My Experience at SPEA’s Spring Experience Day

Today’s blog post about attending SPEA’s Spring Experience Day comes from first year MPA/MSES student, Kristin Shaw.

The spring semester of my senior year was coming to an end, so finals, papers, and project deadlines were starting to sneak up on me. I took one weekend off, amidst the craziness, to attend SPEA’s Spring Experience Day.

At the time, I still wasn’t sure which school I would attend to pursue my advanced degree, but as soon as I got to Bloomington, I felt welcomed by my host and started to fall in love with both Bloomington, IN and SPEA. The opportunity to visit SPEA allowed me to see what a day in the life of a SPEA student is like, and the event helped me understand SPEA students’ devotion to schoolwork and how they balance school and student life.

Having arrived early on the day before the event, I was able to sit in on a class before my host and I headed to Uptown for a great meal and an opportunity to meet other prospective students and current SPEA students. During the meal, I learned what a Hoosier really is, where the best restaurants in Bloomington are, the reasons that the current students chose SPEA, and what they all were studying.

Friday was a jam-packed day, full of more information about the program. We started the morning with some icebreakers and a delicious breakfast. Once the information sessions began, all of my questions about the MPA program were answered. We talked about concentrations, the different degree programs, options for studying abroad, different opportunities for funding, and ended the day with an inspirational speech from Jennifer Forney, Director of Student Services, that helped solidify my decision to attend SPEA.

But the day wasn’t quite done yet, and we went back to my host’s apartment to get dressed up for the SPEA Gala & Auction, where money is raised for student funding through a live and silent auction. Gala was a great chance to see the family-like qualities SPEA has, as students mingled with professors. My favorite part was the live auction when students competitively bid for a coveted cooking class with one of the professors.

By the end of the day, I had fallen in love with SPEA and Bloomington. The icing on the cake would have been experiencing the Bloomington farmers market on Saturday morning, but instead I had to fly back to finish my papers and projects, and prepare for finals. Even as I flew back, I knew that picking a grad school was much less daunting, having attended the Spring Experience Day. As a first year MPA/MSES student, I’m excited to see what I can accomplish during my time at SPEA!

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IU SPEA Service Corps: An inside look

Service Corps is a collaboration among the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), local nonprofit organizations and public agencies. Through this innovative program and the leverage of Federal Work Study monies, SPEA students are named Service Corps Fellows and contribute to the public management, economic development, environmental policy, and human service needs of the local and surrounding community.

SPEA’s curriculum is centered around applied learning. Service Corps assignments strengthen the articulation between theory and practice while filling critical gaps in service delivery in the surrounding community. The goal is for students to assume responsibilities in support of strategic objectives of the department, agency, or organization to which they are assigned. SPEA’s Service Corps reinforces a Fellow’s advanced academic training through its application to real-world work settings via placements in the community. The practical experience offered is enhanced further by offering professional development seminars and professional contacts that may serve as mentors and supplement professional networks integral to Fellows’ career pursuits. In the past, Service Corps projects have ranged from conducting research and writing reports on greenhouse gas emissions to writing grant proposals to providing volunteer coordination and management. Ultimately, it is expected that students will enhance individual management techniques and leadership skills while putting into practice their classroom learning.

See what one our Fellows has to say about his experience with Service Corps:

Kyle Clark-Sutton, MPA/MSES ‘15

When I heard I was selected to be one of SPEA’s new Service Corps Fellows for the 2014 cohort, I didn’t really know what to expect, but was excited to get started. There is a lot of diversity among the Service Corps partner organizations—each potential placement has a different mission and different shoes to fill. Each placement is substantive and challenging, which you lends the Fellowship a different professional depth than a typical internship.

After researching the partner programs, and going through a long interview process, I was matched with the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, where I serve as an Advocacy Associate within the Advocacy Team. The Chamber’s mission is to represent the interests and needs of Chamber members by being involved in everything that is happening at the local, state, and sometimes federal level.

The Chamber serves a wide variety of companies in Bloomington, from sole proprietors like Joan’s Caramels, all the way up to the largest businesses in the community like CFC Properties. One day at work, I visited a local scrapyard to talk about a new ordinance the City Council was considering, and the next day I attended an IU Health event about workplace wellness. The variety makes for an interesting work place and I’m quickly becoming familiar with all the moving and shaking going on in in the community.

