Political Science and Public Policy
CollegeAdvisor.com presents its majors series webinars on Political Science and Public Policy in a 60-minute webinar and Q&A with college students and alumni. Our CollegeAdvisor panel will share their insider perspectives on how they chose their majors, how they applied successfully to colleges, and how they pursued their majors in college. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2021-02-04 Political Science and Public Policy
Okay, we’re now recording.
hello, everyone. Welcome to the college advisor webinar on political science and public policy. Just to orient everyone with how we’ve set this webinar up. We’re going to start off with a presentation from all three of our panelists. And then we’re going to answer your questions in a live Q and a.
So in the public chat, you should be able to see a link to the slides that we’re using for this presentation to consult later. You can also go to the handouts tab to access that. So without further ado let’s meet our panelists.
See my name is Zach. I am a 2018 graduate of the university of Chicago. I’m currently an MPP student, a master in public policy student at the Harvard Kennedy school. So I’m based out here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When I was an undergraduate, I studied political science was involved in lots of stuff on campus, which we’ll talk about later.
But I’m currently on my way to joining the foreign service. So I’ll be joining the us agency for international development as a diplomat, specializing in democracy, stabilization and governance. After I graduate in the summer of 2020.
Okay, sorry on mute. Hi guys. I’m Dominique Turner. I am cur I resided in DC before I went to college, but now I’m living in New York, working in communications. I studied policy analysis and management at Cornell, and I just graduated in the summer. I’m currently living in Manhattan and yeah, I’m excited to get talking about this.
My name is Bailey. I am currently an undergrad right now. I’m studying public policy at brown. I graduated this summer. I’m originally from Florida, but right now, living in Providence and yeah, really excited to hear your questions and get started. Okay.
Great. So we’re going to start with the first question, which is what led you to your work.
Thanks. Yeah. So when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study, I’d always had a passion for international affairs and and foreign policy. But there was a ton of coursework offered in the university of Chicago at the university of Chicago in the subjects. There wasn’t actually an international relations undergraduate major.
So I had a couple of auction options. One was political science and one was public policy. And I ended up doing political science just because it was not only going to give me the political skills and the exposure to international affairs and international relations in terms of current events.
But it was also going to give me that like theoretical underpinning that I really wanted. And the nice thing about political science is that it keeps a lot of doors open. I was thinking about law school potentially. I was thinking about going down a lot of different routes and I thought it gave you a cool wide open pathway to take it whichever way you want to go, but gave you a ton of really cool, critical thinking skills. You learn how to write really well. You learn how to speak well, and a lot of small discussion style classes. So that was why I ended up with political science.
I started off in a weird way. I was wanted to be pre-med for a bet. And when I was applying to schools, I just applied to arts and sciences. And when I got to Cornell the arts and sciences tour was canceled. So I was like, I’ll just do this college with this major, who cares? So I actually went and just.
Fell in love with it was obsessed with the major. It’s really involved with a lot of econ and statistics, which I really personally liked. And then of course, as Zach was saying, like a lot of poly psy and government type classes, sociology, even. So I really liked how interdisciplinary it was. But with Cornell, which I can talk about later, you do have to unless you applied arts and sciences, you do have to apply to the major specifically.
And so when I was a freshmen, when I was an incoming freshmen in a senior, I applied specifically to policy analysis and management. I thought it was fine that way I stuck with my major throughout college cause I loved it. But of course you could always switch in if you didn’t like your major second semester, freshman year.
So I just really liked the econ aspects of it statistics, but it really just depends on which part of policy or policy that you want to focus on.
Yeah, so I applied to brown as a neuroscience concentrator and very quickly realized that science was not my thing. And I had been really heavily involved in model United nations in high school. And so I ended up just looking into international relations and political science and things like that.
I ended up deciding that I’m not a big theory gal either. I liked the practice. I like to go out into the community and make stuff happen. And so the public policy route at brown is a lot more practice-based. You can work with a lot with like nonprofits, a lot with the government, things like that, where you’re hands-on and doing things rather than maybe like international relations will lead you more towards a research career and things like that.
So I’m very action-oriented and at least at brown that’s what that looked like was policy was the route for me.
Fantastic. Yes. Sorry. Yes. The red slide there. Yeah. So what extracurriculars did you all do?
Things shake. So as you guys can see, we’ve all listed them for you here. So when I was in high school I was involved in a lot of things, but I think, especially for those of you that might be freaking out because you’re not curing cancer or sailing around the world. And things are even more limited right now in terms of COVID.
I think there are a lot of, things that you can do and ways you can get involved in your community that are doable and attainable and achievable, and you don’t have to worry about being the most impressive person on the entire planet. I know that was something that I was really stressed out about when I was applying to colleges.
I took leadership positions when I was able to, so I did choir in national honor society choir for all four years of my high school experience and then national honor society for for the last one. And. Opportunities. I had to jump into leadership positions. I did. I really encourage everyone to take advantage of those opportunities.
That’s a great way. If you’re limited by what’s offered at your high school or financially or anything like that, making the most of the opportunities before you is a great way to, to demonstrate that. I was also very excited about language learning. I took German for all four years of high school and I got to do a study abroad program, or I spent a couple of months my after my sophomore year of high school in Germany.
