SIG Fellow Spotlight: Oakland City Planner’s Office

By Chiamaka Ogwuegbu

I spent this summer working with the City of Oakland’s Strategic Planning Division. I came in liking urban planning, and came out loving urban planning. It was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I’m often one for hyperbole, but please, believe me when I say that. I focused mostly on the City’s Downtown Specific Plan process, and really appreciated the opportunity to gain an understanding of the unique challenges of the community planning process. The constant push-and-pull between stakeholders, balancing the needs of the City and region at large, or even just the time that it takes and what that means in the face of urban issues that need solutions as soon as possible.


Within the scope of the Downtown Specific Plan process, I worked on a couple initiatives. The primary one was the Equity Working Group meeting series during the last week of July, leading into August. I mainly focused on the workshop that the City would use during the meeting to gather input from community members in attendance. I went back-and-forth in my own head and amongst the rest of the EQTDTO team to craft an experience that would leave attendees feeling heard and fulfilled, while also providing the most useful information for the City to move forward with the Plan process. The small group workshop that we settled on did a good job of accomplishing those desired objectives.


What made my summer, more than anything else, were the people that I met along the way. The folks in my office were kind, helpful, intelligent, and caring, across the board. I enjoyed contrasting their approaches and ways of thinking with those of the consultants that I had the chance to speak and work with. But on top of the folks that I had formal relationships with, I also met a wonderfully supportive group of transportation professionals at a symposium, who took me under their considerable wings.


Looking forward, I now know, indubitably, that a career in urban planning, focusing on transportation, is for me. I emerged from my summer a much more self-assured, knowledgeable, and poised individual. Those traits are within, but they are also coupled with the resources and network without that I know will continue to empower me as I work to make positive change in the urban realm.

Landesa Fellow Update

By Riya Mehta ’18

This past summer, I was the Stanford in Government Fellow at Landesa, an international nonprofit organization that partners with governments around the world to secure land rights for the rural poor. As a part of Landesa’s China team, I conducted international comparative legal and policy research on rural land laws and corporate acquisitions of farmland to inform the organization’s work with the Chinese government. Specifically, I wrote a detailed memo on rural land transfers in France, along with reports on the land registration systems in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Through these projects, I learned that while different countries may operate under entirely different legal systems, comparative research is essential to understanding the policies and reforms that have worked in the past—and those that have not. In addition to my work for the China team, I collaborated with the organization’s Center for Women’s Land Rights to write Landesa’s application to the Women and Gender Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change so the organization can participate in high-level meetings at the 2017 Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany. Finally, I worked with Landesa’s Climate Change team to prepare a research brief on the connections between women’s land rights and climate change for COP 23. It is my hope that this brief will not only elevate the many points of intersection between gender, land rights, and climate change but also engender international action around gender-sensitive climate change mitigation efforts.


It is quite difficult for me to articulate the full value and impact of my summer experience. Landesa has really shaped the ways in which I think about effective nonprofit work. In fact, I see Landesa as a model organization because it partners with governments at every level to effectuate real change. Moreover, my work at Landesa has emphasized to me the importance of land rights in the realm of sustainable development. Going forward, I will work to elevate land rights issues in my specific field of study—food security—because I have become convinced that we cannot end world hunger without addressing the political, social, and economic barriers to secure land rights in the developing world.

ZJCDC Fellowship Update

By Pedro Gallardo ’19

“Está en chino (“it’s in Chinese”). This is a common expression in Spanish used to describe situations in which you don’t understand anything. The expression that I grew up saying quite perfectly described my situation upon arriving at my nine-week fellowship at the Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ZJCDC) in Hangzhou, China. Granted, this was partly due to the fact that most of my conversations with co-workers were literally in Chinese. But more importantly, this was my first time working in public health, let alone in China ­– I was in way over my head.

My project at the ZJCDC involved researching avoidable admissions in a county in Zhejiang Province; more specifically, I researched diabetes- and hypertension-related hospitalizations and their associated costs. Work often involved trips to municipal CDCs and rural community health centers across the southeastern Chinese province, which provided a broad overview of the Chinese healthcare system. 

Aside from these trips, I was surprised to find that much of my learning actually occurred outside of my 8:30–5 work schedule. Conversations with taxi drivers, invitations to coworker’s children’s birthday parties, and solo weekend trips around China (made possible by the SIG stipend) taught me a great deal about Chinese lifestyles. Given that lifestyle choices are very important risk factors for diabetes and hypertension, these insights were invaluable.

As I enter my ninth and final week at this fellowship, I am immeasurably grateful for this singular opportunity with which SIG provided me. Now a future investigating Chinese public health no longer seems en chino.”

