Presidential fellowship allows law student to give back

May 01, 2014

Fatima Dilek Fatima Dilek grew up in Germany in a Turkish family but attended high school, college, and law school in the United States. She dreamed of a career in the Foreign Service where she could use her abundant language skills. Now she's one step closer to that goal after winning a Presidential Management Fellowship.

The highly selective fellowship is part of a leadership development program for people with advanced degrees who are interested in federal public service.

For two years, Presidential Management Fellows work at various federal agencies and receive 160 hours of classroom training on leadership, management, or other topics; challenging work assignments; feedback on their work performance; and consideration for promotions and permanent careers with the government.

Dilek is the only law student in the state of Washington to receive a fellowship this year. Seattle University graduate student Laura Ochoa also earned a fellowship. Previous Seattle University School of Law graduates who have received this honor have worked at agencies like Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs.

For now, Dilek is focused on finishing law school and passing the bar exam. She has time to watch for job openings and figure out which federal agency she wants to join as a Presidential Management Fellow, though the Department of State is a likely candidate.

She said she sees a career in U.S. government as a way to give back to a country that has provided her with so many opportunities.

"I believe that anything is possible. The opportunities are there. You just have to reach for them," she said. "I'm dedicated to public service because I want to be able to reach out to people who need help pursuing their dreams. I want to be there. I want to be that person."

Dilek came to the United States as a 16-year-old high school exchange student and lived with a host family in Oregon. She then moved to Eastern Washington to participate in Running Start, the accelerated college entrance program, at Yakima Valley Community College. She later attended both North Seattle Community College and University of Washington, where she graduated in 2008 with a degree in political science.

After college, Dilek worked as a personal banker at Bank of America, where one of her customers was Eric Steinecker, an SU law student who encouraged her to pursue a J.D. Steinecker became a mentor to her, and himself earned a Presidential Management Fellowship in 2011.