Humphrey School News—June 16, 2020

Humphrey School Welcomes 21 Future Policy Leaders for Virtual Junior Summer Institute

Program shifts online, but the mission is the same - to prepare students for grad school and public service careers


Four JSI fellows stand on either side of a poster that outlines their group research project.
JSI fellows typically present the results of their research projects in a poster presentation, like this one from 2019. This year, the fellows will do all their course work, research, and presentations virtually. Photo: Humphrey School

Each summer, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs welcomes nearly two dozen college students from around the country to explore their interests in public policy through the Junior Summer Institute (JSI) program. Despite the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s group of JSI fellows will get a similar experience, albeit virtually. 

This is the fourth year the Humphrey School is hosting the JSI, an intensive six-week training experience 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 21 students in this year’s cohort come from Minnesota and nine other states, including Arizona, California, Florida, New York, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; one student is from China. Some are immigrants, while others are the first generation in their families to attend college. What they all share is a desire to work in public service and a commitment to advancing the common good. 

“Given the online format of this year's program, it's important for all of us to recognize that the Humphrey School is so much more than a physical building,” Dean Laura Bloomberg says. “It is a mission-focused community of engaged scholars and practitioners working together toward essential justice and equity goals. Even though our 2020 Junior Summer Institute will be offered virtually, the passion and vision that drives the JSI program continues unabated.”

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. 

Dean Bloomberg says preparing a new generation of leaders in public policy is even more important in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month at the hands of Minneapolis police. 

“In these early days following the murder of George Floyd (and so many other people of color), we launch this year's program with a renewed sense of urgency and dedication to the JSI mission of promoting the inclusion and full participation of underrepresented groups in public service,” says Bloomberg. 

Over the next six weeks, JSI participants will take courses on policy analysis and statistics, get help preparing to apply to graduate school, and meet with policy leaders from diverse backgrounds. They will also conduct research and community engagement projects focused on specific issues that inspire them most—all of it online. 

Alumni say their experience in the JSI program helped them on their path to public service careers. 

“JSI helped me hone my research skills. After I completed the program I had the opportunity to work with one of my political science professors on research around neoliberalism in the United States,” said Tenzin Dhakong, a 2018 JSI fellow who now works as the AmeriCorps Public Ally at the Wilder Foundation in St. Paul. “I know that experience played a heavy role in getting me this opportunity. JSI gave me the chance to interact with professors from a wide range of focuses. These interactions gave me clarity on where my passions lie and played an impactful role in my journey to public service.”

The University of Minnesota is one of five universities across the country to host a JSI, which is part of the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship. It provides full funding for participants and often leads to generous financial aid packages at participating schools. The others are Carnegie Mellon University, Princeton University, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley. 

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