That was actually what I wrote my personal statement about when I did my essay. Thinking about, outside of the box, about ways you can do those types of opportunities, I fundraised and saved up all my money, so I could go and do it. So you have to be thinking the long game a little bit there.
And then I worked in high school as well. So I initially worked at a sort of grocery store or farmer’s market. And then I got a job as a quarrier at a law firm, which was a really cool opportunity for me. So those were the main things that I was doing, Dominique. Yeah. So as you can see my eyes pretty much all over the place.
My high school required that we play sports. So I played sports all four years. I loved it. I learned so much from it. Friends from it. So definitely if you’re in a sport, I would say continue that. I think it’s a great way to just meet people and meet friends and in high school, especially ones that are outside your circle.
I was also involved in government club that just cause I really like politics. So I was able to talk about that in my application. I was also a part of corral. I just love to sing. So I did that. I do not sing anymore though, so miss it. But yeah, I, I. Just really was involved in a lot of different aspects.
I didn’t even join Simon’s Olympiad until I was a junior, but I became a team captain really early on. So my advice for anyone, that’s feeling weird about with coven, what extracurriculars you can and cannot do. I would say even if you have one or two that you’re really committed to, I always tell my students that’s a really good place to be.
I think a lot of emissions counselors like to see that people are either committed to something or that they’re just trying things to test their interests. You’re in high school, so nothing is ever concrete, but if you try everything, that’s great. And if you’re really into two things, that’s all.
Yeah. So in high school, I say my biggest extracurricular is model United nations. I did that all four years. And I had a leadership role, both junior and senior year. Also the other big thing that I did was junior year. I started a business. I started the school coffee shop and that was really fun.
I got to work with a lot. Clubs in the school, like the programming club, I got to work with the business club, things like that. So that was really fun for me. Those were like my two big things, like Dominique was saying like a lot of times, like admissions officers would look for are you really dedicated to a couple of things versus searching around?
I was the type that was really dedicated to a couple of things. But I also did have some other things that I did. I was a grant writer and event coordinator or student voice, which is basically raising funds for the school. And then I was also in culture club and national honors society.
But yeah, in terms of advice, I completely agree with everything that everyone has said. Just, I guess find what you really like and stick with that. And yeah, it’s also fun to explore there’s a lot of ways to do it. Thanks so much. Moving on what was your college application process?
Thanks Jake. So my college application process was interesting and stressful at the time as it is for everyone, no matter what your circumstances are. I’m not a first-generation college student, but both of my parents attended community college and then headed to state schools after after that.
And then I have two older brothers and they both went to state universities. So I was the first member of my family that was using the common application and had to think about sat, subject tests and navigate that world. I also went to a pre large public high school. I’m from Oregon originally.
And there wasn’t a ton of resources available to us. We had a couple of college counselors that were mostly just funneling kids integrate opportunities at state schools because that was what the typical student was. I my public high school. And so it was the onus was on me to go out and figure out how to navigate some of those other some of those other opportunities.
So I studied for the sat on my own with one of the big books. And I did a lot of Googling and a lot of researching. I was really lucky to be able to go and tourism college. Colleges and visit some universities, which was for me a really important part of the process. And there are lots of ways to do that virtually.
I know many of you, I’m sure I figured that out now, especially in the time of COVID. But when things are back to normal even just touring universities that are close to home to get a feel for what a college campus is like and to get a feel for what a type of college campus might be, even if you can’t go, visit Stanford’s campus to visit a university that’s in a suburban area, just to get a little bit of an idea is a great way to to get a feel and get a vibe.
But I was really lucky to be able to tour some of those. And then, yeah, the advice I would give you guys, NIC, Dominique, and Bailey’s advice here too as well, which is which is really good stuff. But just, it’s a long process and you guys are already. No matter how old you are or what grade you’re in the fact that you’re watching one of these sessions is a great start.
But make sure you’re planning ahead. You’ll be your goal should be to not be like me, which was doing all of my college applications between Christmas and new years. My, my senior year of high school. Don’t be like me as my general advice, but just make sure you’re planning and thinking ahead.
Cause you will you’ll thank yourself for it. Yeah.
Adopt glee, echo, all of that. I was a little bit opposite. I started like right after sophomore year, I was ready. So gung-ho but to be fair, like my school was really rigorous and I went to an all girls private school. So they were pretty much on us all the time about college prep since when we started the ninth grade.
So I would say that, although my experience was different, I would say it was definitely very stressful on necessarily. The process is really arbitrary. Can feel some times, but I think that I definitely added more stress than I needed, but yeah, I started off with the sat tutor early on and I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity, however That’s not always the case.
My sister, she took an sat class and that was really helpful for her as well. So I think just knowing what works best for you is really good too, and just feel comfortable in the process. In terms of touring schools, I definitely have to what Zach said about just touring schools around you. I’m from the DC area.
And my mom just took me to George Mason university just to see what the college felt like. And I didn’t want to go there. I had no interest in it, but I did start to feel what it felt like to go to a suburban school versus a city school. When I turned, when I toured NYU and a rural school, when I tour Cornell, which obviously I just liked better.
So I think really being honest with yourself in the process and understanding. Just because it’s a top tier school, because it’s this school doesn’t mean you have to like it and doesn’t mean that you have to want to be there either. And that was hard for me to come to terms to as well.
