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Friday, September 22, 2023

Activities & Organizations

New organization provides bridge between public policy alumni, students



One of UH’s newest registered student organizations, GIANT, is open to all students and hopes to engage political science majors with alumni of public policy internships from Houston to D.C. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

On a walk back from the landmark D.C. restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl, GIANT was born.

GIANT, which stands for Government Internship Alumni Network Texas, is a nonpartisan club that aims to increase civic engagement and professionalism for those interested in public service internships.

The club’s founders — senior Jon Garcia, graduate student William Janowski and senior Mariah Grayson — met last semester through the Leland Fellowship hosted by the Hobby School of Public Affairs. It allows students to go to D.C. and intern there for a semester.

During their time in the nation’s capital, the group noticed that other colleges in D.C., and even the Bauer College of Business, had organizations devoted to alumni-student networks save for the Hobby School of Public Affairs.

“In D.C., we learned that talking to people is one of the most important things you can do to get a good job,” said Garcia, the vice president of GIANT.


Although GIANT is helping students register to vote, it’s a nonpartisan organization. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

With this knowledge, the group ensures that students are prepared academically and professionally for the workplace. GIANT began to establish its own alumni-student network by way of resume workshops, mock interviews and business card creations.

“During one of our resume workshops, someone who actually looks at resumes for interns within the public sector is going to come give tips on what she looks for in those jobs,” Garcia said. “She will work with students or alumni one-on-one to make sure that their resumes are great.”

The organization planned future events such as the 20th anniversary for alumni as a great opportunity for student-alumni networking. Participating students will go to the state legislature to see how the session runs and attend committees that they might be interested in.

Janowski said that the Hobby School of Public Affairs is bringing alumni within government sectors to meet with students and laying the foundation to introduce students to certain sectors.

“(When) Jon and I walk back from Ben’s Chili Bowl, we were complaining about student organizations not taking civic engagement and business going on within state legislature into account,” Janowski said. “That’s the bread butter of what the Hobby School of Public Affairs offers — a chance to go to local governments and try your hand at city council, non-profits, state representatives and beyond.”

Janowski believes that UH is in a special place right now where it can build upon certain events like the move to a Tier One research institution and a nationally recognized football team.

The Hobby School for Public Affairs also shares that special quality as it can grow and get the recognition of Texas state leaders, Janowski said. GIANT can help the school become a hub for those who want to learn public policy and civic engagement.

“A lot of the other political organizations here focus on elections and candidates, but we want a broader approach by taking people to food banks and animal shelters to see that kind of civic engagement,” Janowski said.

Meetings for the club are biweekly and there are biweekly volunteer efforts as well.

The club’s next meeting will take place next Thursday in room 106 of McElhinney Hall. It is open for all students to attend.

“Even if you’re not a political science major but would still like to go into government, it can be a good outlet for you to try and get your feet wet,” said Grayson, GIANT’s executive director.

The club is currently conducting voter registration in the Student Center South from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Thursday.

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