The Humphrey School of Public Affairs this week welcomed nearly two dozen college students from around the country to Minneapolis, to explore their interests in public policy through the Junior Summer Institute (JSI) program.
The JSI is an intensive seven-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. 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.
"We are thrilled to have our JSI fellows back on campus in person this year, and excited to work closely with these brilliant young minds,” said Sherlonda Clarke, the Humphrey School’s director of admissions.
The 22 students in this year’s cohort come from Minnesota and 12 other states—Arkansas, California, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington. 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.
“I’m pleased to welcome this group of accomplished students to the Humphrey School for this year’s Junior Summer Institute,” said Humphrey School Dean Nisha Botchwey. “The JSI program is key to our commitment to provide promising young leaders the opportunity to pursue work that advances the common good, especially those from historically marginalized groups.”
The JSI, part of the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship, was launched several years ago to address the lack of diversity across the spectrum of professional public service, including government, nonprofits, public policy institutions, and international organizations.
“Promoting the full participation of diverse leaders in public policy is even more important as communities around the country seek to address inequities in public safety, education, health care, and other systems that have been laid bare by the pandemic and continued social injustices,” said Botchwey.
Over the next seven weeks, the JSI fellows will be immersed in coursework on policy analysis, statistics, economic policy, and other subjects that will boost their readiness for graduate school. They’ll meet with policy leaders from diverse backgrounds, and conduct research and community engagement projects focused on public policy issues that inspire them.
They’ll also visit community organizations and landmarks including the Minnesota State Capitol, the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Walker Art Center, and others.
Alumni: An 'invaluable' experience
Alumni say their experience in the JSI program helped them on their path to public service careers.
Zakariya Abdullahi was a JSI fellow in the summer of 2020, and just completed his first year in the Master of Development Practice program at the Humphrey School after earning his bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs from Augsburg University in Minneapolis.
Abdullahi said the JSI program was invaluable.
“I took classes I never would’ve taken as an undergrad. [They] made grad school feel doable,” said Abdullahi, adding that those classes helped him hone his writing and research skills.
Networking is another important part of the program; fellows build deep relationships with their peers and are connected to an expansive network of alumni.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of the program is the substantial financial support it provides to participants to pay for graduate school. PPIA offers fee waivers for schools in their consortium, as well as substantial scholarships that can cover 50 to 100 percent of tuition.
“Without PPIA, I wouldn’t be going to grad school,” Abdullahi said.
The University of Minnesota is one of six universities in the U.S. 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.