Because there’s all these expectations around what school you decide to attend. But yeah, I just did my early applications. I applied to Cornell and I also applied to other early schools, which I really suggest just to get them out the way because I knew I just would be so lazy and over it by December.
I always tell my students that it’s like a six class applying to colleges. So make sure that you have as less work as you can.
Yeah. So I, in terms of my college application experience, I am a first generation college student. Neither of my parents went to college. And so it was a completely new process to me. I didn’t really have anyone around me that knew how to even begin the college application process. And definitely a challenge.
I taught myself everything. I was Googling all the time, trying to figure out best practices and how to navigate everything. I, yeah, it was a big challenge. And I would say like a lot of what Dominic and Zach has said is really good advice. And the good thing is that you’re getting started early and that you’re on this webinar and that you’re paying attention and you’re getting things organized.
I didn’t have the opportunity to be able to have that sort of like college prep in high school. And really that my high school wasn’t even geared towards like attending to anywhere except really the community college. And so it was a completely different experience for me to apply first out of state and then second to an Ivy league institution.
And so if you’re like in that position, if you find yourself in that position, like I would definitely encourage you, continue to utilize and college advisor.com, ask a lot of questions, Google do everything you can to prepare yourself. And again, really good that you’re already on this call shows that you’re already prepped to begin with and just keep that up and you’ll do great.
Awesome. Next, we’re going to talk about extracurriculars. What did what extracurriculars did you all do when you got to college? Thanks Jake. So when I got to college, I wanted to do and try everything. My first my first year I tried a bunch of different stuff at U Chicago.
There’s at all universities, there’s a big we call them RSOs at U Chicago, registered student organizations, but basically student clubs. So there’s a big student club sort of college fair basically. And you can walk around and get to know the, all the opportunities and all the different programs.
So I tried everything at first. I went. Astrophysics club meetings. I went to the German club meetings and just tried to get involved and stay involved in everything. And eventually over time, you find the things that you’re excited about and the communities that you mesh with. So I spent four years doing model United nations, which was really fun.
I was a competitive team member, so I got to travel around the country for free. We went to San Francisco we went to New York, we went to Montreal, Canada. We got to go a ton of really cool places all in the university’s dime, which was really exciting. So I did that and I was also a committee leader for our high school and college conferences.
And I actually also got to go to Dubai UAE for a high school conference. We did for MRD high school students. That was again, all funded and paid for by the university. So that was a really cool extracurricular program. I did I spent a lot of time at our Institute of politics which has been like just a huge blessing even now, two years out from college, almost three years out in terms of the community and the network that I was able to build there.
I started out as a fellows ambassador where I chaperoned one of our visiting fellows for a semester or for a quarter. We’re on quarters at the university of Chicago. And then I ended up being the chair of the international policy program. So I managed a budget and a student staff, which was a really cool opportunity.
So a lot of time in the admissions office which is why I’m here at college advisor I was a tour guide and then a shift manager. And then eventually I was a fellow in the admissions office. So I actually got to read applications through a cycle and sit through committee, which was a really exciting opportunity.
So my senior year I was in the office a lot. I was a managing editor of Chicago journal foreign policy which was another cool opportunity to get some management and leadership experience. That’s something that’s still on my resume today because of the sort of leadership opportunities and the project management skills I learned there.
I was in a fraternity on campus. And I did internships at the Chicago council on global affairs in the U S department of agriculture. And then I, my other summer, I was in the admissions office actually, I spent my freshman year, summer there. And then I just took advantage of like lots of cool stuff on campus.
I got to go to Zurich, Switzerland on a career track where we met with McKinsey and Deloitte and a bunch of cool sort of business companies that I didn’t go work for. But it was a cool again, free trip. I’m all about free stuff. So wherever you go take advantage of the free stuff. But yeah, there was a ton on campus and U Chicago like brown, like Cornell, like a lot of the schools that you guys are looking at is you get to go, it’s really a privilege and you’re really lucky and you should take advantage of every single, crazy opportunity that there is because they’re expensive.
Number one. So get your money’s worth. And two, it’s just, it’s such a privilege to be able to have all these things at your fingertips. So definitely take advantage of anything and everything on campus while you’re there.
That’s great. Hold on. I’m going to come up with that. But yeah, I think there’s just like this weird thing, Dre, or like you’re a freshman and you just go to the club fair and you like joined a bunch of clubs and put your email down. And then after that, you figure out what you want to do and you go to the club meetings and then it’s sophomore year.
I was around and you’re actually like, really started getting really involved in a club and start thinking about what leadership positions and networking within the club and what you can do beyond that. And I’ve found that’s really what happened to me. I was on honor board for my sorority, and that was a great way for me to meet people and become really close with people.
And a lot of my friends came from my sorority in college. But professionally I knew that I wanted to be in marketing or communications or media. So me joining the Cornell marketing organization was a really big deal because we were just starting the club. And I was one of the people that spearheaded that.
I got to be part of recruitment and I was a project manager. So there was an opportunity for me to meet people outside of Cornell, but at the same time, talk about an experience at Cornell that allowed me professional experience as well, which I think is really awesome. And something that you guys should definitely look for when you get to school.
Even if it’s not something that you directly want to do right after college I would also say you can totally join clubs that just you enjoy. If you just want to talk to people or hear people debate, or just are interested in a topic and you just want more people to know about it.
