PPIA Program

“Diversity & Leadership in Public Service”

News & Events

2019 Summer PPIA Junior Summer Institute Application Now Open

Posted on September 1st, 2018

The 2019 Summer PPIA Junior Summer Institute Application is now open at https://jsiawards.ppiaprogram.org/.

PPIA Public Service Expo – Join us for the 16th Annual PPIA Graduate School and Career Fair!

Posted on May 2nd, 2018

PPIA Public Service Expo

Held in the nation’s capital, the PPIA Public Service EXPO serves as a creative commons for prospective applicants to public policy and international affairs schools, for individuals seeking public service careers and internships, and for strengthening a community of high-impact individuals.

DATE: Friday, July 20, 2018
TIME: 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm
WHERE: Marvin Center, The George Washington University
COST: Free to attend!







Who should attend?
The EXPO brings together representatives of some of the nation’s top graduate programs in public policy and international affairs and employers seeking highly qualified individuals who are committed to public service under one roof. Undergraduates and graduate students alike can benefit from the expertise and guidance they can access through this event.

Why attend?
Attend to learn about the graduate school admissions process.
Attendees of the EXPO receive unparalleled access to decision makers in the admissions process at the nation’s top policy schools. Prospective applicants have an opportunity to ask questions about various policy programs, what makes a strong candidate, and carefully consider which programs align with their interests and careers.

Find careers and internships in public policy and international affairs!
As many graduate programs emphasize career experience as an essential part of a competitive application, the Expo encourages attendees to visit the various employers that offer information about careers and internships in public service.

Be part of a community!
Recognizing the importance of networks, the Expo provides a crucial meeting point for over 200 students each year to exchange ideas, information, and inspiration. The EXPO also offers students attending PPIA’s Junior Summer Institutes the opportunity to meet each other and connect with program alumni in Washington, DC.

Registration Links:

For Participants Only – Public Service Expo Attendee Registration

2018 Public Service Weekends Announcement – Summer Conference Applications Now Open!

Posted on May 2nd, 2018

Public Service Weekends

PPIA’s mission and overall focus is to increase the participation and inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups at the highest level of public sector leadership. NASPAA, the membership association of graduate programs in public administration, public policy, and public affairs, supports these goals and shares PPIA’s vision in creating a new generation of diverse students to enter graduate programs and pursue careers in public service.  PPIA is thrilled to announce the Public Service Weekends being planned in 2018 to introduce more students to the broad range of opportunities available in the field of public service.

2018 Summer Conference Hosts

A Mile High Ascent to Public Service
University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs – Denver, Colorado
June 7 – 10, 2018

NextGen Leadership: Ethics and Practice
George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs and Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public administration – Washington  DC
June 15 – 17, 2018

Civic Engagement, the Public Trust, & Public Policy
Pepperdine School of Public Policy – Malibu, CA
June 15 – 17, 2018

Defending Our Communities: The Role of Social Justice in Public Service
University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy – Los Angeles, California
June 22 – 24, 2018

Leadership in the Age of Smart Cities: How Technology Can Advance Sustainability, Efficiency, and Equity in Urban Communities
Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Public Policy and Management – Washington DC
July 20 – 22, 2018

2018 Fall Conference Hosts

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) – Albany, NY
November 2-4, 2018

Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy &  Walsh School of Foreign Service – Washington DC
November 9-11, 2018

School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) at University of California San Diego – San Diego, CA
November 30 – December 2, 2018


PPIA Alumni Chapters Fired Up & Ready to Go!

Posted on October 4th, 2017

PPIA alumni chapters have been gathering throughout the country to extend PPIA’s goal of promoting the inclusion and full participation of underrepresented communities in public service. Check out dispatches from the field below!

PPIA Southern California Alumni Chapter

  • On August 24th, the PPIA Southern California partnered with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs to host a New Fellow and Alumni mixer at the UCLA campus. The event brought together 36 local area alumni—including many 2017 JSI graduates—to connect and learn about graduate programs at UCLA Luskin. The event featured remarks from Dr. Abel Valenzuela (PPIA Sloan ‘85), Professor of Urban Planning and Chicana/o Studies, and Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment; Ms. Sonja Diaz (PPIA Michigan ‘06), Founding Director of the Latino Politics and Public Policy Initiative at UCLA Luskin; and Mr. Sean Campbell, Admissions Officer at UCLA Luskin.