Some days the pace is fast and unpredictable, and I’m learning as we go. Other days are calmer, which gives me a chance to dig deeper into a project. One of my first tasks was to help finalize the annual Business Climate and Legislative Agenda Survey. The survey helps the Chamber understand what issues are most important to local businesses, and we use it to chart the advocacy course for the next year in consultation with the Advocacy and Legislative Committees.

One issue that the survey addressed was how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affects local businesses. I’m currently working with the Healthcare Committee of the Chamber to keep track of the rollout and provide resources to our members who may be affected by (or able to take advantage of) the small business components of the legislation.

I’m also finding opportunities to practice researching and writing briefs on issues. Shortly after I started, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission released the 2013 Water Resources Report, which mentioned Lake Monroe as an underutilized resource. As a result, my supervisor asked me to review the report and do some research to understand more about Bloomington’s water supply and whether the Chamber should be involved in this issue. After all, a stable and steady flow of water is essential to thriving business.

I have experienced all of these great opportunities to learn and contribute, and many more. Additionally, I have interacted with many interesting people in the Bloomington community, while working with a really motivated and fun staff, and I have been challenged and well supported by my Chamber Advocacy Director and my SPEA supervisor. Service Corps is really a unique opportunity, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Career Exploration Trip – Denver, CO

The Career Development Office at SPEA organizes Career Exploration Trips each academic year for current students. Career Exploration Trips afford students the opportunity to visit employers at their headquarters or through targeted career panels in order to learn about internship and job opportunities, and how to be a competitive candidate for positions. Large alumni networking events are organized for each trip.

Annually, the Career Development Office organizes its Denver trip, which takes place before the Thanksgiving break.  Denver, with its environmental and energy industries and its many federal offices & agencies, has been an increasingly popular choice for SPEA students post-graduation. (Denver has the second largest concentration of federal jobs in the US; Washington DC is the first.) This trip provides excellent educational and networking opportunities for current students to meet with, and learn from, Denver professionals.

Today’s blog post about her experiences at the Denver Career Exploration Trips comes from first year MPA/MAAA student, Ashley Dillon

I’ve had my sights set on the Mile High City for some time now, so when the Career Development Office announced the Denver Career Exploration Trip, I was extremely excited. The fact that it fell on my birthday was an added plus – I’d go on a birthday trip and advance my career all at once! I immediately penned the call-out meeting into my planner.

The information session consisted of me, a couple of friends, and a large number of MSES students.  As a dual MPA/MAAA student, I was a little worried about how many arts and nonprofit organizations would be represented at the event. I spoke to the CDO about my concerns, and they assured me that there would be several arts and nonprofit organizations were in the schedule, and even encouraged me to let the CDO know if there were any specific organizations I wanted to see represented on the trip. I bought my plane ticket that night.

The trip was incredibly beneficial. My favorite events were the “round table” sessions, where small groups of students spoke with representatives of local organizations. This set-up allowed for more one-on-one time than a traditional panel, and enabled me to learn about organizations and valuable resources in the Denver job market from many representatives. Spread out over two days, the event included representatives from 50 organizations.

The hotel was right downtown, enabling us to explore the city once we adjourned for the day. Denver is a really fun and friendly city, so there was a plethora of things to explore. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the actual city where I hoped to live and work after graduating from SPEA. We had lunch listening to street musicians, ate incredible Mexican food, and went to an arcade bar where we engaged in a competitive game of SPEA skeet ball.

At “round table” session, I spoke in depth to two development representatives from the Colorado Symphony, and I was able to exchange contact information with them. On a later site visit, we took a tour of Symphony Hall and their administrative offices. We learned about the new initiatives that the Colorado Symphony is promoting to bring in a younger audience, about the long term plans for hall renovation, and the fact that the staff all bring their dogs in to the office on Fridays!

Once we got back from the trip, I emailed the symphony representatives about possible internship opportunities. After communicating via email, they offered me a summer internship, and I could not be more excited to start. Initially, I had no idea what to expect from the Career Exploration trip, but it was an amazing opportunity to envision my future opportunities and network with SPEA alumni, knowing that I could reach out to organizations that recognized the quality of my SPEA education. Plus I ended up with an internship with my dream employer in one of my favorite cities!