A Presidential Management Fellow takes a broad view of social work

What does a social worker’s job look like? Those outside the field might picture someone who meets one-on-one with clients, or works at a hospital, school, or nonprofit. Hannah Babiss is proof that there is no one answer to that question.

Now in the midst of a prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship, a two-year training and leadership development program administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that places advanced degree holders in U.S. government agencies, Babiss is using her studies in macro social work to impact federal policy.

“I felt like I wanted to have a greater impact to help support individuals and communities that might be experiencing challenges or barriers,” says Babiss, who earned an M.S.W. at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) in 2021. She had already gained experience in direct social work service before arriving at GSS. And although she considered master’s programs in public policy and international affairs, she was drawn to the field placements available through social work programs—and specifically to the small class sizes and electives at Fordham.

Policymaking to Make Lives Easier

During her time at Fordham, Babiss became involved in the GSS Student Congress, which she says not only helped her land the fellowship but also gave her experience in organizational structuring and leadership—skills she also developed as a research assistant for Professor Marciana Popescu, Ph.D., director of Her Migrant Hub, a website that helps women gain access to health care services and other resources in New York City.

Babiss began the fellowship in August 2022 as a budget analyst in the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she assessed the distribution of money for federal transportation projects and wrote budget justifications to clarify why line items were included as funds. She says the work has helped her understand how money ties into specific policies.

“My first year was a lot of training because I don’t have a background in finance or budgeting in particular,” Babiss says. “It was a lot of learning the ropes, but I learned a lot about the congressional budgeting process.”

When the fellowship ends next August, she plans to apply for jobs across various federal agencies. And while she has a particular passion for immigration, education, and mental health policy, she’s open to working in any area in which she can make a positive impact.

“I would love to see more efficient policymaking that helps make people’s lives easier,” she says. “I think that’s really what it boils down to—how can you improve the quality of people’s lives, while also making a policy that’s realistic and efficient and a good use of taxpayer dollars?”

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