Stay connected to the PPIA Southern California Alumni Chapter by clicking here

PPIA Chicagoland Alumni Chapter

  • The newly founded PPIA Chicagoland Chapter kicked off at the end of June with a chapter launch in Chicago’s West Loop. PPIA alumni from a variety JSI cohorts were able to meet, reconnect, enjoy a fun evening, and learn about ways to support upcoming Chapter activities. Following the chapter launch, the Chicagoland Chapter began forming a leadership team and connecting with JSI fellows from the 2017 cohort.
  • Members of Chicagoland Chapter have also since spearheaded fall JSI outreach efforts, promoted JSIs to students at Northwestern and DePaul, and partnered with the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy to host a JSI Prospective Fellow & Alumni Reception.

The Chicagoland Chapter is in the process of connecting prospective fellows with alumni who are willing to provide JSI application support (e.g. personal statement review). If you are interested in providing such assistance, you can contact the Chicagoland Chapter at: ppiachicagochapter@gmail.com

Stay connected to the PPIA Chicagoland Alumni Chapter by clicking here.

PPIA New York City Alumni Chapter

  • On November 15th, the PPIA New York City Chapter, in partnership with the Open Society Foundation, will co-sponsor and co-host the first of many alumni events. The evening aims to bring together PPIA alumni in New York City as a community around issues of policy, professional and personal development. Speakers will share some often unspoken truths about their leadership and career journeys to spark smaller group conversations around identity, career, and community. PPIA alumni are welcome to help shape the direction of the PPIA NYC Chapter.

Stay connected to the PPIA New York City Chapter by emailing dianawon@gmail.com.




Read about PPIA Summer Public Service Weekends

Posted on August 5th, 2017

Public Service Weekends

PPIA’s mission and overall focus is to increase the participation and inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups at the highest level of public sector leadership. NASPAA, the membership association of graduate programs in public administration, public policy, and public affairs, supports these goals and shares PPIA’s vision in creating a new generation of diverse students to enter graduate programs and pursue careers in public service.  PPIA is thrilled to announce the Public Service Weekends being planned in 2017 to introduce more students to the broad range of opportunities available in the field of public service.


Equity + Public Service: Empowering the New Generation of Social Justice Advocates at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy – Los Angeles, California.

Technology and Societal Change: What Leaders of Tomorrow Need to Know Today at Heinz College of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University – Washington DC.

Striving For the Peak of Public Service in the Mile High City at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs – Denver, Colorado.

Global Leaders Forum: World Affairs and the Changing Landscape at 
Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service & McCourt School of Public Policy – Washington DC.

Previous Conference Host
University of California, San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy – Conference article.

PPIA Alumni Reflection on the 2017 Public Service Expo in Washington DC.

Posted on July 29th, 2017

Last year, I had the honor of serving as one of the co-chairs for PPIA’s 35th Anniversary Celebration. In that role, I was able to coordinate the event, but did not get to spend time with the fellows from Princeton and Carnegie Mellon. This year, I had a different perspective.

This year, I had the privilege of speaking with the fellows at the Stimson Center about my journey as a PPIA alum and my work in political campaigns aiming to diversify those who run for public service. After my speech, several of this year’s fellows asked me questions that emphasized the importance of PPIA. Many of them wanted to know how they can prepare for graduate school, and how they can do it without incurring debt.

The next day, the fellows participated in a world cafe workshop with admissions officers from various graduate schools in our PPIA consortium and heard from panelists who worked in various federal agencies and private sector companies. As I facilitated these workshops and listened to the questions from the fellows, two things became clear to me: our fellows crave mentorship, and financial aid is more important than ever.

The fellows were most engaged when they were able to ask questions about their situations. In a field that is severely lacking diversity, our fellows need alumni who can share their wisdom and success. Our fellows need mentors, and I am calling on all PPIA alumni to step up and reach out to their JSI institutions to see how they can help.

