Humphrey School News—October 17, 2019

Aspiring Young Leaders Get a Taste of Grad School at Public Service Weekend

Humphrey School welcomes undergraduates interested in public service careers

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Wide shot of three Public Service Weekend participants presenting their final project on climate change.
Public Service Weekend participants present their final project in the final session of their weekend workshop. About 20 undergraduate students spent three days at the Humphrey School to learn more about opportunities in public service.

It’s a fact that the populations in Minnesota and around the country are becoming more diverse, and that requires a new generation of leaders who reflect that diversity. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is committed to preparing those future leaders, in part by introducing college students to the broad range of opportunities available in the field of public service.

That was the goal of the Public Service Weekend hosted by the Humphrey School October 11-13, which attracted 19 undergraduate students from colleges and universities around the Upper Midwest for three days of skill building, group discussions, and networking with faculty and policy experts. 

The weekend program was organized by the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA), a nationwide not-for-profit that supports efforts to increase diversity in public service. The Humphrey School is one of a dozen institutions around the country that held Public Service Weekends this year. 

Dean Laura Bloomberg set the tone when she welcomed the group, saying the weekend’s theme of human rights is central to the mission of the Humphrey School.

“There’s not much that happens at this school that’s not connected to human rights. The topics we’re talking about, like education, gender equity, children’s rights, are like threads of a tapestry. They’re all intertwined,” Bloomberg said. “And all of the things we do here to advance good public policy are related to those issues. That’s at the core of what our school is all about.”

Participants in the Humphrey School's Public Service Weekend, along with faculty and guest presenters.The students came prepared for the discussion, sharing their desire to learn more about the Humphrey School and about how they can be involved in addressing society's problems. 

“I want to be engaged with other students of color who are passionate like me,” said one University of Minnesota student. “Many of the issues we talk about impact people of color more, so we need to have a seat at the table. We will make a lot more progress if everyone is represented.” 

The students spent the better part of the weekend working in small groups; each of them researched a specific human rights topic, evaluated various options to address the topic, and presented their recommendations to the larger group. 

“A fundamental part of making good policy is to work in teams,” Bloomberg noted. “In the world of public affairs, you will never do things alone. You have to work with people who are different than you. But diverse groups tend to make better decisions, so putting yourself in that decision-making circle is good experience for what’s to come.”

Public Service Weekend student talks with Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, sitting at a tableThe group also met with Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins (at right, in photo), a former State Department official who is an expert on assessing global threats; representatives from the Government Accountability Office; and Humphrey School faculty experts on human rights and criminal justice issues. 

The Public Service Weekend program is part of the Humphrey School’s mission to encourage promising young leaders to pursue work that advances the common good, especially those from historically marginalized groups, said Director of Admissions Sherlonda Clarke.  

“It’s important for the Humphrey School to open its doors to people in the community and introduce them to the power of public policy,” Clarke said. “That includes prospective students and aspiring leaders like the Public Service Weekend participants, who are just beginning to think about how they can affect change in the world.”

Each year the Humphrey School also hosts another PPIA program, the Junior Summer Institute,  an intensive seven-week training experience designed to prepare rising seniors for graduate school and careers in public service. The deadline to apply for the 2020 JSI program is November 1. 

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