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K-State Today

September 16, 2020

Civil engineering assistant professor named White House Fellows national finalist

Submitted by Mary Rankin

Eric Fitzsimmons

Eric Fitzsimmons, assistant professor and the Hal and Mary Siegele professorship in engineering,

Kansas State University Department of Civil Engineering, has a new certificate to frame and display — 2020 - 2021 White House Fellows national finalist. While ultimately not selected, Fitzsimmons did successfully complete all three rounds of the stringent application process.

Founded in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House Fellows program is one of America's most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. White House Fellowships offer exceptional young men and women firsthand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government.

The initial round of more than 1,000 applicants began in January with requirements to answer six essay questions and submit a federal policy proposal to the president. Fitzsimmons also submitted support letters from faculty and administration at Kansas State University; administration at the University of Kansas; division directors at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; and active and retired law enforcement personnel from Alexandria, Virginia, and Jacksonville, Florida.

His proposed policy to the president, "Increasing Police Officer Recruitment and Retention Through Establishment of a Community Peace Officer Network," involved reorganizing and expanding the U.S. Department of Justice's Community-Oriented Policing Services Program to develop a congressional-supported, line-item, federal-funded non-firearm-carrying Community Peace Officer Network.

Fitzsimmons said he had applied for the fellowship to better understand public service by potentially working and interacting with individuals at the highest levels of government and then hoped to translate that experience into better serving and leading at Kansas State University and the state of Kansas through public service or in an administrative role.

As a national finalist, Fitzsimmons went through an extensive security clearance process and participated in "selection weekend," which included three evenings and two days of interviews with members of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. After spending the weekend interviewing, interacting with, and observing the national finalists, the commissioners recommended individuals to the president for appointment as White House Fellows.

"My plan is to reapply and go through the interview process again for the 2021-2022 White House Fellowships," he said, "now knowing firsthand the rigors and demands required of the interview process. The unforgettable conversations and interactions with other national finalists from around the U.S. in areas outside of engineering, as well as the commissioners, was worth it."

Other notable national finalists and White House Fellows from Kansas include former Kansas governor and U.S. senator, Sam Brownback; former Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer; U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids; former U.S. secretary of transportation, and of Labor, as well a U.S. senator from North Carolina, Elizabeth Dole; and former U.S. representative and current U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.