This year’s fellows were also most engaged when they talked to admissions representatives about financial aid and how they could afford to earn a Master’s degree and still work in public policy and international affairs. I commend Rutgers and Carnegie Mellon for committing full funding to any PPIA alumnus admitted to their schools. As a student who received a full scholarship package from the Humphrey School, I can attest to the importance of full funding for our PPIA alumni. If our graduate schools want to attract the brightest and most diverse students to a career in public policy, offering partial scholarships just will not cut it. It is time for schools to step up and show their commitment to building the capacity for diversity in public service.

I was honored to give back to a program that has deeply shaped me and spend a couple of days with this year’s fellows from Princeton and Carnegie Mellon. It is inspiring to see a group of young, eager students waiting to change the world. It also reminded me that we have a lot of work to do to achieve our mission of increasing diversity in public service. I hope our alumni and supporters will consider giving a little more time and resources to dedicate themselves to this important work.

James P. Chan

PPIA Alumni, JSI Princeton 2011





PPIA Fellows Public Service Expo reflections from the day:

“We need more policy experts asking questions which have yet to be asked, and we need more policy experts from historically underrepresented populations.  Society makes foreword strides when leaders tackle problems from different angles and discover new approaches. I believe diversity is integral to that end; our PPIA Expo highlighted how diverse analysts could be successful in the policy world.”

Esteem, 2017 Princeton Fellow

“PPIA helped me think about what kind of leader and team player I am and the kind I want to be. It has been a humbling yet empowering experience. I am grateful for the experience. PPIA events: The opportunity to meet people who are doing the work I envision for myself and connect with policy schools I researched was extraordinary.”

Joy, 2017 Princeton Fellow

“The PPIA events helped to expose me to new and interesting career paths through events and panel discussions with graduate schools and public sector employers. I enjoyed meeting and networking with professionals who understood my passion for public service and the need for young voices in government.”

Dillon, 2017 Princeton Fellow

“I was able to meet someone from the CBO on Thursday from Illinois, who offered to mentor me through the application process of a fellowship I was planning on applying to! And having questions about mentorship and motivation answered by former Ambassador Reuben Brigety (Friday at the Elliot School) assured me that PPIA was where I ought to be this summer, as an aspiring diplomat.”

Chris, 2017 Princeton Fellow

News: 35 years on, next-gen leaders reflect on public policy, international affairs prep school

Posted on May 4th, 2017

An excellent article published by the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy about the PPIA Program:  http://fordschool.umich.edu/news/2017/35-years-next-gen-policy-leaders-reflect-policy-prep-school

35 years on, next-gen leaders reflect on public policy, international affairs prep school

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Angela Banks (MPP ’97) is a senior attorney for the U.S. Social Security Administration. Latesha Love-Grayer (MPP ’02) is a senior policy analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Farouk Ophaso (MPP ’06) serves on the minority staff of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget. Ciera Burnett (MPP ’09) is a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State. And Evan Raleigh (MPP ’12) directs Winston-Salem’s Office of Business Inclusion and Advancement.

Not only are these all Ford School graduates, they are also alumni of the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program, a summer training institute that prepares fellows—all students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in policy leadership—for graduate school, and careers of influence, in the field.

“The program was huge for me. And I imagine for others as well,” says Lorelei Vargas (MPP ’96), a former fellow. “To this day, the people I met during that summer, I’m still friends with.”

Vargas knows PPIA fellows who interned at the White House, or in Congress. She completed her own internship with Mario Cuomo, who was up for reelection at the time. “I got to work on the campaign and sit in on press conferences. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for politics and government from the inside.”

Mellie Torres (MPP ’97)
Photo of Mellie Torres

Mellie Torres (MPP ’97) says PPIA made it possible for her to consider a career in public policy. “I’m so forever grateful for the fellowship opening up this whole new focus for me. And the rigor of it was so mindblowing,” she says. “It was the first time I had to pull all-nighters!”

PPIA also helped bring Torres to the Ford School for her master’s in public policy. “We had a reception at someone’s apartment—a student’s apartment—and professors came out,” she says.

“It just seemed like a very down-to-earth space; I was so comfortable with them… I didn’t even want to think about other schools I had applied to. The professors just made me feel so welcome as a student of color.”

