A Serendipitous Path to Public Service

Maim Hoque headshot

Have you ever stumbled on a moment that changed your future? Maim Hoque did, and it propelled him on a path to public service.

Maim Hoque Queens College Info Session
Maim attending the Queens College info session
asking a question from the audience.

As an undergraduate at Queens College, Maim was unsure what career he wanted to pursue. He chose to study political science because he liked the topics and keeping up with current events. One day, in 2019, the Volcker Alliance held an information session for the Paul A. Volcker Careers in Government Essay Contest and Maim decided to attend on a lark. As he listened to the presenters, he learned about Paul Volcker for the first time. Maim was inspired. During his tenure as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker leveraged his knowledge and experience to make hard choices about raising interest rates in the face of fierce criticism and political pushback. Maim was struck by the courage that required. “Public servants need to rise above the fray and make the unpopular decision for the greater good…sometimes that’s critical,” Maim said. “All of a sudden, it was clear to me that I wanted to be that kind of leader and contributor.”

Maim then began to look for opportunities in the public service space. He decided to apply for, and was selected to participate in, the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute (JSI) at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy the following summer. The fellowship takes undergraduates on a deep dive through statistics, microeconomics, and policy modules exploring international and domestic affairs. It presents students with a unique opportunity to step up to the challenge of graduate-level coursework while learning from practitioners who are leading real-time policy making in government.

“PPIA not only helped me appreciate the skills thoughtful policy making requires but introduced me to public service leaders whose stories, much like that of Mr. Volcker’s, blew me away,” Maim said. “Their accomplishments, their drive to create tangible change for millions of Americans — it broadened my perspective of what I would be able to accomplish if I pushed myself further.”

After his summer with PPIA, Maim explored many kinds of public service positions. He earned a fellowship with ExpandED Schools, an organization that seeks to expand and strengthen the afterschool sector, and taught public speaking and debate to high school students in New York City through the American Debate League. He worked as a research and development program associate through AmeriCorps VISTA at the New York City Department of Education. He served as a Frédéric Bastiat fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, learning the academic foundations for contemporary policy analysis and policy-relevant academic research.

Together, these experiences led him to his current venture: pursuing a master of science in public policy and management at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.

“At Heinz, there is a dedication to public service and a very strong emphasis on using tech to improve people’s lives,” Maim says. “The broad term—public interest tech—focuses on utilizing the power of technology to make a difference. The research I am currently assisting with looks at how AI can boost academic achievement for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.” This project gives him hope for how the advances in Silicon Valley could be used for civic causes.

“There’s no way I could have known when I walked into that info session four years ago the spark it would light in me,” says Maim, “I may not have won the contest, but the sense of purpose and inspiration I walked away with have been invaluable on my journey to public service. I can’t wait to see where the future takes me.” Neither can we, Maim.