As I sit down to write this blog post about my experience with the Frank Karel Fellowship and my work at the Aspen Institute, I feel compelled to be honest with my audience. This fellowship came as a golden opportunity during a challenging phase of my life, and it was a moment of sheer joy and relief when I received the acceptance letter. The sleepless nights, unhealthy habits, and relentless hard work had finally paid off. However, this journey has been about much more than personal triumphs. It has been a transformative experience that has led me to embrace the power of Public Interest Communications (PIC) and witness its profound impact on society.
Initially, PIC may be easily mistaken for advertising or public relations, but it is far more distinctive and powerful. It revolves around creating environments that foster open dialogue, active listening, and the utilization of research and science to address social issues larger than ourselves. It is about facilitating conversations on matters that go beyond individual perspectives and striving to make a positive impact.
My excitement soared when I was matched with the Aspen Institute, an organization dedicated to education—a field that had always fascinated me. Yet, I was uncertain about how to leverage my skill sets to help foster environments where like-minded individuals collaborate to design educational programs that empower students to succeed in life. Working with the Communications team on the College Excellence Program (CEP) at the Aspen Institute felt like an answer to my prayers. Through their work, I witnessed the tangible results and understood how every aspect, no matter how small, contributes to their overarching goal of supporting low-income and minority students during and after their higher education journey.
Initially, I wondered how the Aspen Institute employed Public Interest Communications within their programs and how it aligned with the values of the Frank Karel Fellowship. The pieces of the puzzle started falling into place during my first intern seminar. The moderator emphasized one of Aspen’s core values—dialogue. In that seminar, my peers and I engaged in dialogue that provided a safe space for sharing and listening—a value that resonated deeply with both Aspen and the Frank Karel Fellowship.
As part of my responsibilities, I have been involved in creating compelling content that presents information to the public while enticing them to actively engage in conversations surrounding important social issues. The information shared by CEP is grounded in intensive research and is designed to spark social impact. Through my work and conversations with my coworkers, I have gained a profound understanding of how PIC is integrated into our initiatives and how it positively influences the communities we serve.
At the Aspen Institute, passion for the work and its tangible outcomes are the driving forces. Witnessing the sense of community that has been built within the organization has reignited the flame of passion within me. As someone who once felt like a low-income minority who didn’t belong, I understand firsthand how programs like those at Aspen can break down barriers and transform unattainable dreams into reality. Every day, I see how Aspen fights, even if uncomfortable disruptions, for change in society to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have a bright and successful future.
The journey of the Frank Karel Fellowship and my experience at the Aspen Institute have been transformative in more ways than I could have imagined. What began as a struggle with anxiety and self-doubt has blossomed into a journey of self-discovery, purpose, and community. I am participating in a life-changing experience that has led me to embrace Public Interest Communications and witness its transformative power at the Aspen Institute. Through my work with the College Excellence Program, I have seen the impact of fostering open dialogue, active listening, and research-backed communication strategies. This experience has deepened my understanding of the importance of engaging the public and igniting social impact. I am grateful for this opportunity, as it has not only shaped my professional growth but also reaffirmed my commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others. I am excited to continue making a positive impact through Public Interest Communications!