Banks, Love-Grayer, Ophaso, Burnett, Raleigh, Vargas, and Torres are just a few of the 4,500 alumni of the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) fellowship program. Over the past 35 years, many of those alumni have come to the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy for the fellowship’s undergraduate summer institute, to complete their graduate studies, or both.

The fellowship is based around the PPIA Junior Summer Institutes—a national initiative launched by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (link is external) in 1981.

These seven-week long institutes bring students from diverse backgrounds to the campuses of top public policy programs, where they take a rigorous course load. At Ford, that curriculum is focused on training students in quantitative and applied policy skills through courses in statistics and economics, and through rotating policy seminars, many taught by prominent faculty, that cover a variety of policy challenges.

These summers of hard work and networking have helped to train a generation of public service leaders. Most alumni of the Junior Summer Institutes go on to complete graduate degrees in public policy or international affairs.

Today, PPIA Fellows serve as Foreign Service officers for the State Department and USAID; as administrators in federal, state, and local government; as policy advisors for the United Nations; and as program managers, research analysts, fellows, consultants, and more for a wide array of groups, both public and private.

Alumni of the program have tended to rise up to important positions—and many credit PPIA for setting them on the course.

Seventeen PPIA alumni are currently working on master’s degrees at the Ford School—12 of whom attended the summer institute here, as well. According to Beth Soboleski (MPP ’89), director of admissions and recruiting and PPIA Board of Directors secretary, this is one of the largest groups of PPIA alumni studying at the Ford School at one time, something made more significant by the Ford School’s unwavering commitment to the program.

Monica Rodriguez (PPIA ’16) and Roger Sanchez (PPIA ’16)
Photo of Monica Rodriguez<br />
and Roger Sanchez

“The Ford School’s long and rich partnership with PPIA has been beneficial in so many different ways. The most obvious benefit is the relationships that we are able to develop with the fellows in the summer,” she said. “It’s so amazing to have an opportunity to get to know this talented group of students from across the country and to help them think about the next stage of their lives and careers.”

Current Ford students who went through the program reaffirm many of the experiences and benefits described by Vargas, Torres, and Soboleski.

“PPIA gave me the tools I needed to excel beyond my undergraduate career,” says Cortney Sanders (MPP ’17), who first came to Ford as a PPIA fellow in 2013.

“No one in my family really knew how to navigate graduate school applications and interviews. It was the PPIA experience that set me apart from all the other students who came from a similar background of poverty and being a first generation graduate student.”

“PPIA for me was nothing short of a life changing experience,” says Melvin Washington (MPP ’18), another 2013 fellow.

“Even though I had always been interested in politics generally, PPIA introduced me to the world of public policy…and connected me to a network of wonderful people both inside and outside of my own cohort. The PPIA family has served as a wellspring of intellectualism, guidance, and friendship.”

In the past, over 20 public policy schools offered the Junior Summer Institute to undergraduates as part of the PPIA fellowship program. But as external funding was redirected, many institutions stopped offering summer institutes. The Ford School, however, has offered a Junior Summer Institute each summer since 1983.

“We’re one of only two schools that has never missed a summer,” says Susan M. Collins, Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy. “When funding was pulled, the University of Michigan and the Ford School decided this was a program we were deeply committed to, and the decision was very, very clear.”

When the program began, both the summer program and graduate fellowships awarded to participants were fully paid for by external foundations. When outside funding for PPIA ended in 2006, the university and the Ford School stepped up to provide funding for the full costs of the summer program, including room and board, a stipend for each fellow, summer instruction, as well as a guaranteed graduate fellowship of at least $5,000 for PPIA alumni who choose to continue their studies at the Ford School.

“That’s a decision we’re all really proud of, and one we continue to support to this day,” says Collins.

By Jackson Voss (PPIA ’13, MPP ’18) for State & Hill, the magazine of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Alumni Voice: Michael Mitchell PPIA 2009 (Carnegie Mellon University)

Posted on May 3rd, 2017


We had the pleasure to interview Michael Mitchell (PPIA 2009, Carnegie Mellon University) who is the Senior Policy Analyst and Program Director of the State Policy Fellowship Program at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Mr. Mitchell focuses on criminal and juvenile justice reform and reinvestment as well as state higher education funding and affordability, and the fellowship program is for recently graduated Masters students interested in conducting research and analyses on critical state budget and tax policy issues.

