UChicago program prepares students for careers in public policy, service

Patrick Wu
Patrick Wu, AB’14, had internships with the Chicago Police Department’s Research and Analysis Division and UChicago Crime Lab.
Greg Borzo
News Officer, Physical SciencesUniversity of Chicago News Office

When Riley Paul, AB’16, was searching for a career that would allow him to make a difference in underserved communities, he turned to the Fried Public Policy and Service Program.

Launched in 2010 as UChicago Careers in Public Policy and Service, the program prepares students for careers in the public sector, including government, nonprofits, public policy and social service agencies. It is one of eight industry pre-professional programs offered through the Office of Career Advancement. The program provides advising with experienced professionals, internships across the world, professional development workshops, alumni networking and on-campus recruiting. It also offers “career treks,” trips in which students visit leading employers in their field. Such treks have taken students to organizations in cities including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Paul engaged extensively with program advisers, seeking help crafting his resume, writing cover letters, preparing for interviews and discussing his career goals. He earned a job as liaison to the CEO at Chicago United, an organization designed to promote economic opportunity for people of color, through the UChicago Public Interest Program, which places recent graduates in yearlong, paid fellowships.

“I focused my studies on race and the ways policy can disparately affect marginalized communities, so Chicago United’s advocacy of people of color really resonated with me and was a clear progression from work I had already been doing in college,” Paul said. “I was excited once the Public Interest Program matched me with Chicago United, and I appreciate how they worked with me to secure the position there.”

According to Career Advancement, about one-quarter of UChicago graduates entering the workforce since 2010 have gone on to public interest careers in government, education, nonprofits, economic development and public policy.

“University of Chicago students are incredibly passionate and engaged with public policy and service, and it’s our privilege to help them bring their talent and energy to careers in which they are making a difference in the lives of countless people throughout our city, nation and world,” said Sylvia Atsalis, program director of the Fried Public Policy and Service Program.

Thanks to the support of UChicago alumni and generous donors, the number of internships and other opportunities available to students has grown rapidly. Career Advancement has collaborated with campus partners such as the Institute of Politics to increase the number of public sector employers hiring UChicago students. In the summer of 2011, 58 UChicago undergraduates secured an internship in public policy or service. By last summer, that number had climbed to more than 350.

Intensive, personalized career support

In addition to offering internships and other experiential learning opportunities, the Fried Public Policy and Service Program supports students at every stage of their job search process through programs such as the Rosenzweig Scholars Program, which provides intensive, structured support for fourth-year students seeking positions in public policy and service. The program is named in memory of Pat Rosenzweig, AB’61, an alumna who mentored countless students as a volunteer career adviser at Career Advancement.

One of this year’s Rosenzweig Scholars is Gabrielle Mendy, a fourth-year studying international studies. She enjoys the program’s workshops, speakers and counseling. “It’s especially interesting to be part of a cohort of about 50 fellow scholars and to see their motivations and what’s working for them, job-wise and career-wise,” she said.

Following graduation, Mendy plans to attend graduate school in a discipline related to public policy, after taking a gap year working in the field. After working closely with her adviser, she was accepted into the UChicago Public Interest Program. Accepted students are matched with various public policy or service organizations in Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago and are guaranteed an interview with at least one of them.

Additionally, Mendy has attended a “trek” in Chicago, where she had the opportunity to engage with professionals of leading nonprofits such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights, Youth Guidance, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago.

“One thing I like a lot about the Fried Public Policy and Service Program is that what I’m learning through them will be helpful throughout my entire professional career—not just during my immediate search for an internship or job,” Mendy said. “They go the extra mile in focusing on personal and professional development.”

Her advice to fellow undergraduates? “Take advantage of programs like this right away. With events, one–on-one counseling, treks and programs, the Fried Public Policy and Service Program is accessible to everyone.”