Peter Kamocsai, M.P.A. ’15, and Brandon Lardy, M.P.P. ’15, were recipients of the GW Fellowship at the Partnership for Public Service.
They grew up an ocean apart, but Peter Kamocsai and Brandon Lardy were on parallel tracks from an early age. Both were raised in families that emphasized the importance of public service. Mr. Lardy’s mother was a civil servant in Northern Virginia for 30 years, while Mr. Kamocsai’s grandfather worked at city hall in the tiny town of Kolarovo, Slovakia, where he grew up. And both ended up as graduate students at the George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, getting their degrees in 2015—Mr. Lardy receiving an M.P.P. and Mr. Kamocsai an M.P.A.
But they never met until they landed the same job opportunity—the GW Fellows Program, managed by the Center for Career Services, at the Partnership for Public Service.
“We’d never interacted with each other until then,” said Mr. Kamocsai, who received the inaugural fellowship in the fall of 2015. Both are now full-time Partnership staff members.
As an undergraduate Mr. Lardy studied public policy and sociology at The College of William and Mary, while Mr. Kamocsai majored in international studies at the Corvinus University of Budapest. Each was concerned that he was learning too much theory and not enough practical application.
“We were talking a lot about grand opportunities—how to change the world—but we never got into how to apply them to actually make the world better,” Mr. Kamoscai said.
The Partnership, for Mr. Lardy and Mr. Kamocsai, is an example of world-changing theory in action. Its goal is to “help government help itself,” Mr. Lardy said, by recognizing outstanding federal employees, offering leadership training for government workers and researching effective civil service practices. The Partnership also publishes a yearly list, “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” celebrating high levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction.
“We’re not here to fill in the gaps where the government doesn’t succeed, we’re here to help people within the government reform systems and processes to do their jobs better,” Mr. Lardy said. And part of that means recognizing when jobs are being done well. “The government can’t deliver services it’s promised if its employees aren’t engaged in their work, if they don’t feel they’re invested in and attached to the outcomes,” he said.
George W. Wellde Jr., M.B.A. ‘76, a member of the Partnership’s and GW’s boards of trustees, and his wife, Patricia, endowed the two-year GW fellowship to promote careers in public service.
“The fellowship is a two-way street,” Mr. Lardy said. “It’s about encouraging GW students to get into public service, but part of it is also about getting great GW students to the Partnership. It’s really a great place to work. We both really enjoy our jobs, and they are making a difference—especially in current times, where the political side is a bit crazy. There’s a need to reiterate that the civil service is strong, that it’s made up of a lot of good people who are dedicated to their jobs. Part of what we do is to shine a light on the good things that come from the government.”
Mr. Kamoscai learned about the GW fellows program from a professor who encouraged him to apply, while Mr. Lardy heard about the opportunity in an email from the Trachtenberg School’s career services office.
“My first piece of advice is to read your emails,” Mr. Lardy said. “There are great opportunities that [career services offices] make an effort to send out to students, so take advantage of that.”
Mr. Kamoscai said he worked with Trachtenberg School career services to improve his application materials.
“I compare my resume before and after, and I cringe,” he said, laughing.
“You have to be open to constructive criticism,” Mr. Lardy said. “It’s hard—especially at a school like GW, where students tend to be overachievers—to sit down and be told ‘This is bad.’ But it’s important to realize that that feedback will help you in the job market in the long run.”
Part of the application process is also about crystallizing what you want, the two agreed.
“I knew I wanted to work in a place where I knew I was making a difference, but I also am into research, and I wanted to develop my research skills,” Mr. Lardy said. “So when I saw this opportunity, it was like all the light bulbs and fireworks went off. I was actually on my honeymoon when I interviewed for the job—that was how badly I wanted it.”
By the end of the two-year fellowship, both Mr. Lardy and Mr. Kamoscai were offered full-time jobs—and took them. The two are even on a trivia team together, though Mr. Kamoscai teased Mr. Lardy for not showing up to the last few engagements.
“We both feel by now that our team is our home and our family,” Mr. Kamoscai said.
The Center for Career Services will begin recruitment for the next GW fellow at the Partnership for Public Service in the spring of 2018.