Below is our interview with Mr. Mitchell where he discusses how PPIA has impacted his graduate studies and his professional career, the significance of his work today, and some of his proudest accomplishments.



How did PPIA impact your career?

The Public Policy and International Affairs Program has played a huge role in shaping the early years of my career. It gave me confidence that I could not only get into a top-tier public policy school, but that I could thrive at one. Working with graduate level instructors, taking graduate level classes and learning aside other talented and passionate young people – many of them also students of color – gave me the shot of confidence I’d need to excel in graduate school.

PPIA has also been an entry-point into an invaluable network of dedicated public policy advocates. Almost without exception at any conference I attend or networking event I find myself at, I run into other PPIA alum. Having that built-in network that I can tap into is great and helps facilitate the connections I need to do my day-to-day work well. On a more personal level, some of my closest friends are people that I met during my summer as a PPIA Fellow – it’s been amazing to grow and advance in our careers together and support each other throughout all of it.

Lastly, my summer with PPIA gave me a glimpse into all the different types of careers and roles that could be available to me if I pursued a career in shaping public policy. Having an idea of what I could do with a master’s degree in public policy helped me go into graduate school and the job market with my eyes open and ready for a range of opportunities.

You mention that you are focusing on criminal and juvenile justice reform. Could you talk a little more about what you are working on and why your work is significant today?  

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a Washington, D.C.-based policy institute that conducts research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic policy, policies related to poverty, and several social programs at both the federal and state levels. In my role as a Senior Policy Analyst, I focus on fiscal policy – that is, what we choose to spend public tax dollars on and how we choose to raise those tax dollars. This, of course, intersects with almost every other area of policy you can imagine including criminal and juvenile justice.

For criminal and juvenile justice advocates, this is an especially important moment in time as a narrow window of opportunity has emerged where folks along the ideological spectrum are realizing that the tremendous human and fiscal costs of our current criminal justice policies are unsustainable. It is possible that for the first time in decades, states may choose to enact reforms that would markedly slow, and perhaps even reverse, the growth of their prison populations. In a country where more than 2.2 million people sit locked up in prison and jail cells on any given day and states spend more than $50 billion on prisons and parole, there’s no overstating how tremendous a policy shift this would be.

As a Senior Policy Analyst, my work in this environment has focused on highlighting how costly our criminal justice is – for families, for whole communities and for state budgets. I argue that states can and should shrink their prison populations, spend less money on locking people up and instead put those resources into other more socially productive areas of spending, like better schools, child-care for families and mental or physical health care. It has been exciting to work and partner with other social justice organizations, author reports and participate in panel discussions to accomplish these goals.

In addition to making the case for shrinking our reliance on prisons, I’ve also engaged in research on the intersection of criminal fees and fines and state fiscal policy. This is an issue which has gained significant and growing attention in recent years especially after the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. As the resulting Department of Justice’s report of the Ferguson police department uncovered, local policymakers had become dangerously reliant on revenues generated from court fees and criminal fines to fund day-to-day government operations. This is not only an issue in Ferguson, and my research has focused on detailing this trend and what fiscal policy solutions exist to reverse it.

Throughout your professional experiences, what achievement are you most proud of?

Along with being a Senior Policy Analyst here at the Center, I’m also the Director of the State Policy Fellowship Program –a two-year policy fellowship opportunity for recently graduated master’s students. The program identifies highly motivated candidates – paying particular attention to candidates having experience with communities that are underrepresented in state policy debates – with a demonstrated interest in working on public policies that affect low-income and diverse communities and have implications for racial equity.

As the Program Director, I oversee almost every aspect of the program, from day-to-day interactions with the fellows, to alumni engagement, to the recruitment and application review process. It is so remarkably rewarding to engage with such talented and passionate individuals and to see them grow and thrive in research placements across the country. As someone who has benefited deeply from fellowship experiences in my own career I feel extremely honored to have the chance to pay that opportunity forward.

