SPEAk Blog – Chicago Career Exploration Trip, Jasmine Burditt

Jasmine Burditt is a first-year Master of Public Affairs student with a concentration in Nonprofit Management at IUB. Jasmine hopes to one day head a national nonprofit organization centered on community engagement and youth development for low-income areas. She enjoys local Bloomington eateries, particularly Runcible Spoon, and local shows an

The SPEA Chicago Career Exploration Trip was one that far exceeded my expectations. I knew we would have the opportunity to meet with employers and organizations in fields of our interest, but I had no idea that I would expand my Chicago network. I was able to meet with an organization called City Year, which works on bridging the gap in educational achievement for low-income students. I read about the organization prior to going on the trip and meeting them in person gave me even more excitement about nonprofits working for a change than I had before!

Not only did I have the chance to meet with Stephanie Chavez, a City Year representative, but I was able to visit their Chicago site location during the last site visits. The panel discussion on nonprofit organizations creating change through community engagement and academic achievement was both enlightening and inspiring. I walked away with big ideas for the future nonprofit efforts and initiatives I hope to make. Since meeting with Stephanie Chavez in Chicago, I’ve made a phone appointment to discuss potential careers within City Year after I graduate in Spring 2015.

Even more exciting was the fact that I made a new mentor in Chicago! At the Thursday morning roundtables I met Tosha Downey, Director of Community Engagement for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. Her passion for engaging students in low-performing schools and their parents in order to decrease the achievement gap for low-income students in Chicago Public Schools is what caught my attention. My main interests lie in the investment of academic and career achievement for low-income youth, so meeting Ms. Tosha gave me a fresh perspective on methods in effectively communicating with parents, teachers and students.

Following the panels, roundtables and site visits, we all gathered at The Hotel Chicago to mingle with SPEA alumni. I met with a previous SPEA student who later earned her JD. I was able to talk with this alumnus and others to gain insight into navigating the professional world post-graduation. From tips on interviews to tips on fun things for young Chicago residents, I gained a lot of insight at the networking event.

In addition to all of these amazing opportunities to meet with potential employers, I was able to experience the city of Chicago’s unique offerings. From the great food, to the skyscrapers of busy downtown, to the booming entertainment scene, this trip was an overall success. This visit has broadened my horizons and has most importantly opened doors for future employment in the city of Chicago.






Spea International Night

SPEA’s International Night is an annual event in spring, hosted by the Master’s Program Office, SPEA Overseas Education Program/Institute for Development Strategies, International Public Affairs Association (IPAA), Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and the International Student Community. This event also engages practicum students from the Masters in Arts Administration in planning and organizing.

International Night is truly a great way to appreciate the diversity of experiences held by SPEA students. Undergraduates interested in Peace Corps service are able to learn from those who have returned, faculty and administrators can see their students outside of the classroom, but most importantly, students can relax and mingle with each other in a stress-free atmosphere.
We are proud to say we have around 150-200 guests including faculty, staff, administrators, and students of all levels, and around 16 countries represented this year. The countries ranged from China, Vietnam, and Mongolia to Belize, Panama, and Peru, all the way to Rwanda and Guatemala. Representatives are encouraged to dress in their host country or their native country’s apparel. Throughout the night students are free to move from table to table learning about the pervious service of their peers and different culture and arts around the world.

The diverse international students group at SPEA, in conjunction with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, put on an evening filled with food, performances, and fellowship. We choose different hosting venues each year. In the past, it has been at the IU Art Museum, where you get a chance to have a closer look at the available art. This year, the Indiana Memorial Union provided a sophisticated space for socializing and networking. Another distinguishing highlight of the event is that we accepted recipes from students of their favorite international food, and catering prepared them to serve during the evening. The recipe book is available for anyone to download, as well.

The evening is also filled with performances by various individuals and student groups. The Chinese Calligraphy Group and different dancing groups take an active part in our event each year. The international students at SPEA contributed many performances to the night as well, such as a lute performance. Student artists in the Arts Administration program present talent shows varying from British songs to Chinese Guzheng.

SPEA’s International Night is a notoriously popular event with attendance growing every year. As any good SPEA student would note, the trend is for the event to continue to grow as word of mouth spreads and also as the student body grows. The involvement of culture centers and institutes around the campus, including Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Polish Studies Center, Inner Asian Uralic National Resource Center, Russian and East European Institute and Institute for European Studies, also helps to highlight all the diversity present on our campus and in our SPE community.

SPEA’s Professional Development Seminar: My Experience

Today’s blog post about attending SPEA’s Professional Development Seminar comes from first year MPA/MSES student, Jeff Covert.

Our perception of professionalism is often clouded by fancy suits, TV actors and by high paychecks. For example, if you were to Google the word “professionalism” today, you would encounter many results—from the latest ties to advertisements for professional seminars—the word fits a spectrum of interpretations. A dictionary definition however directs our attention to some important aspects of the word.  The New Oxford American dictionary defines professionalism as “the competence or skill expected of a professional”. The definition stresses “skill” and “competence” and suggests that above all, a professional is one who can perform to their expectations.  As striving young professionals, it is important to stress performance as the distinguishing characteristic between a professional and an actor. Without this understanding, one can easily associate frivolous objects or actions towards becoming a professional.

The Professional Development Seminar at IU encapsulated professionalism to the fullest extent, not only through the presentations but also through the actions of the presenters. Our hosts displayed skill and competence through great rhetoric, well-prepared presentations and through providing insights from their own professional experiences. It was apparent that the IU’s skilled staff did not develop into professionals overnight; it took practice and commitment, and above all, it meant holding themselves accountable for their performance.

As a professional you are accountable for developing the skillset and competency necessary to meet the expectations associated with your position. In our constantly changing environment, this is not something to be turned on at 9 and then off at 5. Professionalism is a continuous development that allows us to meet expectations now, and in the future. By attending this seminar we were introduced to the expectations for which we will be held accountable. It is therefore our responsibility to develop, and hone in on our skills so that we may become competent, skillful individuals.

It is important to note that much responsibility comes with the title of “professional”. Everyone must hold them selves accountable, whether it is in the public or private sector, we must take responsibility for our actions because even the most skilled professionals can quickly lose credibility. We see this constantly in the news; a few people who come to mind are Lance Armstrong, Johnathan Weiner and Governor Christy. These three people have exceeded their professional expectations only to see their credibility scrutinized by one act of misconduct.  Therefore a professional must realize the fragility of their credibility, and notice that it can be lost in minutes, but take years to develop.  

The IU professionalism seminar instilled many of the important aspects of becoming a professional—competence, skills and building credibility. As students at IU, we are fortunate to be under the tutelage of professionals who hold themself accountable for our development. By attending SPEA, we are exposed to all the necessary resources enabling us to develop the skills and competence expected of a professional. However, it is up to us to take advantage of our resources and strive to become respected professionals.