I joined quinoa Democrats. I love politics, but I had a lot of friends that were just in random clubs and I would never joined, but it was always funny to hear them talk about it. For internships. I interned two of my three internships were in DC and Miley one before senior year was in New York. That was also just through people I met on campus and different recruiting events.
So like Zach was saying like, you have all these resources at your fingertips please take advantage of them. They’ll really help you a lot more ways than one. And I would say with extracurriculars, do what you enjoy. You have so much free time when you get to college, you don’t even realize that you might as well fill it with enjoyable things and what you want to do.
Don’t feel pressured, always to do what sounds good or something that’s necessarily for your resume. Although that is really helpful, I would say definitely delve into and dive into topics and clubs and subjects that you’re interested in outside of your schoolwork.
Yeah. So when I started college, the first thing I did, obviously I did model United nations for four years. The first thing I did when I got to campus was fine, the campus MALDI United nations. And so I did that a lot. My freshman year sophomore year, I was the under secretary general of general assemblies which means nothing to people who haven’t done mine, but it’s basically just, you’re the head of a bunch of people and you help to run the different committees that delegates participate in.
I was also, I didn’t put this on there, but I was also a competitive member of the team. I was on the travel team. I did the same thing as acted. I got to travel around on the university’s dime. So that was great. Went to Montreal. I went to Peru actually, which was great. So there’s that going from the bottom up.
But I was also a minority peer counselor for the brown center for students of color. That was like an RA position. So I lived in the freshmen year, dorm, sophomore and junior year. And I also, the purpose of the minority per counselor title is that I specialized in social justice issues and focus specifically on the needs of students, of color on campus.
And yeah, I really wanted to get my feet wet in terms of like community organizing work and things like that. And that was an avenue through which I did that. My. I think it was last summer. Yeah, last summer. Not this past summer, but the summer before I was a public health scholar for the Rhode Island department of health.
So I did a lot of research for them. As a summer internship, it was a paid internship. So I was really fortunate to have that opportunity. A lot of internships are unpaid and you either have to find your own funding or apply for funding from your university if your university does provide funding.
So that’s something I had to navigate to was, finding a paid internship versus taking an opportunity that might’ve been better for my resume, but it was unpaid and I couldn’t afford it. So there was that aspect. I am currently a writing fellow at the brown university writing center. So I’ve been doing that since.
Sophomore year. So three years now, basically that means that I am part of a class and I have six to seven students that every assignment they submit, I help them write their paper. They submit a draft. I helped them edit it and turn it into a final draft. And then the last, the most exciting thing in my opinion, that I do is I’m a policy intern for the mental health association.
So I want to go into mental health policy in the future. And so this internship is really applicable. It’s unpaid, but I was. Fortunate enough to get funding from brown to be able to take this internship. And so I actually lobby at the state house, I write policy proposals, things like that. So yeah, and then there’s one thing that’s not on there.
Sorry. But I also studied Spanish every semester and I got to study abroad in Spain as well. So if you are into language learning and Zach said he has to, if you are into language learning, incorporating that into your school schedule can actually help a lot. I’m like really proud of how much I was able to learn over the past, three and a half years.
But yeah, that’s just a little extra thing that I also did. Thank you so much. So we’re going to next, we’re going to go into something slightly different, which is we’re going to give you a general sense. There’s a ton of variance between different programs but a general sense of what a four year program in political science looks like.
And so we’re going to start with that. Thanks Jake. So I know mine looks a little crazy and there’s couple reasons for that. The first is that each Chicago, like I said, is on quarters. So we have three, 10 week quarters every year. Which means you take a lot of classes. And to be honest with you, I was actually just thinking about this before we started, when I was a tour guide, I used to say without any sort of counterfactual experience that I did, like the quarter system better for a couple of reasons, one, you get to take more classes.
So making the most of your time at school, you get to meet more people. You get to have more professors you get to learn more stuff, basically. The second thing was that if you end up in class, you don’t like, or you are, 10 weeks in or 12 weeks into our class. And you’re like, oh, I’m so over this, I’m so bored.
You still have to wait another 10, 12 weeks on a semester system. And. On the, not 10 weeks, but a long time. And on the quarter system, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s super fast paced and it keeps you on your toes. You definitely have to stay organized because of it. And there are also more tests.
Keep that in mind as well, because there are midterms and finals except you have three sets of them not to. But now that I’m in back in school, again, I actually can’t say that I do prefer it. I really enjoy being on the fast paced quarter system. And the semester system now feels a little bit slower I think than it would otherwise.
So that’s the quarter system. For political for the university of Chicago, which Bailey can correct me if I’m wrong, I think is pretty much like the antithesis of brown with our core curriculum. So U Chicago, everyone, regardless of your major is required to take classes across a variety of different disciplines.
So you have to take three humanities classes, three social science classes, three civilization classes, which is what people usually do in they study abroad three art classes, three biological science classes, three physical science classes. And you do, there’s one more foreign language. You have to do foreign language as well.
So you’re required to take all those classes, no matter what you major in comp side, political science something in the arts, doesn’t matter what you do. You have to take all of those classes. Which means that your schedule looks something like like mine does. The readings and world literature class was my humanities course.
It’s like a college level writing course. You take three sort of sections of throughout your first year. Lots of German classes in my schedule both years. And then as you can see, as you go into your sophomore year where you call it second year at U Chicago you get to start taking some more of your electives, right?
