By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Adrian Gomez Ramos has an affinity for public service.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney student enjoys connecting with other people, especially when there’s an opportunity to help someone in need.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that you feel change when it’s closer to you,” he said. “When you’re hands-on in a smaller community, those opportunities are a lot more plentiful.”
“I’ve been here my whole life and I think it’s important to give back to your community,” the UNK junior said.
This summer, the 21-year-old will participate in a prestigious program that prepares students from diverse backgrounds for careers in public policy and service.
Gomez Ramos was accepted into the Public Policy and International Affairs Program Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University. Hosted by Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the seven-week program is designed to broaden participants’ academic and professional horizons while strengthening their skills in economics, statistics, policy analysis and communication.
The Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA), a not-for-profit that supports efforts to increase diversity in public service, selects high-potential undergraduate students from universities across the country to participate in the Junior Summer Institute. Along with Princeton, the University of California, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Michigan and University of Minnesota also host PPIA summer institutes.
“PPIA believes that our society is best served by public managers, policy makers and community leaders who represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives,” the group’s website states. “To achieve this goal, PPIA has a focus on students from groups who are underrepresented in leadership positions in government, nonprofits, international organizations and other institutional settings.”
Gomez Ramos submitted his application and essay last semester before joining four other UNK students on a trip to Tokyo, where they presented at the Asian Undergraduate Research Symposium.
He was “completely surprised” when the acceptance email arrived Jan. 31.
“This is a great opportunity to enrich my academic career and help me decide whether graduate school is something I want to pursue,” Gomez Ramos said. “That’s something I’ve been debating for a while, and this program will give me a good feel for what to expect.”
A rigorous academic fellowship program, the Junior Summer Institute provides students with the training and skills they need to succeed in graduate school and, ultimately, public service careers. In addition to interacting with talented peers, participants learn to analyze and evaluate international and domestic policies under the guidance of experienced policy practitioners and academics.
The program is fully funded, covering students’ costs for courses, textbooks, transportation, housing and meals. Each participant also receives a $1,550 stipend for additional living expenses, and their application fee is waived for select master’s programs.
“Adrian’s participation will fortify his already impressive academic record and allow him to better serve the greater public,” UNK political science professor Peter Longo said of the institute. “It is a remarkable accomplishment to be selected.”
Gomez Ramos, who maintains a 3.8 GPA, is part of the UNK student body president’s cabinet and he serves as vice president of the UNK Honors Student Advisory Board. He’s also involved with the annual Nebraska Cultural Unity Conference organized by UNK’s Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, and he holds a work-study position in the political science department.
Gomez Ramos previously completed a one-year internship with Buffalo County Community Partners, working alongside youth coordinator Josh Arias. His current career goals are to work in city management, preferably in rural Nebraska, or as executive director of a nonprofit he creates.
He hopes his accomplishments at UNK inspire other students from his hometown.
“I’m just the representative for the community of Lexington,” Gomez Ramos said. “I’m here to represent all of us and show people that kids from Lexington, Nebraska, first-generation Mexican Americans, can do whatever they want if they work hard enough.”