Featured Fellow: Kenny Loui
Applying For And Winning A Fellowship:
Kenny Loui on the FBI Honors Internship Program
FELLOWSHIP I WON AND WHEN: FBI Honors Internship Program, 2006–07.
MY AREAS OF ACADEMIC/PROFESSIONAL INTEREST: I have a B.A. in Criminal Justice and Political Science (2005) and an M.A. in Political Science (2008), both from San Francisco State University. My specific research interests are in community policing, ethics education and early childhood crime prevention, Korea-Japan political relations, education policy in Korea and Japan, popular culture and public diplomacy.
THE SUBSTANCE OF MY FELLOWSHIP PROPOSAL: In my application essay, I discussed my academic and professional interests and my overall aspiration to pursue a career in public service, noting that I wasn’t quite sure which specific route to take just yet; hence, my application to the FBI Honors Internship Program. In short, all I really knew about the FBI was what I read in books or saw on TV; I wanted to see what the “real FBI” was like and whether I was a good fit for the FBI, and the FBI was a good fit for me. As with my other internships and volunteer experiences, my desire to participate in the FBI Honors Internship Program was two-fold: to explore my career options and to do meaningful work.
LOW POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: The low point in the application was getting rejected—the first time around. That did not deter me though. I reapplied a year later and was subsequently accepted. I’m sure there were a variety of factors involved in my not being selected for the internship the first time around, including the low selection rate for Honors Interns (the agent who conducted my initial interview told me that a little over 10,000 students apply for the 100 or so slots that are available each year for the program). That being said, the achievements I made in between the time I was initially rejected and the time I reapplied—for example, graduating at the top of my class in my two majors, entering graduate school, attaining leadership positions in student organizations, and serving as an intern for California state government—probably improved my competitiveness the second time around.
HIGH POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: I would say the high point in application process was actually making the final cut. The process is lengthy and requires a lot of patience. Selection of candidates is based on several criteria, including academic achievements, field of study, and life/work/volunteer experience. Prospective Honors Interns have to submit applications to their local FBI Field Office and the most competitive among the candidates are selected for a preliminary interview. Those who pass this interview are then offered a conditional offer of employment or “COE” (just one of the many acronyms you’ll learn if you ever find yourself working for the federal government).
Participation in the Honors Internship Program is contingent upon successfully passing a background investigation and receiving an FBI Top Secret security clearance. In brief, candidates have to pass several ‘check points’ before earning the opportunity to set foot in FBI Headquarters (or selected Field Offices and the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA) and become a member of the ‘FBI family’ for one summer.
MISADVENTURE(S) DURING THE FELLOWSHIP: TOP SECRET . . . . Just kidding. The interns during my year were housed in an apartment complex in a somewhat unsavory part of Virginia. Although we were living in what could be considered a “rough neighborhood,” I jokingly commented among my fellow interns that it was just part of our “FBI training.” I don’t know whether summer interns assigned to the D.C. metropolitan area offices are still housed in these apartments.
Note that ‘housing provided’ (probably a better description would be ‘referred’) by the FBI for its D.C. interns is not paid for by the FBI; interns are responsible for paying rent, etc. Honors Interns are not required, however, to live in the FBI-referred accommodation, and are free to find their own accommodations if they so choose.
I found myself getting into an early morning ‘workout’ routine with three of my fellow interns. We would wake up at 5:00 each morning and race off to work, running from our apartments to the bus stop to get to the nearest subway station by 6:30. If we were pressed for time, we occasionally found ourselves climbing over the side fence or, if we missed the bus, sprinting 15 – 20 minutes to the subway station. We did all of this wearing business attire—in the hot and humid summer!
We would usually finish work at 3 p.m., giving us time to work out for an hour or two in the FBI Headquarters’ in-house gym, and enjoy the rest of the late afternoon. This was thanks to the flexible work schedules I and a few other interns were lucky enough to be offered that summer.
BEST MOMENT DURING THE FELLOWSHIP: I pretty much enjoyed every part of it, from beginning to end. The three months I spent living in Washington, D.C., and working for the FBI was a period of education and growth. I had the chance to work alongside and befriend coworkers and fellow interns, attend briefings by FBI and other federal government executives, including FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. I learned more about the FBI, drafted reports and assisted in the research for improving key initiatives. I made great friends and gained, during the internship, a deeper understanding of my career and life goals.
ADVICE TO APPLICANTS: Patience, patience, patience. As I have mentioned, the application process is quite extensive. You should have a backup plan or two in case you do not pass the background investigation, or in the event that the Top Secret security clearance investigation is not completed in time for you to begin the internship on its start date. Simply put: no security clearance, no internship No short cuts, no exceptions.
A guiding principle you should follow throughout the entire process, from the very moment you fill out the application form and throughout the job is: Be Honest. The FBI is very thorough in its background investigations—and for a reason. Many candidates for Honors Internships and other positions with the FBI, fail to make the final cut because of a lack of candor. The FBI wants people of integrity. FBI employees are entrusted with not only confidential information, but with serving the public trust. The FBI holds its Special Agents and professional staff to a very high standard, and all Honors Interns are held to exactly the same standards.
WHY I’D DO IT AGAIN: To have the opportunity to hop fences and race off to work in a suit and tie with interns I came to consider some of my closest friends. Being able to actively engage in public service in one of the world’s premier law enforcement agencies was an incredible experience.
WHAT I’M DOING NOW: I’m currently spending quality time with friends and family. As for what I’ll do next, maybe I’ll get back into government work, perhaps I’ll continue with teaching, or maybe I’ll try something completely new. I’m a little hesitant to say since in the past I’ve planned to do one thing, only to find myself doing something entirely unexpected. What do know is that life is full of surprises, and if a door of opportunity opens, why not take a chance, step in and see what it has to offer? You may be pleasantly surprised, not only with the outcome but with the journey itself.