SPEA: More than Just a Great School to Get a Job

I know what you’re probably expecting based on the title of this blog post: a) Chris received an excellent education from IU’s SPEA program; b) Chris got some skills and benefitted from the great reputation of SPEA; and therefore c) Chris received a great job with the U.S. Forest Service in the Portland, Oregon area working as a Public Affairs specialist. A + B = C. Simple enough, right? In part I wish my path to finding my job was that traditional, but in another way, I feel like my unique experience with SPEA might shed some light onto why I am glad I graduated with SPEA’s name on my diploma.

I was given a federal Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) position working with the Mt. Hood National Forest’s Public Affairs officer during my Junior year as an undergraduate. The SCEP program provided me with great on-the-job training while also helping me pay for my schooling and offering me a full-time job after I completed my Master’s degree. I didn’t fully realize what a great opportunity I had been given since this was the summer of 2008—right before the housing market crashed and the economy dipped into recession and the country’s unemployment rate rose above 10%.

Now, the country is slowly recovering from this economic downturn, the unemployment rate is gradually dipping, and the housing market is beginning to rebound. But, there are still many people concerned with their financial futures and whether investing in furthering their educations will actually result in greater opportunities and higher paying jobs. I admit, I was one of the few lucky ones who started his Master’s degree with a job already lined up, but let me tell you a few of the reasons why I still feel very fortunate to have graduated from SPEA just a few weeks ago.

Since I had a job lined up from the very beginning at SPEA, I decided that as soon as I had finished my core courses, I would focus on taking classes that would add tools to my tool belt. I knew these tools would make me a more profitable employee for the federal government, which, in turn, would lead to advancing into more significant roles with federal agencies more quickly.

I took a class on strategic management where I learned a variety of techniques, from managing budgets and employees to managing volunteer networks. I took a class that delved into public organizations: their structures, values, and challenges. I took a class on information systems that the public sector could use to streamline disseminating information and other means the public sector could use to interact with the public to make government more transparent and accessible. I was a part of a study abroad program in Oxford where I developed an international perspective on the current climate crisis and other environmental issues we’re facing today. I took a database management course that taught me how to build professional websites with database capabilities. And, I took a final project course that looked at the monitoring systems used by State agencies to monitor forestlands.

All of this will be extremely useful in my new position as a Public Affairs specialist and all of my SPEA courses have provided me with skills that will give me a leg up in future positions within the USDA and elsewhere in the federal government. I had several options when deciding on what Master’s program I wanted to attend, and it ultimately came down to what program would offer me the most skills while having a prestigious reputation. With SPEA’s firm #2 national ranking among MPA programs and  the courses I’ve been able to take these last two years, I am very certain that I made the right decision: SPEA is definitely the program I needed.

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