Exploring public service possibilities with GVPA 100: Making Policy Real
by David Slipher
VCU students are a curious bunch who are passionate and committed to living their values of social justice and ethics. But sometimes it can feel like a daunting task to put these beliefs into action.
Taking an early academic interest in public service might not be the most obvious choice, but a new course at the Wilder School is seeking to change that by showcasing glimpses into a variety of potential career avenues.
GVPA 100: Making Policy Real, explores pressing social problems and crises and offers solutions to expand students' knowledge and scope of the impacts of public decision making. During the hybrid course, instructed by Myung Jin, associate professor and Master of Public Administration program chair, students are introduced to the worlds of policymaking, civic engagement and how the media and politics influence public affairs.
"A lot of students are interested in participating in the public domain, but oftentimes they don't have the context, they don't have the network,” said Jin. “This class will be able to really give them something to think about, that if they're interested, there are these routes that they can start thinking about and reaching out for their futures.”
The coursework will brush upon governance and planning, managing organizations, and ethics, among other topics. By the end of the course, students will have a practical roadmap for exploring career paths across disciplines. Jin hopes that during the semester, students can also grow their appreciation of public administration as a tool of social change.
Guest speakers across Wilder School program areas of criminal justice, regional and urban planning, homeland security and emergency preparedness, and public administration and policy will provide broad insights into many multifaceted careers impacting and transforming these fields. Faculty speakers Susan Gooden, Amy Cook, Lindsey Evens, Maureen Moslow-Benway, and Wenli Yan, as well as a presentation from 66th Governor of Virginia, L. Douglas Wilder, the school’s namesake, join to share their real-world experiences and expertise.
Jin is excited to instruct undergraduates for the first time in 12 years, as he usually lectures to graduate students. “I'm pumped up about this opportunity about what this class can do for the Wilder School,” he said. “It's never too early to start thinking about careers in public service, and it’s perfect timing for our students who are just starting their undergraduate experience.
“It's very interesting talking to each person about their different majors because it just gives you more, it gives you the idea of who you’d be going into the field with and what other options are there for you. If you're undecided, maybe it could sway your decision,” said Tierney Judd, a Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness transfer student. “And that's been really helpful because I've noticed that pretty much everything in the Wilder School is interconnected in some way.”
“It's very interesting talking to each person about their different majors because it just gives you more, it gives you the idea of who you’d be going into the field with and what other options are there for you. If you're undecided, maybe it could sway your decision. And that's been really helpful because I've noticed that pretty much everything in the Wilder School is interconnected in some way.” –Tierney Judd, a Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness transfer student
It’s a perfect supplement for students to add versatility to their academic experience, even if they don’t plan for public service careers, said Jin, who sees cross-disciplinary training as skills highly valued by future employers. The course, a requirement for Wilder School students, is open as an elective to all undergraduates and draws students from social work to political science and other areas across liberal arts.
Jin encourages students to pursue their passions and experiment with public policy internships and volunteer opportunities to help direct guide interests and academic focus. In some cases, these initial inroads can help secure full-time employment upon graduation. “I want students to think beyond or outside the box about what understanding public affairs can do for them,” Jin said.
As the chair of the Master of Public Administration program, Jin is not shy to admit that the course might help influence undergraduates to continue their education in the Wilder School. “I'm optimistic that this course will also help increase our graduate numbers in just a few years,” he said.
“I think it's a really good way to get the resources out there and get more information circulating about the Wilder School,” said Judd. “It's really helped get people interested in the different options and pathways that they can take.”