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ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE * WHITE HOUSE FELLOWS

WHITE HOUSE FELLOWS

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The following Q & A is designed to provide general information about the program. Answers may vary depending on specific circumstances.

General Information

1. about_fellows_faq_ What is the White House Fellows Program?
2. about_fellows_faq_ What is the mission of the program?
3. about_fellows_faq_ What type of individual is the program seeking to find?
4. about_fellows_faq_ What is the President's Commission on White House Fellowships?
5. about_fellows_faq_ What is the program schedule and selection timeline?
6. about_fellows_faq_ What is expected of a White House Fellow during the program year?
7. about_fellows_faq_ What is expected of White House Fellows alumni?
8. about_fellows_faq_ What is the White House Fellows Alumni Association and Foundation?

'A'PPLICATION AND ELIGIBILITY

9. about_fellows_faq_ How do I apply?
10. about_fellows_faq_ What are the eligibility requirements?
11. about_fellows_faq_ Can I be a White House Fellow if I have dual citizenship?
12. about_fellows_faq_ Are there age restrictions?
13. about_fellows_faq_ Does a candidate need to be of the same political party as the current Administration?
14. about_fellows_faq_ Can I contact White House Fellows alumni to discuss whether to apply and selection?
15. about_fellows_faq_ What is the best approach for handling recommendation letters?
16. about_fellows_faq_ If selected, can I continue to participate in organizations in which I currently serve -- such as corporate and government boards, or on state or local councils?
17. about_fellows_faq_ Are applicants required to submit financial disclosures if selected? What happens if there is a conflict of interest with my investments and my assignment?
18. about_fellows_faq_ Are applicants required to undergo a security and background investigation?

SELECTION

19. about_fellows_faq_ How is a class of Fellows selected?
20. about_fellows_faq_ What is the best approach to prepare for interviews?
21. about_fellows_faq_ What is required of Regional Finalists?
22. about_fellows_faq_ What is required of National Finalists?

Placement

23. about_fellows_faq_ What is Placement Week and how is placement determined?
24. about_fellows_faq_ Can a Fellow remain in their placement after the Fellowship year?

EDUCATION PROGRAM

25. about_fellows_faq_ What is the Education Program?
26. about_fellows_faq_ How are the study trips selected?
27. about_fellows_faq_ How are the seminar speakers selected?

Administrative

28. about_fellows_faq_ Are Fellows provided with compensation and benefits -- such as salary and health insurance - during the program year?
29. about_fellows_faq_ Does the Fellowship provide housing during the Fellowship year?
30. about_fellows_faq_ Can Fellows receive outside income from other sources - private or public - during the program year?
31. about_fellows_faq_ Can my employer pay for my moving expenses if I am selected?
32. about_fellows_faq_ How are special needs - such as disabilities - for Fellows handled?
33. about_fellows_faq_ How are previously scheduled commitments - such as a vacation - handled during the Fellowship year?
34. about_fellows_faq_ Where can I direct additional questions?

General Information

1. What is the White House Fellows Program?

The White House Fellows Program is America's most prestigious program for leadership and public service. Founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the program offers exceptional young men and women first hand experience working at the highest levels of the Federal government.

Fellows typically spend one year working as full-time, paid special assistants to senior White House Staff, the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an Education Program consisting of roundtable discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors, and trips to study U.S. policy in action both domestically and internationally.

2. What is the mission of the program?

The mission of the non-partisan White House Fellows Program, as envisioned by President Johnson, was in his words, "to give the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs." In return for the Fellowship year, President Johnson expected the Fellows to "repay that privilege" when they left by "continuing to work as private citizens on their public agendas." He hoped that the Fellows would contribute to the Nation as greater future leaders.

Today the mission remains the same: To encourage active citizenship and service to the Nation.

3. What type of individual is the program seeking to find?

The President's Commission on White House Fellowships is looking for individuals who are most likely to fulfill the mission of the White House Fellows Program. Selection as a White House Fellow is based on a combination of the following criteria:

  • A record of remarkable professional achievement early in one's career.
  • Evidence of leadership skills and the potential for further growth.
  • A demonstrated commitment to public service.
  • The knowledge and skills necessary to contribute successfully at the highest levels of the Federal government.

We also look for individuals with exceptional writing ability, a positive attitude, strong management skills, and the ability to work well with others.

All these qualities combined with the strength of one's character are taken into consideration when selecting a class of White House Fellows.

4. What is the President's Commission on White House Fellowships?

The President's Commission on White House Fellowships, which is composed of twenty to thirty outstanding citizens who represent a broad range of backgrounds, interests, and professions, selects each class of White House Fellows. Some Commissioners have served through several Administrations and some are former Fellows. The Commission interviews National Finalists and then recommends those individuals it finds most qualified for the fellowship to the President for appointment as White House Fellows. The Commission meets twice a year: once in January to conduct regular business and once in June to select a new class of Fellows.

