 2008,” said Swartz. “I never thought I’d end up working in government contracting or for the White House.”

She earned dual IUP degrees in Economics/Mathematics and Political Science and minored in Applied Statistics and then pursued dual degrees from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business. She now holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a major in Operations Management and a Master of International Development (MID) with a major in Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society.

She became interested in NGOs while studying abroad where she witnessed such devastating poverty that she decided to study economic development.

Cook Honors College encouraged me to study abroad, so I spent the May 2004 – 05 calendar year immersing myself in the Spanish culture and language. While I was there, I took a weekend trip to Morocco, and seeing the poverty made me realize that I wanted to study economic development and help people lift themselves out of poverty. Completing a six-week study abroad to Ghana from June-July 2006, solidified my career path aspirations.”

After researching the job market, she learned that she needed ten years of experience or a master’s degree to work in international development.

“I considered doing a Ph.D. in Economics, which is part of why I completed the Economics/Mathematics degree. I got accepted and offered a full-scholarship to GSPIA, and when I visited, I found it as a very practitioner-oriented program that taught grassroots development skills. That was exactly what I wanted, so I enrolled, and in my first semester, I decided that if I really wanted to help people start businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, I needed to be able to speak the languages of both the non-profit and the for-profit world. I applied to the University of Pittsburgh’s business school and enrolled in the joint degree.”

While at IUP, Swartz honed her analyzing skills, which have been vital in her success.

CHC helped me by teaching me to question everything,” she said. “Part of my success in graduate school and with internships is reading through something or listening to someone and knowing which parts need to be thoroughly analyzed.

“Cook Honors College also helped me gain confidence in myself. The first few weeks were intimidating for me in that I was working with very highly skilled peers, but it taught me to appreciate different skills being brought to the table. While in graduate school, I’ve been the team leader on every consulting project I’ve completed. The ability to prioritize tasks and assign them according to individual skills has been critical, and it was enhanced at CHC.”

The intensity of the first year core classes also prepared Swartz for graduate school.

“I’ve completed two masters degrees in 2.5 years, when it typically takes two years to complete just one. I’ve managed to do that by completing semesters with 18 or more graduate credits, and my ability to do that rested on successful time and stress management. However, it also required a very strong academic background, and my two IUP degrees provided an excellent foundation. I even managed to test out of several core graduate courses.”

She completed an internship last summer with the OFPP. As in intern, she drafted a memorandum and briefed senior political officials on current costing models used for outsourcing. She also managed all public comments related to the president’s March 4th memorandum on government contracting, compiled research on contractor inventory methods used by nine different federal agencies and attended briefings with foreign diplomats on OFPP.

In her new role, Swartz will take on a higher level of responsibility while completing many of the same tasks as her internship.

“I will probably have a specific portfolio of policy-related topics. However, it is a small office, so everyone pitches in to help each other and get projects done. I was told during my internship interview that if I wanted a position where I could anticipate what would happen each day, then this office was not the place for me.”

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