At age 20, Theresa Gonzalez left college to join the Army. Two decades later, Gonzalez is now a CSU Global alumna, mother, veteran, and medical technologist – and a finalist of the Class of 2023 Presidential Management Fellows.

On September 11, 2001, New York City native Theresa Gonzalez was attending college on Long Island. Her mother, a paramedic with the Bronx Fire Department, was one of the hundreds who responded to the 9/11 attacks in the days that followed the tragedy. 

Deeply affected by the event, Gonzalez struggled with her classes and ultimately decided to join the U.S. Army. She left for basic training and was deployed to Iraq shortly after. 

After spending a year in Iraq and helping to oversee the country’s first elections, Gonzalez returned to the states and began to consider her next move. She set her sights on nursing school, earned a pre-medical associates degree, and transferred to the University of Southern Florida – conveniently located next to the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. 

Gonzalez began a federal work-study program at the VA, where she discovered her passion for working in a medical laboratory. Upon graduation, she accepted a job at the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, working in the blood bank. 

A few years later, Gonzalez got the itch to return to the classroom, enrolling in CSU Global’s Master’s in Healthcare Administration program. “For people who are busy or who have children, CSU Global is perfect,” shared Gonzalez. “I had incredible teachers who were leaders in their fields.” 

Upon graduating from CSU Global in 2022, Gonzalez started to “hit her stride” and decided to apply to the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) program – a highly competitive, prestigious two-year fellowship program for recent graduate students who are interested in pursuing a career in the federal government. The program provides a pathway for fellows to enter the federal government at a higher level, with the potential for accelerated career advancement.

To apply for the PMF program, applicants must have completed a graduate-level degree from an accredited institution within the past two years. PMF finalists are matched with a federal agency and complete a series of developmental assignments, receive mentorship, and participate in leadership and professional development activities. At the end of the two-year appointment, PMFs are eligible for conversion to a permanent federal position.

Out of 10,000 applicants to the PMF Class of 2023, Gonzalez was one of only 850 selected as a finalist. “I am the only one from CSU Global,” shared Gonzalez as she looked through the list. “I’m next to people who went to Harvard or other Ivy-league schools, but I am so proud of my reasonably priced degree from CSU Global.”

After reflecting on the last two decades and the adversity she experienced, Gonzalez is excited to see how many doors she can open in the next few years. She knows that earning her graduate degree expanded her opportunities tenfold. 

As for her next dream? “To have a desk with a window where I can drink my coffee and work on spreadsheets – preferably at NASA or the CDC.”