By: Rachael Andrews

Maheen-Arzoo Chranya, AB ‘21, experienced an eye-opening opportunity through SPIA’s Emerging Leaders program in the summer of 2018. Maheen’s parents emigrated from India and Pakistan, and despite never attending university themselves, valued Maheen’s education greatly. Maheen believes that her time at UGA has been inspired by the fact that her parents moved to the United States with very little in terms of resources and connections. 

“My parents may not have had university classes, but they had coworkers, managers, bosses, and neighbors, and they learned from them,” Maheen describes. Similarly, she feels that, along with her classes, the people she surrounds herself have taught her the most.

As a first generation student, Maheen says she chose the international affairs major because she cared a lot about education and international development. “I was eager to explore that and grow in that, however, I stayed in SPIA because of the professors,” she explains.

“In my sophomore year, when I started taking more serious classes, there were several professors who really encouraged my interest in international security and converging journalism,” she continues. “They found those things valid and worth growing, and I got some really great mentorship.”

When looking for an internship, Maheen found similar mentorship in Adam Paige, SPIA’s Internship and Recruitment Coordinator. 

“I went to Mr. Paige looking for an internship and he told me about the program,” she says. “I was interested in [Emerging Leaders] because it seeks to empower students like me.”

The SPIA Emerging Leaders program allows students the opportunity to intern with state and local agencies in Georgia in order to gain substantial experience in public policy, public services, public safety, and public wellbeing in Georgia. Students in the program generally have a history of overcoming unique challenges, are a first generation college student, or otherwise have life experiences that offer them a different perspective. 

Maheen worked with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission through the program. The organization, based in South Georgia, specializes in workforce development, elderly care, downtown renewal projects, among other areas.

“I was really interested in the versatility of that work, and especially that the Emerging Leaders program gave me the opportunity to go and work with them by offering a paid opportunity.”

Maheen was a government specialist intern, which means that she had the opportunity to travel around the state to see what rural communities look like in Georgia and to witness the experiences of elderly, immigrant, or generational landowner Georgians as well.

Maheen also had the opportunity to understand communication and transparency between government and citizens and how that may inform citizens’ experiences and trust in the government. “That was really valuable to me and it informed my career goals of using those skills to increase government transparency,” Maheen describes.

“I’d love to continue to work on facilitating conversations between policymakers and those who the policies are meant for.”

Maheen is also a student ambassador and goodwill host for the Arch Society, and her experiences at SPIA allow her to help other first generation students like her. 

“One of the privileges that I had no idea even existed was the opportunities for research,” she says. “I lead tours and some of the best moments have been giving tours around North campus and stopping at Candler Hall to tell my tour kids about research opportunities.”

“Being able to transfer my experiences that help me grow and learn in and out of the classroom to others is very rewarding,” she concludes.