MSU's Jones, Langstaff named national PPIA Junior Summer Institute Fellows

By: Carl Smith

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Posted: 3/14/2024

MSU's Jones, Langstaff named national PPIA Junior Summer Institute Fellows Photo By: Photo by Grace Cockrell

Two Mississippi State juniors hoping to shape public policy in the future will spend this summer in a prestigious and intensive national fellowship program that will prepare them for graduate-level studies.

Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College members Alijah Jones, a political science major from Greenwood, and Lily Langstaff, a wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major from Southaven, recently were named fellows in the Public Policy and International Affairs Program's Junior Summer Institute.

Jones will spend seven weeks at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, while Langstaff will attend Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government over the summer. Both will study economics, statistics, domestic and international policy issues, and leadership topics designed to sharpen skills vital for admission into the nation's top public and international affairs graduate programs.

The two Bulldogs are among 149 fellows selected out of more than 1,300 applicants this year and are the only two students from the Magnolia State.

The PPIA summer program helps high-potential undergraduate students—especially those from historically underrepresented backgrounds—have greater access to successful careers in public service. Fellows receive stipends covering their full participation in the program, free books and course materials, university housing and career guidance and coaching. They also are guaranteed application fee waivers when applying to members of PPIA's graduate school consortium, a minimum $5,000 scholarship if accepted by a consortium member and lifetime participation in PPIA's Public Service Expo.

A Bill Collins and Charles Menifield Scholar, Jones' studies at MSU focus on diplomacy, governance and linguistics. In 2022, he studied transatlantic relations at the University of Oxford in England as part of the Shackouls Honors College's Oxford Study Abroad program. Jones said he hopes to serve as foreign service diplomat with the U.S. Department of State following graduate school.

"I grew up wanting to learn about different cultures. As I got older, I started wanting to help alleviate some of the things that keep us separate as a world," he said. "Joining the Junior Summer Institute program will allow me to have first-hand conversations with people who have served in the diplomatic roles that interest me. I'm excited to hear about their experiences and learn how things actually unfolded."

Langstaff, a Presidential Endowed Scholar, said she is studying conservation biology so she can become "a professional river rat" whose policy work profoundly supports the Mississippi River. Specifically, Langstaff said she plans on working as a government affairs liaison for a non-profit organization focused on water resources conservation, wetland restoration, flood mitigation and nature-based management of seasonally flooded areas such as the Mississippi Delta.

"I have always felt a connection to Mississippi's natural environment—specifically our water resources. I have fond childhood memories of fishing and tubing in Mississippi that have grown into a passion for conservation, especially as I believe Mississippi is a state that has strong conservation needs," said Langstaff, who serves as an MSU College of Forest Resources ambassador and on its Dean's Council of Student Leaders. "I chose Mississippi State both because of the scholarship opportunities it provided and because I knew I wanted to stay in my own state and study its natural resources before I leave for my graduate education. I wholeheartedly love MSU, and I am grateful for the opportunities it has provided."

David Hoffman, MSU Office of Prestigious External Scholarships director, said the summer program represents an incredible opportunity for Jones and Langstaff to learn from preeminent scholars and a diverse cohort, "which will undoubtedly help prepare them for graduate studies and their careers." Hoffman also noted MSU has now sent a student to the Junior Summer Institute eight years in a row and nine years out of the last decade.

"Just like those before them, Alijah and Lily are not only excellent scholars and active on campus, but they have also taken advantage of incredible opportunities to broaden their perspectives, enhance their training and demonstrate their commitment to public policy and service," Hoffman said. "Whether it was Alijah's engagement with the Oxford study abroad and language training here at MSU or Lily's experiences in Washington with the Demmer Scholars program and internship with the Nature Conservancy, they both demonstrate the transformational pathways available to MSU students both on campus and beyond."

Learn more about the MSU Department of Political Science and Public Administration and Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture by visiting and, respectively.

For more information about the Public Policy and International Affairs Program's Junior Summer Institute, visit

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