A group of talented college students successfully concluded a rigorous Junior Summer Institute (JSI) training program late last month, hosted by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
They wound up their seven-week session by presenting the results of their group research projects into timely topics such as public health, education, and immigration, among others.
The JSI program is designed to prepare rising senior undergraduate students—mostly from underrepresented communities—to thrive in master’s degree programs and launch careers in public service.
The 22 students in this year’s cohort came from Minnesota and 12 other states. Some are immigrants; some are the first generation in their families to attend college.
The program equips the fellows with leadership and management skills, problem-solving techniques, and an understanding of how to analyze data when making critical decisions to help address complex social challenges.
The students took courses in policy analysis and statistics, received help preparing to apply to graduate school, and met with policy leaders from diverse backgrounds.
They worked in teams to conduct research projects focused on public policy issues such as education, public health, immigration, and more, and delivered their findings in poster presentations on the last day of the program.
Isabel López was on a team that researched federal immigration policy for their final project. Lopez is an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Venezuela in 2017. She is a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, majoring in economics and international studies.
“The poster presentations were the most valuable aspect of JSI. This is where all of our studies came together, and gave me a taste of what I want to keep doing,” said López. “I feel more called toward international issues. I specifically want to work with cultural heritage preservation in refugee and diaspora communities.”
Along with the coursework, there were many opportunities for the fellows to learn more about the Twin Cities metro area.
They visited the State Capitol, the Science Museum of Minnesota, art museums, and other sights, and toured the city of Minneapolis by bike.
“My favorite part of the program was the bike ride we took [led by Professor Greg Lindsey], where we learned about urban planning,” said López. “I was thinking about how so many of my passions intersect with it.”
Networking is another important part of the program; fellows build deep relationships with their peers and become connected to an expansive network of JSI alumni across the country.
This is the sixth year that the Humphrey School has hosted a JSI; the last two years the program was entirely online due to pandemic restrictions.
JSI is offered through the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Program, a national nonprofit that supports a variety of efforts to increase diversity in graduate studies in public policy, international affairs, and public service.
The program provides full funding for participants and often leads to generous financial aid packages at participating schools.
The University of Minnesota is one of six universities across the country to host a JSI. The others are Carnegie Mellon University, Princeton University, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, and the University of California, Berkeley.