College Students Encouraged to Pursue Public Service Careers During Weekend Program at Humphrey School
College students from all over the state of Minnesota spent this past weekend at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs—looking for ways to turn their passion for public service into something more concrete.
The 23 undergraduate students, all of whom attend colleges in Minnesota except one from Chicago, took part in the Humphrey School’s inaugural Public Service Weekend designed to spark an interest in graduate school and careers in public affairs.
Many participants are well on their way: some are working as political interns, others are involved in advocacy campaigns at their schools. Another is serving on the cabinet of the statewide Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota.
The weekend-long training, also held each year at other universities, is sponsored by the Public Policy and International Affairs Program, a national nonprofit organization committed to increasing participation of underrepresented communities in public affairs. Most participants are first-generation college students, immigrants, and students of color.
“Our country and our world need exceptional leaders who reflect the diversity that characterizes our changing communities,” said Dean Laura Bloomberg as she welcomed the students to the Humphrey School. She encouraged them to start thinking about how they can prepare themselves for a life in public service.
Raie Gessesse, a sophomore at Hamline University in St. Paul, has already gone from thinking about public service to acting on it. Gessesse is one of two dozen young women appointed by Governor Mark Dayton last year to help lead the Young Women's Initiative of Minnesota, to work toward equity in opportunities for women and girls ages 12-24.
“Through this initiative, I have found myself extremely engaged in issues around gender equity, and have become interested in the public policy and advocacy aspect of it,” she said.
Gessesse said her goal for Public Service Weekend was to gain insights into how to become a more effective activist and leader.
“How can I advocate for a community without speaking for all, or only speaking for a few?” she asked. “How can I maintain ground-level relationships with the people I am advocating for, while also engaging in policymaking discussions?”
Students participated in a variety of activities, including panel discussions with community organizers and Humphrey School alumni; a research training exercise led by representatives of the Government Accountability Office; networking opportunities; and a speech by U.S. Senator Al Franken, D-Minn.
The Humphrey School is one of six college and universities that host Public Service Weekend events. This summer, the Humphrey School also hosted another PPIA program, the Junior Summer Institute, an intensive seven-week training program for students entering their senior year of college.