Each year the Ford School’s Graduate Career Services and Alumni Relation offices organize a professional development trip to assist current graduate students in exploring policy careers and networking with alumni in the field of public policy. The trip is organized similarly to a conference, where panels are held all day in various locations across D.C. to introduce students to a variety of public policy sectors and career paths. The different conferences and events included a panel session on analytics and evaluation, international development, urban policy, social policy, a tour of the State Department building and time with Foreign Service Officers, and more. Katy and myself both have a strong interest in international health policy issues. Therefore, Washington D.C. serves an important source of knowledge and career opportunities in the field.
We both found the trip to be educational. With Katy’s background in the non-profit sector, she was able to explore careers in the federal government, consulting, international development, and social policy arenas. Through the trip, she was able to discuss career opportunities and learn about specific sectors in context. The Ford School and other schools at the University of Michigan bring in alumni and speakers, but traveling to D.C. allowed us to meet alumni in their places of work, in order to really understand different work cultures and practices on-site. The trip allowed Katy to create a strong connection with alumni working with USAID and at the US Department of State. Personally, I was also able to cultivate relationships with alumni that will prove important, such as discussing potential internships with USAID, Department of Health and Human Services, and some smaller NGOs.
The trip highlighted the importance of that oft-dreaded graduate school theme: networking. That many of those in attendance were alumni was an immediate icebreaker, which was important to somewhat like myself who is relatively new and inexperienced with cultivating these types of professional relationships. When I discuss the University of Michigan with prospective students, I tend to finish my emails or discussions about its pros and cons with a serious note about its alumni base. Michigan not only has the largest alumni network in the world, but the alumni culture is also very active and supportive. The trip brought this concept to life for both Katy and myself in a new way. We greatly appreciate support from HPSA to attend the trip and encourage all dual or MPP students to seek out HPSA support in the future.
--Michael Budros, MPH, MPP 2017