5. What is the program schedule and selection timeline?

February 1 -- Application Deadline: The online application link will be available September 15, 2006 on the program website (http://www.whitehouse.gov/fellows). Applications must be transmitted on or before February 1st to be accepted. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that his/her application has been submitted in its entirety.

March/April -- Regional Finalist Selection: Applicants are notified during the first week of March whether they have been selected as Regional Finalists, and of the time and location for regional interviews. The list of Regional Finalists is also posted on the website and is announced by the White House Press Office. Panel interviews are conducted during these months. Applicants must keep a flexible schedule during March and April until such time as they have been notified of their Regional Panel assignment; it is not likely that the assignment can be changed.

May -- National Finalist Notification: National Finalists selected from the regional interviews are notified at the beginning of May. The list of National Finalists also is posted on the website and announced by the White House Press Office.

June -- Selection Weekend: National Finalists are interviewed over a 2 1/2 day period by the members of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. The Commission then recommends a class of Fellows to the President. The White House Press Office announces the President's official selection of the incoming class of White House Fellows. The list of Fellows also is posted on the website.

July -- Placement Week: Fellows interview with principals in government agencies for their work placements during their Fellowship year. The principals and Fellows indicate their desired preferences to the Program Director. The Program Director determines the placement of each Fellow in an agency or office.

September 1 to August 31: Inclusive dates of the Fellowship year.

6. What is expected of a White House Fellow during the program year?

Being a White House Fellow is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility. The Fellowship year is a busy and challenging time. Fellows are expected to fully engage in their work placement, which lies at the heart of a White House Fellowship. Work placements can offer unparalleled experience working with Cabinet and White House officials on challenging issues. The work often requires long hours and, at times, unglamorous duties that require as much perseverance as ability on the Fellows' part. The work placement may require travel on behalf of the agency.

The Education Program augments and enhances the work experience. Over the course of the year, Fellows also are expected to fully participate in the Education Program, which includes two or three speaker seminars per week, as well as two or three domestic policy trips, one international policy trip, and several day trips to study various policy issues.

The most enriching program component springs from regular and substantive interaction between class members, which often results in life-long friendships between Fellows. In addition to their placement and Education Program, the Fellows also are expected to participate in a class community service project, serve on class committees, and attend monthly class business meetings.

The Fellowship year is a full-time commitment. There is little time for vacations or other additional activities. While this may sound difficult, it is only for one year and the time is filled with enriching experiences, many of which are once-in-a-lifetime. Because of the time demands, this program may not be suitable for everyone.

7. What is expected of White House Fellows alumni?

In return for the Fellowship year, President Johnson expected the Fellows to "repay that privilege" when they left by "continuing to work as private citizens on their public agendas." He hoped that the Fellows would contribute to the Nation as future leaders. This vision holds true today. White House Fellows have a responsibility to give back to the Nation in the same way, in return for the training and experiences provided during their Fellowship year.

8. What is the White House Fellows Alumni Association and Foundation?

The White House Fellows Alumni Association (http://www.whff.org) and Foundation are non-profit organizations founded in 1969 to support the program alumni. The Association acts as an alumni association for former Fellows and hosts an annual meeting. It also encourages and facilitates alumni contribution to public service and furthers the mission of the fellowship program. Following the Fellowship year, participation in the Association is an ongoing commitment of the nearly 600 alumni.

The Foundation was formed to act as the fiduciary agent for all privately raised funds to support the non-federal expenses of the program. The Foundation funds support the Education Program and public relations and recruiting efforts, as well as some aspects of selection of each year's class.

Application and Eligibility

9. How do I apply?

Applicants should apply online by visiting the program website (http://www.whitehouse.gov/fellows). Applications must be completed and submitted by February 1st. We recommend starting the application process early, especially the recommendation letter requirements.
It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that his/her application has been transmitted in its entirety by viewing the components' status online.

10. What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must be U.S. citizens. Applicants must have completed their undergraduate education and be working in their chosen professions. Individuals currently employed by the Federal government are not eligible to apply with the exception of the following branches of the military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy. Some examples of Federal employees who are not eligible to apply for the program are: law clerks for the Supreme Court and District Court, members of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

If you have a question about your status as a Federal employee, please call the White House Fellows Program office at (202) 395-4522.

11. Can I be a White House Fellow if I have dual citizenship?

In order to get the proper security clearance for the fellowship, individuals with dual citizenship would need to give up any non-U.S. citizenship(s). White House Fellows can be citizens only of the United States.

