Two dozen La Follette School students descended on Chicago November 6 for a whirlwind career exploration visit, the second such event sponsored by the school in the past year.
The students visited the Government Accountability Office, heard from a panel of alumni with experience in the Chicago-area nonprofit world, as well as a panel of state- and county-government officials, and engaged in a lively discussion about the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
"This kind of 'outside the classroom' experience is crucial to our students' professional success and the ongoing development of our alumni and friends network," says Hilary Shager, associate director of the La Follette School, who accompanied the students along with staff members Bridget Pirsch, Mary Treleven and Terry Shelton.
The La Follette School sponsored a similar trip a year ago to Washington, D.C., in an effort begun by Director Susan Yackee to expand career development and exploration opportunities for students – as well as way to reach out to alums and friends.
Students on the Chicago trip say the effort is paying off.
"I was particularly impressed by the panel of local government workers in how they captured the ups and downs of government jobs," says Megan Will, a second-year student in the Master of Public Affairs degree program. "Candice (Jones) was frank but positive about the problems of working in a large state agency. And Andy (Schwarm) is clearly challenged but rewarded by his work on performance measurement for the county. Overall, it was just a good reality check on what future career options might include."
Candice Jones, director of Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, and Andy Schwarm, chief performance officer for Cook County Government, spoke on a panel organized by 2012 alum Nate Inglis Steinfeld, research director, Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council.
Second-year MPA student Ben Emmel, who asked several probing questions at the Export-Import bank presentation, agrees the visit was worthwhile.
"The give-and-take debate over the merits of the Export-Import bank was vigorous and eye-opening," he says. "I was impressed the officials gave our student questions serious consideration and weight."
In addition to their site visits, the students attended an evening reception where they were joined by about a dozen Chicago-area alumni and several other local practitioners. The event, held at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, was hosted by La Follette alum and Chamber President and CEO Theresa Mintle.
In her remarks at the reception, Shager said La Follette sponsors professional career exploration days and evening receptions because they tap the expertise of alums and friends.
"Your advice gives our students a practical and hands-on boost in their search for internships, jobs and careers," she said, adding: "But you do something even more special and not nearly so visible. You give inspiration to us all about the important work of public employees at all levels of governments. For that and your service, we thank you all."