CBPP’s Mission Statement: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonpartisan research and policy institute. We pursue federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways. We apply our deep expertise in budget and tax issues and in programs and policies that help low-income people, in order to help inform debates and achieve better policy outcomes.

Alumni Voice: Jennifer Godinez PPIA 1996 (Princeton University)

Posted on May 3rd, 2017


We had the opportunity to speak with PPIA Alum Jennifer Godinez, the Associate Director of the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MNEEP). In our interview, we discusses the state of education in Minnesota and how MNEEP is working to ensure that students of color and American Indian students achieve their full academic and leadership success.  Ms. Godinez shared her motivations pursuing a career in public service and education, and how PPIA and her graduate school experiences at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs played a role in her professional career.

Below is our interview with Ms. Godinez.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Could you talk a little bit about the challenges facing Minnesota’s education system today and MNEEP’s role in transforming education in the state of Minnesota?

So the organization is really concerned about a couple things. One is obviously, we’re measuring talent, we’re measuring students by test scores and we see a persistent gap, what we call an achievement gap, but we understand from research and from other best practices that it’s really reflective of an opportunity gap. So where we have growing numbers of students of color and immigrant students in the state, we are obviously not transforming our system to better meet their needs and better meet their families’ needs so that they can be successful in academics. So our mission statement, we changed it a couple of years ago but we’re very focused on using a race equity lens to transform organizations and institutions and leaders to better address the opportunity gaps of students of color in the state. We have 5 major goals, and we’re really looking at systems change and we get community voice to help shape systems change in education.

Why is it important that we use the word equity vs. equality?
That’s a great question. Well we know that equality means – everybody gets the same thing in order to produce an outcome of equality. We understand that there are differences, and especially historical differences and how different groups have been treated in this country, so there’s another term that we use which is the education debt which is coined by some critical race theorists, and prominent ones in education saying that there’s been historical disinvestment and holding back of communities of color and immigrant youth. And so with those policies in place, historically and currently too in terms of suspension rate policies right now and over representation of young men of color, then we know that we need to get to equity which is addressing specific needs of certain groups and really including them in systems and policies in a way that they’ve never been included before.

How has your JSI experience and your time at the Humphrey School helped you in your profession today?

I think every kind of training I’ve had in public policy has built on top of the other because it’s understanding the fundamentals of making arguments, knowing how to do policy analysis, understanding research, seeing how, historically, research has been used to shape policy and how sometimes that’s good sometimes that bad. So really just a good background on fundamentals of writing, research, and policy analysis […] It engaged me a bit more in the field of public policy in what you could do in the field whether as a non profit manager or an elected official or working at a capital or working at the national level in policy – so really that introduction and overview of all the different roles and the skills that it take to be successful in those roles.

“I still think, for students of color, getting to know people on a very personal level, understanding what our Muslim brothers and sisters go through, understanding what men who have been previously incarcerated for very small issues that are now back in our society, understanding what transgender folks are going through to go through school or a family that has a transgender child… that makes a huge practical and relational difference in our society,” Jennifer Godinez.

About MNEEP: “Minnesota Education Equity Partnership uses a race equity lens to transform educational institutions, organizations, and leaders to ensure that students of color and American Indian students achieve full academic and leadership success.”



2017 Public Service Weekend Recap: UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy

Posted on May 2nd, 2017

Congratulations to the UCSD GPS Public Service Weekend Participants!

Read the full story below published by UCSD School of Global Policy and Strategy, written by Anthony King and Sarah Pfledderer.

Paths to public service

GPS hosted ambitious, diverse students for the inaugural Public Service Weekend at UC San Diego

By Anthony King and Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News

Madeline Bell Hauenstein spent the last nine months working in South Africa and is curious about how nonprofits and the public sector work together to improve lives. Jessie Hernandez-Reyes wants to serve in Congress to confront inequities, representing the 51st district of California. Nancy Nguyen — who experienced economic inequity firsthand while growing up — wants to break the cycles of poverty concentrated in communities of color.

Ambitions considered, these three 20-somethings also share an eagerness to know if a career in public service is their best choice. And for one weekend, together, the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) gave them a look into just that.

Funded in part by a UC San Diego Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Innovation Grant, the School hosted a first-of-its-kind weekend retreat for underrepresented undergraduate students, showing them that careers in public service are not only interesting, but achievable.

