For Torey Powell, Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) alum and Army reservist, public service is in his nature. It is a quality cultivated through experiences with Houston nonprofit organizations and the Texas Legislature. And in the future, Powell hopes to work professionally with fellow veterans.

During a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan, Powell volunteered at a combat-stress clinic. “Connecting with soldiers returning from combat was an experience that will always resonate with me,” he said.

Returning stateside, he pursued a master’s degree in social work in hopes of helping veterans and applied for a program to further propel him toward that goal.

The Presidential Management Fellows program (PMF) is a competitive program for graduate students seeking management positions within federal agencies. Those selected spend two years in a government appointment where they receive training in leadership, management and policy (and full salary and benefits). When the assignment is complete, Presidential Management Fellows are eligible for permanent positions.

From 7,000 applicants, Powell made the short list. He was invited to Washington, D.C., for evaluations, writing assessments and interviews. In the end, he was one of 200 finalists selected for a 2014 PMF position.

He credits opportunities at the GCSW with helping him stand out. For example, through fieldwork with the college, Powell helped establish the mission, brand and nonprofit status at the Southeast Houston Transformation Alliance in Houston’s OST-South Union community. He also pursued an internship with the GCSW’s Austin Legislative Internship Program for social workers interested in public policy.

An issue that drew his attention was a regulation that prevented the remains of cremated veterans from being released to anyone but next of kin. Powell worked on a bill analysis that allowed nonprofit organizations to claim remains. Written by State Rep. Jose Menendez, the bill is now law.

“Long hours spent analyzing bills, combined with the amazing policy professors at the GCSW, taught me that social workers can influence legislation for the greater good,” he said.

Powell will serve a two-year assignment in Alaska as a Presidential Management Fellow, after which he plans to follow through on his goal to help veterans. “With a social work degree, you can create any career you want,” Powell said.