So you get to start take ECB, taking insurgency, terrorism, and civil war. You see me taking the secret side of international politics which are really exciting. Classes to be able to take especially when you’re spending a lot of time in the core curriculum. And then the other thing I’ll say is just that for political science at U Chicago, you had to pick a specific you had to specialize in one of the four sub fields of political science.
So there’s international relations, American politics, comparative politics. And the other one, which I forgetting, which I’m sure Bailey or Dominique can tell you. But basically I have to pick one of the four. I ended up choosing international relations as my specialty. So I had to take those introductory classes during my time.
And then the last thing I’ll say is just that. I really like the core curriculum. And there are lots of Columbia has a really great core curriculum. I’m not sure about Cornell, but I’m sure Dominique will tell you guys I would never have taken a math class again. If I hadn’t had to there’s just, I wouldn’t have done it.
I would’ve got to college and I never would have done it. But it really is amazing how. Being, getting a nice, soft, gentle nudge to take those classes is really helpful. Both academically and professionally. I think that the core curriculum gives you this broad foundation of really important skills, learning to think really critically learning to write a rigorous analytical people or paper learning, statistical analysis, learning how to code at least in data was, has been really helpful for me.
So those sort of skill sets that you might not pick up if you got to choose whatever you wanted or if you weren’t as as committed as I’m sure as I’m sure Bailey is, and she’s doing all the right things at brown, but I wouldn’t have, because I would have slacked off. So the core curriculum I’ll end on I think is a really cool and powerful way and to approach a liberal arts education.
And even if you don’t have a core curriculum, I encourage you to take those classes that might seem scary, or that might be more difficult. But might provide you with skills that you that you want.
Okay. So that was a little bit, I would say the next week. So they’re really into their college system. So there’s seven up in politics within Cornell. Like I sat as a hematology, which falls, which is what the policy analysis and management falls under interdisciplinary. There are also ways that I thought around taking different classes.
I failed them. Dominique. Sorry. I’m getting some weird feedback from you. I’m not sure if it’s just me maybe Bailey or Jake can confirm or deny whether that’s talking to them too. We’re also getting, there’s just like a little bit of a distortion in your audio. Wait, how’s it sound out? Sorry. It just sounds like a little bit of a weak phone connection.
Okay. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I can title that’s sorted out. Yeah, I guess I’ll start by talking about Brown’s curriculum. So brown has an open curriculum which basically means that there are zero core requirements. If you don’t want to take math, you don’t have to take math. If you don’t want to take science, you don’t have to take science.
There are two requirements. One is that when you decide on your major, you have to fulfill the requirements of your major. For me, that was about 12 credits or 12 classes. And my whole undergraduate career, obviously, if you’re taking engineering, it’s probably around 20, but policies. One of the more lenient majors, and then the other requirement is twice in your four years, you have to take a writing heavy course.
It’s called a RIT course. It’s just, you have to fulfill the writing requirement. They want you to be able to write persuasively to write well things like that. So those are the only. Requirements. I wouldn’t even really consider them requirements cause I enjoyed them. But those are the only two requirements.
At brown, everything else, you get to take whatever you want. If you want to take a lot of data science classes, you can. I took a lot of history classes. I took history of central and Latin America. I took a history of the Ottomans. I took a lot of history classes. I took a journalism course. I took a lot of Spanish courses and I wouldn’t have had the space to do that if I didn’t have an open curriculum.
So like referring to what Zach was saying, obviously there are a lot of strengths in your core curriculum. A lot of people really liked that structure. They liked the variety. They like the, again, the structure that you get from that, I’m not the type of person I like to be able to develop.
However, I want to develop things and create my own path. And so I ended up using policy as kind of something that unified all my classes, but also taking fun classes here and there that would’ve normally been a core curriculum. But yeah, so then I guess I’ll get to the senior year classes.
So I’m in senior year right now. So these are classes that I consider taking if I’m not already taking them. So I am taking program evaluation. That’s basically just a class where you learn how to evaluate like policy programs statistics and econ and things like that. That’s a requirement for policy.
If you write an honors thesis, you have to take the honors thesis seminar, which is two courses. So one in the fall and one of the spring and then everything else is open policy is really open because you’ve got to choose your electives. There’s I think six classes that are required, and then six classes, even within the concentration that you just got to choose.
So yeah, so some of those are discrimination in public policy, non-profit organizations and then health policy challenges. But yeah, that’s just the overview of brown and then Brown’s policies in your year as well.
Okay. How does it sound? All right. Great. So Cornell is weird where it’s a little bit of both similar to Browning U Chicago, where there are classes are majors, rather that you can be in and you don’t have many requirements. And then if you’re an arts and sciences, for example, you have more of a similar U Chicago situation with having to take core type classes.
I was definitely more in the middle. I had freedom, a lot of what I wanted to take, but for example, I did have to take two science courses, one math course. I believe a history course of some sorts. I just made sure I took courses that I would be at least somewhat interested in. So for example My freshman year to fulfill one of my kind of science courses.
I took a psychology class that was also a neuroscience class, which I found really interesting, but it also filled a requirement. So I would definitely suggest doing that. School has so many classes. It’s absolutely overwhelming. So just make sure you choose something that you at least have a bit of interest in.