California Energy Commission

By Akua McLeod ‘20

In so many ways, this summer at the California Energy Commission has exceeded my (already high) expectations. My time here has been nothing if not immersive – for two months I have basically lived and breathed energy, and if I’m being honest about my nerdiness, it has been awesome. For my summer project, I have been helping to develop energy equity indicators that measure barriers to renewable energy and energy efficiency resources for low-income communities. Specifically, I’ve helped to gather datasets to create visual tools that highlight low-income Californian communities that are of greatest need. Ultimately, these indicators will support implementation of the SB 350 Low-Income Barriers Study – a 2016 report which offers recommendations for fixing low income energy barriers.

More than anything, this process has taught me that energy equity challenges are incredibly multifaceted – and that real solutions must be equally complex. Having the opportunity to present about this work at the Commission’s August 9th Business Meeting was exciting and getting the chance to deepen my understanding of how impactful energy policy tools are formed has been even more rewarding. Ultimately, as I look towards the beginning of my sophomore year – and the uncertainties that choosing a major may bring – I hope to continue to explore areas where technical backgrounds overlap with policy expertise.

Senator Barbara Boxer urges Students to Go into Politics to Do Something

By Amanda Jaffe


This year, Stanford in Government had the honor of hosting Senator Barbara Boxer as our big speaker. Senator Boxer, lifetime champion of women’s rights, the environment, universal healthcare, campaign finance reform, immigrant rights, and free education, spoke to students and community members about the importance of engaging in public service. The event was moderated by Bruce Cain, the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences.


Boxer began by describing her public service pathway and passion for politics. She’s proud that she was never one to choose the easiest or traditional path. At a time when women were pegged for jobs as nurses, secretaries, and teachers, she had to work twice as hard to become respected as a stockbroker. While she acknowledges that the world has changed for women, there is still so much more that can be done to energize, engage, and promote women in our workforce, especially politics. She stressed the importance of having women role models the U.S. Senate and hoped to inspired Stanford women to engage in public service.


Senator Boxer began her political career during the Vietnam War. She was unsettled by the divided nation and generation gap she saw around her, and knew that a job in banking was not enough to make the change she wished to see. She remembered fondly the people who gave her the push she needed to leave her comfort zone and comments on the importance of having role models as a young professional. She started small by creating a petition in her county to get troops out of Vietnam, and she has been unwaveringly hooked ever since.


Senator Boxer gave students plenty of advice for beginning their involvement in politics as public service. She stressed the importance of gaining experience by starting at a low level and working up through the system. She remembers how much she learned about succeeding in Washington by putting in the time behind the scenes, like how to communicate with difficult colleagues who didn’t share her point of view. Through building and developing these critical skills over time, she was able to understand different perspectives without getting angry and develop a reputation as someone who could “get stuff done”.


She also stressed the ability for anyone to bring about change at any level. She told audience members to “stay out there” no matter what and demand more from their representatives. She noted the difference volunteer support of any kind could make, including monetary donations, calling district offices, writing letters, or using social media to bring attention to representatives who have not stood by their promises. She is excited for the 2018 midterm election, as she believes it will not only bring change Congress but will also engage constituents across the country like never before.


Senator Boxer reflected on how far the country has come already in engaging with the government and fighting back against hurtful policies. She admits that the Suffragettes don’t get enough credit for the work they put in, as men were opposed to the women’s movement in their lifetimes. But she was thrilled to see men walking with women at the Women’s March on Washington, and recognizes that we must fight these battles united to make a meaningful difference. She also acknowledged that protesting to improve women’s issues is not enough, fighting back also applies to issues like the environment, healthcare, and immigrant rights. She knows firsthand that everyone can get involved, fight for what they believe in, and make a significant change to the world around them.


Senator Boxer left the audience with these timeless words of wisdom. She told students not to go into politics to “be something”, but to instead go into politics to “do something”. It is this basic reorganization of motivation and priorities that leads to success. She urged students to stick to their opinions and find their strength, even while pursuing a challenging career path, believing that people are always attracted to strength. She’s seen firsthand that opponents will respond well to a confident argument, even if they don’t completely agree with the point being made. And she had no doubt that her audience at Stanford will go on to change the world.

2017 Stanford in Government Cardinal Quarter

Stanford in Government is an active partner in Stanford’s Cardinal Quarter program which supports students to pursue full-time quarter-long service opportunities. This year Stanford University is supporting 487 students; and SIG is supporting 83. Exciting in 2017 are important partnership with Stanford’s top interdisciplinary institutes. Journey around the world to see where Stanford students are serving this summer at this link:


SIG Fellowships Awarded: 50

Includes partnerships with Precourt Institute for Energy and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment that are further engaging students in Sacramento in partnership with SIG.

State and Local Fellowships: 22

DC National Fellowships: 15

Includes partnership with Freeman Spogli Institute to support students working at Department of State

International Fellowships: 13


SIG Stipends: 33

SIG Stipends are awarded to students with need who secure an unpaid government internship.


Total SIG awards for students to serve in the summer, made possible by generous SIG donors: $485,300


2017 Placements Include:


City of Stockton Mayor’s Office, Stockton, CA

San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, San Francisco, CA

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Brussels, Belgium

New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York, NY

Landesa Rural Development Institute, Seattle, WA