Ben Zimmermann, MPA '18

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Ben Zimmermann, MPA '18

Fels Public Leadership and Service Fellowships (PLAS) provide students with funding to pursue work at non-profit and government organizations that would otherwise be unpaid. Benjamin Zimmermann, MPA ’18, interned at the City of Philadelphia’s Rebuild Initiative through the support of PLAS

What professional/academic work were you engaged in before you came to Fels?

I worked in the monitoring and evaluation of international development programs for five years. These programs spanned a diverse set of topics from infrastructure to agriculture and irrigation. During this time, my work took me to Ghana, India, Moldova, and the Philippines.

Why did you choose Fels to pursue your MPA?

I desired to make a hard pivot into performance management in domestic local government. Fels’ focus on applied learning was an ideal means for me to bridge my international skills and experience to the domestic context.

How do you seek to use your Fels degree post-graduation?

I aim to become a leader in performance management in city or state government.

What is your favorite aspect of the Fels experience?

I love the focus on applied learning outside the classroom setting. Through Fels’ networks, I regularly find myself engaging with civil servants and researchers at the city, state, and federal level.

How has Fels influenced your understanding of public service? 

My Fels experience has necessitated that I roll up my sleeves and engage with the successes and shortcomings of policies and programs on the ground and in various contexts. This exposure to the realities of government work, and more importantly the hands-on experience, has heightened my appreciation for public servants.

Fels PLAS has financially supported your unpaid internship. Please describe your internship role:

I recently completed an internship with the City of Philadelphia’s Rebuild Initiative — a $500 million initiative to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, and libraries across the city of Philadelphia. As an intern, I developed a program logic model and constructed performance metrics for the program’s capital improvement, community engagement, and workforce diversity and inclusion efforts.

What was the most challenging aspect of your internship?

My previous work experience revolved around the assessment of fully established and ongoing government programs. This internship required me to learn to operate in an environment where program delivery is still being developed — a challenging yet exciting experience given realities can change daily. 

What was most interesting about the work you performed?

To inform program development, the Rebuild Initiative invested in data collection prior to program implementation. It was fascinating to analyze community-level data pertaining to health, poverty, and economic growth, as well as more qualitative data capturing the condition of community assets like parks, recreation centers, and libraries. It was exciting to see data take a lead role in informing decision making.

Rebuild is a significant investment in Philadelphia communities. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet so many community leaders devoted to workforce diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and the overall health of Philadelphia communities. There are so many actors interested in seeing this type of work succeed – I look forward to seeing how the next five-to-seven years of the program unfold throughout the City of Philadelphia.

How did PLAS funding assist you in obtaining this internship?

Rebuild did not have funding for an intern, so without PLAS I would have been less likely to take the internship and add this valuable experience to my resume.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
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Philadelphia, PA 19104

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