Again, it’s just a master system for us. I personally liked it. My sister goes to Northwestern and she has a quarter system similar to U Chicago. We both have very different views of it, but I like semester because I can definitely change. I don’t know. The course of the class kind of as we go along, but that’s definitely a preference on my part.
I went abroad junior year similar to Bailey and I was able to go to Portugal. Cornell was really cool. And the fact that you didn’t have to study the language to go abroad a certain place, which I really appreciated. So I did have to take Portuguese classes when I was there. That was because of my program.
That’s not everywhere, but I really liked it. I learned Portuguese. I cannot tell you any of it right now if you’d asked me. But it was a great experience. I was able to take policy classes there as well. And that was just lucky enough that they were offering classes that kind of were really related to my major.
And I was also able to cross out some major requirements there as well. But it was just a great experience taking a break. Normal school. And obviously I was afforded the resources to do but the school was definitely great and transferring my financial aid over to the broad program and accommodating me that way, which was fantastic because not every school does that, but I would just suggest, definitely take that semester for me was a semester where I could like, felt like I could breathe, but also learn and experience something and have the time.
Cause I don’t think I’ll ever have five months again where I can just peace out and take in a new culture and country and language and everything like that. So I would definitely suggest it. The beginning of my junior year, again was definitely more classes. I took a lot of behavioral policy classes.
I took a lot of economic courses, statistics data doc brought up earlier. Part of my curriculum. I really liked that part of it. Cause it was really quantitative, but I would definitely make sure whatever major you look into. Don’t just look at the freshman year classes, the requirement, make sure you’re also looking at sophomore energy or senior year because for me, at least it just got harder with each year and then plateaued junior year, but I was definitely prepared for it.
I can’t hear you, Jake.
Yes. Yeah. Cool. Yeah, I think just my headphones glitching out anyway, moving on this one’s my favorite question. Which is what was your favorite class that you took for your major? Awesome. Now it’s like flipping a coin, whether Bailey or I are going to have audio issues next. So thanks for bearing with us guys.
So my favorite class, I actually thought we, I was filling this slide deck out this week beforehand, before this webinar. And I was really thinking about this. And I think my favorite class was conflict root causes, consequences and solutions for the future, which is a wordy name, but it was a really cool course offered the Harris school of public policy at U Chicago.
And it was a graduate level course that had an undergraduate section. And so we got to work with graduate students, which was a cool opportunity as an undergraduate. We did data analysis. What Dominique and I have been talking about using some statistical software to actually.
Parse out some relationships that have to do with conflict. What causes it? How can we stop it? How can we prevent it? We got to write policy memos. Those are some really exciting policy memos. Cause I knew it was the type of work that I wanted to go into after graduating. So I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy and this was a class where I did every word of every, I read every word of every assigned rating which was not always the case.
I will admit because it was just so interesting and so exciting. So that was I think my favorite class, the other thing I just wanted to mention just cause Dominique was talking about study abroad was really cool for me as well. And at U Chicago, like 90% of students go through our like formal study abroad program.
So it’s actually just U Chicago students. And they bring you Chicago professors over as well. So it’s like in the entire U Chicago experience happening in wherever you study abroad. So I got to be in Vienna, Austria. And to two of my classes over the year or over this quarter that I was, there were like history and culture and art courses that were supplemented with trips to museums and a weekend in Prague and lots of really cool sort of ways to experience learning in a different way that was outside of the classroom.
And then my other favorite class, I think I had to pick one, which was actually not east coast, U Chicago. So don’t tell these Chicago people that but I got to formally enroll in a class at the university of Vienna which was all in German because my German was was that a heightened level?
And that was really cool too, to be able to be in an actual university course with like actual Australian university students was was really cool. So definitely second Dominique’s endorsement of study abroad. It’s an awesome opportunity.
My favorite class at Cornell wise when I took my. First semester, junior year, the leaves, I’m sorry, first semester of senior year. And it was called the economics of risky health behaviors and basically a risky health behavior could be anything from smoking, drinking, doing drugs. So I just thought that was interesting mostly because it showed utility curves, which not a lot of people know what that is, but basically it showed a lot of economic mechanisms and higher decision-making is affected by an economic neck mechanism or any chronic tool.
And it measured it out in a really realistic way. The course then also ended with us examining how Basically a policy is passed and you have activists. So those who are against the policy and the industry who is funding the policy. And so we were all in this really cool simulation at the end, and we’re graded upon what groups we were put in and how we play our role with this policy.
And for example, the policy was about a soda tax. And so the hypothetical city that I was in Washington DC. So I was a politician, so I was climbing and I was petitioning for this policy to go through so that I could have donation money. So it was cool because we got to see the pile policies are actually passed and how you lobby for them and what the different actors are.
And I just really appreciated the more practical sense of what I was doing. And I felt like I really learned a lot, maybe more so than if I had a final or meal.
Yeah. So I will also jump on the study abroad train. So I like similar to the situation with Zach my Spanish proficiency was high enough when I plan to study abroad the second semester, junior year, same semester that COVID happened, but that’s besides the point. So I got to study abroad and university of VR at the university of Granada.
I took all of my courses at the same, the center for modern languages and university of Granada. So they were all in Spanish. So that was really great. Great immersion, very difficult and mentally exhausting to be speaking in Spanish all the time, but was definitely worth it in the end. My host mom was great.