Thirty-two students from across California visited campus April 22-23, participating in discussions with faculty members and staff on building career skills, working in the public sector and applying to graduate school. The visitors interacted with current GPS graduate students and received a tour, focusing on the many campus resource centers.

Identifying opportunities for diversityStudents tour the campus

Jennifer Burney, an assistant professor at GPS and 2017 Diversity Award winner from the Office of EDI, said the impetus for putting together the weekend stemmed, in part, from a desire to develop a more diverse student pool for the new Master of Public Policy degree program. Burney said the weekend served as a path to expose and train diverse candidates for careers in public policy.

“The field of public policy lacks racial and ethnic diversity, and grossly fails to represent the general population at all levels: local, state and federal. This is particularly worrisome for real-world implications. Institutions and policies will not only be uninformed of their constituencies, but they will potentially be counterproductive,” Burney said. “It’s obviously a multifaceted problem, but we believe through this weekend we’re addressing this critical issue in a very local, active way.”

Undergraduate students attending came from many University of California campuses, including UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Riverside and UC Berkeley. Some came from California State universities in San Diego, Long Beach and Los Angeles, while others participated from Point Loma Nazarene University and several of the region’s colleges: Palomar, Southwestern, Pitzer, Pomona, Scripps, Occidental and Pasadena City.

“I am honored to have been a part of the first Public Service Weekend,” said Karen Alpuche, majoring in public policy analysis at Pomona College. “I took away so much from this weekend. The panels were incredibly helpful in trying to determine the different career paths there are, and served to demystify what ‘public service’ entails.”

Latrel Powell double majors in political science and Africana studies at San Diego State University. “I’m interested in policy because that’s where the best and brightest minds congregate and really solve, critically, the issues and address real concerns,” he said. “Also, I want to change the world. I’m still a little kid in that sense. I want to make it a better place, and I think it begins with connecting with people.”

To that end, Public Service Weekend organizers recruited speakers whose careers modeled the multitude of ways one can make a difference through their work. There are many ways to contribute, said GPS assistant dean Wendy Hunter Barker, thus the overarching purpose of the weekend was to assist students in discovering what next step is most productive.

“Of course, we hope pursuing higher education is something they consider, and a strong goal for the weekend was to strengthen our ties to the many institutions and colleges outside of UC San Diego who serve underrepresented students,” Hunter Barker said. “Ultimately, we are all working toward the same goal: helping students achieve their dreams.”

Tom Wong speaking at Public Service WeekendPublic service paths unveiled

Tom Wong, associate professor in UC San Diego’s Department of Political Science, gave a colorful walkthrough of the obstacles he overcame as an undocumented immigrant growing up in a Southern California neighborhood infamous for gangs — ultimately building a support network that took him to a policy advisor position for the White House to improve the quality of life for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“Whatever chip is on your shoulder, let it build a fire under you,” he said to students. “And say yes to everything. You don’t know what opportunities you will miss.”

Former California Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny spoke to the students as well, painting her personal backstory about entering public service and, foremost, running for public office. She is now the senior policy advisor at GPS’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies.

Former Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) director Joy Olson also addressed students, treating them to a condensed version of WOLA’s advocacy training that has been used in communities in central America for decades to affect change. Additional speakers included GPS acting dean Gordon Hanson, Master of Public Policy faculty lead Zoltan Hajnal and School of Medicine Associate Director of Policy and Education Casey Cox. Students heard from elected-official representatives, community officers from the environmental, social, health and education sectors, and campus diversity leaders.

In addition to the Office of EDI, sponsors for the weekend included the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. PPIA national director Simone Gbolo attended the weekend, which was the first in a series of PPIA’s Public Service Weekends in 2017, and underscored the importance of diversity in public policy careers.

The UC San Diego Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion funds pilot projects that advance the campus Strategic Plan diversity goals. Grants up to $15,000 may be requested, with priority given to those who propose new, innovative projects that have the potential to create systemic changes addressing disparities in faculty, student or staff ranks at UC San Diego. Innovation Grant applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. The next proposal deadline is May 26.

View photos from the weekend.