Recent North Central College graduate Mark Zajac ’12 of Des Plaines, Ill., has earned a spot as a policy fellow in Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s Chicago office through the James H. Dunn Memorial Fellowship Program.
“I’ve always been interested in all things international, traveling to other countries and foreign affairs,” Zajac says. “This fellowship opens a lot of doors and will help me to better understand the world.”
Zajac is the second North Central graduate in the last four years to earn a prestigious Dunn Fellowship appointment. Laurel White, 2010 graduate of the College, earned a Dunn Fellowship to work in the governor’s press office in Springfield as a member of the 2010-2011 cohort.
Dunn Fellows are selected through a competitive application process that draws high-achieving graduates from across the nation to serve in Illinois state government. Fewer than 20 fellowships are awarded each year. The program offers participants a firsthand experience in state government operations with a full salary and benefits to work for one year in the governor’s office in Chicago, Springfield or Washington, D.C. The program begins in August and ends in July of the following year.
Zajac learned about the Dunn Fellowship program as an intern in U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office in Chicago after a staffer sent an email about the opportunity. Zajac found it a good fit for his career goals.
“Politics is something I’ve been interested in since I was fairly young and pursuing a career in it is something I’ve always wanted,” he says.
Zajac graduated in fall 2012 with triple majors in German, Spanish and international business with a minor in Chinese. On campus, he was involved with the multicultural student clubs Fusión Española, Chinese Club and International Club. He also presented research at North Central’s Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research. A College Scholar, he completed an honors thesis titled “From Cold War Era Germany to the Middle East of Today: The Relevance of German Film to Contemporary Political Issues.” He is a graduate of Maine West High School.
An avid global learner, Zajac spent a term studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany, and a second term in Sevilla, Spain, to refine his skills in the German and Spanish languages.
“Studying abroad in Germany and Spain were incredible opportunities, and I was really able to learn and grow personally and academically,” Zajac says.
Having garnered a wealth of experience in politics through internships during his undergraduate career and since graduating, Zajac offers advice to current students interested in working in the field. “Put yourself out there and network as much as possible,” he says.
The James H. Dunn Memorial Fellowship Program is a yearlong governmental honors fellowship program in Illinois. The fellowship affords recent college graduates the opportunity to experience and gain firsthand knowledge of Illinois state government and general governmental structure at the executive level.