12. Are there age restrictions?

There are no age restrictions. However, the fellowship program was created to give selected Americans the experience of government service early in their careers.

13. Does a candidate need to be of the same political party as the current Administration?

No. The Commission awards fellowships strictly on a non-partisan basis.

14. Can I contact White House Fellows alumni to discuss whether to apply and selection?

Yes. The White House Fellows Association (http://www.whff.org) -- the non-profit organization comprised of program alumni -- would be happy to put you in touch with alumni. Jack LeCuyer, an alumnus and the Foundation's Executive Director, can help you get in touch with program alumni. He can be reached at (202) 360-0294.

15. What is the best approach for handling recommendation letters?

Applicants are required to submit a minimum of three, but no more than five, references. It is best to have recommendations from individuals who know you well and can fully answer the questions that are asked in the application. For example, a recommendation letter from a prominent person is not helpful if that individual cannot speak about your background and character.

At least one recommendation should be from an individual that can speak to your professional competence and accomplishments in your field. At least one recommendation should come from someone with knowledge of your community and civic activities.

In addition, one recommendation should be from your current supervisor, if applicable. A recommendation from a prior supervisor is acceptable, but a current supervisor is preferred.

16. If selected, can I continue to participate in organizations in which I currently serve -- such as corporate and government boards, or on state or local councils?

White House Fellows are full-time employees of the United States government and are subject to the ethics laws and Standards of Ethical Conduct for employees of the Executive Branch. These standards prohibit Fellows from receiving any salary or any contribution to or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States government. If outside activity that is uncompensated conflicts with your official duties, then you will not be able to continue that outside activity.

Service on advisory boards and other types of committees is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if Fellows may continue the outside activity based on the precise nature of the activity and the official duties performed while serving as an employee of the United States government in the program.

17. Are applicants required to submit financial disclosures if selected? What happens if there is a conflict of interest with my investments and my assignment?

Certain placements, such as in the White House, will require that a Financial disclosure form be submitted.

Conflict of interest matters that arise will be handled on a case-by-case basis according to all applicable laws and regulations. If you have questions during the application process about potential conflicts of interest, please contact the White House Fellows Program office to inquire.

18. Are applicants required to undergo a security and background investigation?

Yes. Regional Finalists are required to submit comprehensive background information, as Fellows must be qualified to pass a top secret security clearance. Once this information is submitted, background investigations will commence. In some cases, an investigator will contact you directly to schedule a personal interview. Investigators also may contact employers, neighbors, friends, and relatives.

At the time Fellows are appointed, appropriate clearances are certified by the Executive Office of the President and then issued by the department or agency to which Fellows are assigned. If it appears that a clearance will not be possible, a National Finalist will be notified by the Program Director and will not attend the Selection Weekend process.

Please be assured that all of this information is carefully protected and kept confidential. Panelists and Commissioners do not have access to background investigation information. Information provided by candidates who ultimately are not selected will be destroyed.

Selection

19. How is a class of Fellows selected?

The selection process is very competitive. There can be as many as 1,000 applicants for the 11-19 fellowships. The White House Fellows Program office processes the applications and former Fellows screen the applications to identify the most promising candidates. Approximately 100 of the most qualified applicants are selected to be interviewed by eight to ten regional panels, which are comprised of prominent local citizens. Based on the results of the interviews, the regional panels and the Program Director select approximately thirty candidates to proceed as National Finalists. The President's Commission on White House Fellowships then interviews the thirty candidates and recommends 11-19 outstanding candidates to the President for a one-year appointment as Fellows.

20. What is the best approach to prepare for interviews?

The interviews are competitive. We recommend that Regional and National Finalists carefully prepare as they would for any other type of interview. We also recommend that Finalists:

  • Know their application well, as each application is carefully studied.
  • Study current events. One of the essential qualities of a White House Fellows is that they are citizens of the larger world.
  • Be current on key issues in your professional field.
  • Develop a clear articulation about why you should be selected.

21. What is required of Regional Finalists?

Regional Finalists are expected to participate in an evening and one day of personal interviews that determine the selection of the National Finalists. The interviews are scheduled during March and April in different cities throughout the country with 10 - 12 Finalists participating in each panel. Interviews are conducted by panels of distinguished citizens from the city where each regional panel is held. Travel arrangements are the responsibility of each Regional Finalist. It is important for Regional Finalists to keep a flexible schedule until their Regional Panel assignment is announced; it is unlikely that the assignments can be changed.

We also work with Regional Finalists to obtain each candidate's biographical narrative, a candidate summary sheet, and photograph. Regional Finalists also must submit background investigation information, as all Fellows must be eligible for the appropriate security clearances. This information is kept confidential.