It was just a great experience. But on that note, my favorite class that I’ve taken in my major so far was processes of social change, which again was all in Spanish. And it was a lot of reading. It was a sociology course. But brown, let me get credit for it, even though it was taken at the university of Granada.
So that was really great. And we talked about we talked about like the French revolution, but then we talked about like more like formal ways of creating policy and making change, like actually writing legislation and things like that. So it was really cool to see the spectrum of like ways in which change can be made in government.
And just like socially more generally speaking. So yeah, that’s like my 2 cents on study abroad and then my favorite cups as well.
All right. And moving on to our last slide before we start the Q and a section what career options are available and are you thinking of.
Yeah. So there, I think basically our main takeaway from the three of us is that you can do a lot of things with a degree in public policy or political science, which is really exciting. And also daunting and scary because when you, especially when you go out and are looking for your first job there’s no like direct path, right?
There’s no sort of you’re applying to this set of companies for your engineering, computer engineering job, or this set of companies or fellowships for your, anthropology fellowship, PhD that you want to do. It’s a really big open sort of nebulous space to go into.
So it is worth like thinking about what exactly you want to do and planning out the steps for how you’re going to get there. I, when I first graduated in 2018, I knew I wanted to do foreign policy international affairs, and it’s a tough world to break into without a master’s degree, straight out of college.
So I was ready to do like anything and everything to break in. So I ended up getting really lucky and getting a job at an organization called the us global leadership coalition which was Sort of non-profit half lobbying firm and we lobbied the administration and Congress for funding for the international affairs budget.
So funding for the us department of state, the U S agency for international development, basically all of the money that the U S government gives in foreign assistance. The money that builds our embassies. And I got to work on the policy staff there. I was a policy associate, so I helped manage the national security portfolio.
And then I also got to work on the organization’s relationships with the federal government and relevant agencies. So the department of defense and the department of state and that was a really cool opportunity. So that falls into a nonprofit think tank bucket, which is totally a world you can go into.
And then. Are, they are tough jobs and they are not super high paying jobs to be completely honest with you guys. But they are a really great gateway into the international affairs, foreign policy community, if that’s something you’re interested in and it goes for it’s that way in any type of policy if you want to work on healthcare policy or education policy or immigration policy, there are centers and think tanks and university research jobs that are great to get out of college, to get a little bit of experience in the field to get some actual professional experience in your desired policy of interest.
So that’s a really cool opportunity. And then I am going to the foreign service through a fellowship. Being a diplomat or a government worker more broadly is how I would say we’re going into government is totally an opportunity. There are lots of fellowships out there and I encourage you no matter what you want to do, Google what you want to do and fellowship because so often there are really awesome, unique opportunities.
Especially if you come from a low-income background a minority background, there are a lot of really great organizations that want to support you and that want to see you do great things. And that can take away some of the barriers specifically financial barriers that We often face going into public sector work and into government work and into nonprofit work.
And I would encourage you not to let what might be a lower salary than your friends going into consulting which is a totally a great job that you can do with a political science degree as well. But if you are interested in policy and public service and nonprofit work, there are lots of really great ways to get involved and to have someone pay for it or to help you along the way.
So I encourage you to Google, whatever you want to do and fellowship. So yeah, I’ll leave it at that and then happy to answer further questions. At the Q and a,
I went to a more like corporate route, I would say. So I work right now for corporate communications from urgency, some referred to it’s great. I love it. What I wanted to do. I’m working now, peripherally in politics, but I use a lot of the same skills that I used in my major that I would use now in communications.
So just writing a lot is my job and reading a lot and having to synthesize and analyze materials, especially for clients to understand what the heck is going on with their firm. And how we as a PR and communications firm can either make them look good or talk about something a certain way. My firm also works a lot in public affairs, which has had a great opportunity this past seven months to work peripherally with the DC office.
And I really appreciated that. I think political consulting and PR and communications and that field again, it’s something that you definitely have to get in early to start building your career in that. So I would definitely suggest that if you’re at all interested. Definitely network in that way.
I did that a lot just to get my foot in the door. And it was great kind of having a policy background because a lot of my coworkers and there’s nothing wrong with this, but they just had a lot of English or comms background. And I come in with a completely new perspective and applying those analytical and critical thinking skills to this form of work, really honestly, how I have a leg up on a lot of my coworkers and a lot of the people that entered into the job with me, just because of the way that a policy major has you think.
And I’m thinking outside the box always and how messaging works and how you can relate that to High level thoughts. And so I think that is definitely a different route. I had no friends that went in it, so I was alone, but I love it. And I can’t wait to grow in it. I definitely want to pivot to politics a little bit later on after I’m done with working with companies and more of the corporate sector, but I would definitely look into it if it has any interest at all, because I feel like Cornell Lisa’s is very focused on like management consulting and finance and everything that falls under those.
So I went out of my way to get the internships and get the interviews that I wanted. So definitely have to be a little bit, have a bit more grit in that.
All right. I know we don’t have a lot of time before the Q and a, so I just want to say briefly. So I already talked about being like, as my, through my internship, now I’m a lobbyist and and a policy intern. So I do have a policy analysis and lobbying, and those are two careers that you could definitely get into with a policy degree and especially doing an internship in college that like already does that work as a really good end for post-grad as well?
