May 5, 2011
Brandon Porinchak is a true American patriot.
Serving 11 years with the 1st Cavalry Division and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, the Iraq War veteran — active in Bagdad from November 2003 to April 2005 — was a Humvee gunner during 50 convoy detail missions while also serving as a voice and data communications specialist.
No one would have begrudged Porinchak if he had settled down to a quiet life after the decorated veteran completed his tour of duty. But that was never a thought for him.
While Porinchak, 31, was building a family — wife Kerri, and children Kaleb, 4, and Sullivyn, 2 — he was also establishing the building blocks that would ensure that he would be helping to improve communities for years to come.
Porinchak, a resident of Lititz in Lancaster County, will graduated from Temple University in May with his master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning having taken courses at both the Ambler and Harrisburg campuses. Degree in hand, he already knows what his next step will be toward fulfilling his goal of serving his country in every way possible.
Out of a field of more than 9,100 applicants, Porinchak was among the one out of ten selected this year for the Presidential Management Fellows program, a prestigious two-year paid government fellowship that provides him the opportunity to work with a variety of United States government agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Defense, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The rigorous selection process included hours of interviews, tests, and assessments — the Arthur F. Loeben Community and Regional Planning Student Development Fund supported his travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the process.
Porinchak learned that he had been formally selected for the Presidential Management Fellows program in April.
“It is such a tremendous honor; it’s a difficult process but completely worth it,” he said. “I’m excited not just for my future but for how I can hopefully help others through this process. I want to give back to Temple in that way — to help other Temple graduates become Presidential Management Fellows and create these essential connections.”
In late April, Porinchak returned to Washington, D.C., to attend a job fair with dozens of federal agencies.
“I met with a variety of agencies and was offered and accepted a Fellowship with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I’m absolutely thrilled,” he said. “I will be a program analyst with the Field Policy and Management Division in the Philadelphia regional office, which is terrific as we won’t have to move from the area.”
Porinchak said HUD was in fact his first choice for an agency he wanted to work with.
“With my background in community planning, I like what HUD does. They are a tremendous asset to the government and our citizens through economic development and affordable housing programs,” he said. “They take a hands-on approach to addressing the nation’s problems. Becoming a Presidential Management Fellow provides me with the opportunity to serve the nation in addition to providing tremendous leadership training and educational opportunities within the federal government. I’m truly looking forward to learning how the different agencies work together.”
Porinchak “already has a global perspective framed by his time with the military,” said Dr. Deborah Howe, Chair of the Department of Community and Regional Planning.
“Experience with the federal government will strengthen his skill set and give him the chance to network in ways that can open opportunities for intriguing career paths; it will be interesting to watch his career unfold,” she said. “Brandon is a dynamic and engaged student who cares deeply about effective planning. He has much to offer to the profession.”
Presidential Fellows must demonstrate “breadth and quality of accomplishments, capacity for leadership, and a commitment to excellence in the leadership and management of public policies and programs,” according to the program. In addition to working with a department or agency, Fellows are also involved in a minimum of 80 hours of formal classroom training each year of the program.
Following the completion of the two-year fellowship, Presidential Management Fellows are often given the opportunity to take on full-time positions with the department they have been working with.
“My parents instilled in me a duty to one’s self and to one’s country. I believe in serving my community,” Porinchak said. “I’ve worked at the state, county, and municipal level as a planner. The logical next step was to work for my country.”
Prior to beginning the Community and Regional Planning program at Temple, Porinchak worked with the Lancaster County Planning Commission and as planning and zoning director for Elizabethtown Borough.
“I wanted to pursue an advanced degree; I wanted a broader and stronger foundation in planning. Temple's Community and Regional Planning program came highly recommended and is very well thought of in the profession,” he said. “The knowledge base of the professors is so broad — environmental planning, economic development, transportation planning, stormwater management — and they do everything they can to help you succeed as a student and as a professional. My educational experience with the program has been so dynamic while also being practical — I can take what I learn in class tonight and apply it on the job tomorrow.”