22. What is required of National Finalists?

National Finalists participate in "Selection Weekend," which is three evenings and two days of interviews with members of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. National Finalists who are selected as Fellows will need to come to Washington, DC in July to interview for a work placement. The Commission provides lodging and travel.

Placement

23. What is Placement Week and how is placement determined?

The individuals who are appointed by the President to serve as White House Fellows will be required to come to Washington, DC in July to participate in a series of briefings and interviews to determine their fellowship work placements. The Commission pays for travel and lodging during Placement Week. Fellows also use this time to make housing arrangements.

The Program Director will work with each Fellow and government agency to assess placements. The Program Director strives to match up the Fellows' and the agencies' preferred placements, and has the discretion to assign placements to ensure that there is a good fit for the Fellow, agency, and the program. It is important to remember that not every Fellow will work on issues or in an agency that pertains to their current profession.

24. Can a Fellow remain in their placement after the Fellowship year?

The Fellowship year concludes on August 31st. The purpose of the program is to provide insight into the workings of the Federal government so that Fellows can return to their communities to lead and serve. The program encourages Fellows to return to their communities and professions. There have been instances when a Fellow has been asked to continue at an agency, but not as a Fellow. A Fellow needs to work with the Program Director in this case to ensure that a "Fellow" slot is not taken that will preclude the program from placing a Fellow in that agency the following year.

EDUCATION PROGRAM

25. What is the Education Program?

The fellowship's Education Program augments and enhances the work experience. Involvement in the Education Program is mandatory. This is what makes the fellowship a unique learning experience beyond simply having a job in the government. Over the course of the year, each class of Fellows meets with nearly one hundred individuals, including Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet Secretaries, senior White House officials, Members of Congress, military leaders, foreign heads of state, and leaders from the worlds of business, the arts, science and technology, and the media. Fellows also have substantive meetings with the President.

Fellows also travel to cities and regions outside of Washington and to other countries to see U.S. policy in action, to learn about other cultures, and to see the U.S. and the Federal government from differing points of view. Fellows visit military bases and participate in various activities to broaden civilian understanding of military service.

26. How are the study trips selected?

The Program Director selects the study trips with input from the Fellows. Typically, the Fellows work with the Education Director to determine possible destinations and prepare presentations highlighting the issues that can be studied during the trip. Fellows then vote on which trips to recommend to the Program Director.

27. How are the seminar speakers selected?

Choosing speakers is a team effort managed by the White House Fellows Program office with input and assistance from the Fellows. The Program Director formally invites all speakers.

Administration

28. Are Fellows provided with compensation and benefits -- such as salary and health insurance -- during the program year?

Fellows are considered Federal employees, with the rank of GS-14 step 3. With this comes a salary of approximately $100,000 per year. Military personnel, however, maintain their current salary and benefits.

Fellows also are eligible to purchase health insurance through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plans available at their agencies. Details about the health plans available can be viewed on the Office of Personnel Management website at http://www.opm.gov.

29. Does the fellowship provide housing during the Fellowship year?

No. Fellows are responsible for their housing arrangements. We recommend that Fellows use spare time during Placement Week to make such arrangements. Current Fellows and the program staff can provide advice on neighborhoods.

Applicants should be aware that Fellows cannot accept subsidized housing gifts from former employers or other sources.

30. Can Fellows receive outside income from other sources -- private or public -- during the program year?

White House Fellows are considered full-time employees of the United States government and are subject to the ethics laws and Standards of Ethical Conduct for employees of the Executive Branch. These standards prohibit Fellows from receiving salary, contributions, or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States government.

Fellows cannot continue any outside activity that conflicts with official duties. Service on advisory boards and other types of committees are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if a Fellow can continue the activity based on the precise nature of the activity and the official duties while serving as an employee of the United States government in the program.

31. Can my employer pay for my moving expenses if I am selected?

There is a specific exemption in the law for White House Fellows to receive payment of relocation expenses incident to their participation in the program. However, the Fellow may not receive payment for the cost of temporary residence or any trips to Washington, DC.

32. How are special needs - -such as disabilities -- for Fellows handled?

The program staff is available to work one-on-one with individuals to properly handle any special needs.

33. How are previously scheduled commitments -- such as a vacation -- handled during the program year?

The program year is a full-time commitment, with work, education, travel, and fellowship responsibilities. Almost all activities are mandatory. Only under special circumstances, and with approval by the Program Director, are Fellows excused from activities.

If this is a year when you have a multitude of personal commitments, vacations, or issues, we strongly encourage applicants to reconsider the timing of their application. Each Fellow and the entire class are most effective with full participation and engagement. It is unfair to others to accept the fellowship and then not fully participate.

34. Where can I direct additional questions?

The program staff is available to provide assistance and answer questions. The staff can be reached Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM ET - 5:30 PM ET at (202) 395-4522.

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