The other thing that I noted was community and grassroots organizer. Another thing I wanted to mention is that policy also lends itself really well to macro social work. So that’s basically just social work. That’s informed. The community and by community work and things like that. And so it’s a stigma social work community-based perspective on policy.
For a while I was considering getting my master’s in social work and I’ve pivoted more towards public health, public and public affairs. But that’s a totally possible route that I didn’t know about when I was going into policy, but if you like more community-based work, that’s an option.
But yeah I’m looking towards getting my masters in either public affairs or public health right now. And then going on into like higher policy analysis roles. Fantastic. Thank you so much for all of your contributions. We’re going to make a quick transition from the presentation portion into the Q and a portion.
We really hope that you found this information helpful and do remember that you can download the slides in the handouts tab or from the link that I sent in the public chat. As we go through this Q and a, I’m going to take your questions from the QA tablet and paste them in the public tab and read them out loud so that people can answer, feel free to send questions and keep on sending questions.
Other we’re a little short on time. We love to answer them and you can direct them to any one of the panelists or to all of them. One question that someone has already asked which may be for for Bailey I’m going to put this in the chat. What is the most prominent difference or what are the most prominent differences between a public policy major and a policy in nature?
That’s a really good question. So I was choosing between international relations, political science and public policy. And I definitely like. It was a hard decision. But ultimately what it came down to was talking to each, like talking to people who were like actually studying those things, but also realizing, like I mentioned, at the beginning of the panel that public policy is a lot more like on the ground, like hands-on work like that can look like creating policy and like advising on policy and writing policy suggestions and things like that.
Or it can look like I said, going into a master’s in social work and working within the community and using your community work to inform policy making. So I liked the kind of like practical not that political science and international relations aren’t practical, but more, they’re more research based.
They’re more like critical thinking in terms of research and academia and my, and at least that’s how it was at brown. Whereas at brown at the policy track is more oriented towards actually like getting your hands dirty and getting stuff done.
Awesome. One question that we’re getting a few different iterations of I’m going to put this in the chat. How can students who want to major in poly side begin to prepare themselves with what sort of stuff should be, you’d be thinking about in high school and that, that can go to anyone who has any thoughts on that?
I think if you are interested in political science or public policy already, it’s likely that there’s some aspect of it you’re interested in. If it’s politics working on a campaign is a great way to get some actual political experience, and this can be your local city council campaign.
This can be your mayoral campaign in your small town. If you’re from a small town, there are a ton of opportunities at every level. It doesn’t, I think oftentimes we think about campaign experience and people assume you’re, volunteering on a presidential campaign and there are constantly campaigns being run right in your right, in your own hometown, in your neck of the woods.
So I encourage you to politics is something you’re interested to get involved in a campaign. If you’re interested in law, I have a couple of people asked this question and I got a couple of private chats about the law firm job I had to Thinking about ways to get involved at a law firm in any capacity to see it is really cool.
I wasn’t like doing anything illegal. I was a courier. So I was basically taking legal documents from law firm to law firm across town. I was going to the, the local courthouse to drop things off. But I was making coffee. I was talking to the fridge. It was very glamorous job, but it was it did give me exposure to what being a real attorney in the real world was like.
And it was not as glamorous as you think it might be as I expected it to be. So I think that was a really cool experience for that reason. So if you’re interested in law, talking to people, I got my. Little quarrier job that I got because I was a youth group leader at my church and someone at my church worked at the law firm and he said they needed someone to drive around town.
So that’s how I got that job. So talk to people. And then the last thing I’ll say is your, you might be interested in a specific policy and if you’re interested in poverty alleviation, thinking about volunteering at a homeless shelter, think about volunteering at a local food kitchen, I think if you’re wanting to prepare yourself for a career or an academic career in policy, and you want to be able to write about it in your college applications.
So getting face to face with the policy challenges themselves is a great stepping stone into being able to study politics and policy later. So thinking about what that is and finding a way volunteering at a local hospital, if you’re interested in healthcare, volunteering for the, world affairs council, if you’re interested in international affairs, those types of.
Thank you so much, Zach. So we’re going to try and get to a couple more Q and a questions before we wrap up, but I just want to take a brief interlude and to get to the right slide. Want to take a brief interlude to just talk to you a little bit about to let you know what you can do after this webinar.
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So having said our little spiel, I want to address just a couple more questions before we leave. Yeah, this is What? Yeah, I like this question. What convinced you that political science and public policy is what you want to do with your life? I’ll put that in the chat, in your, has any thoughts on that one? I felt like it could relate to a lot of different, errors or career tracks, when I applied, I was originally interested in health policy and I was volunteering at a hospital and I really liked my science classes and that’s what I thought I wanted to do. But as I took more classes, I realized I was really more interested in like education policy and social justice policy and kind of everything that maybe falls under those brackets.
So I felt like it was really, I could pivot easily if I had learned those skills and learned a lot. Those tools that you would use in those jobs. And although I didn’t want to go work for a think tank or necessarily even go into politics right away. I felt like I had learned a lot of different, hard skills that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
I also really just, I saw, I felt like policy sparks, a lot of conversations that were so related to everything going on and you start looking around and reading the news and you’re like, oh my gosh we just did a study on this or we just wrote a policy paper on this.
And it is always going to be relevant and that’s not to say other majors are, but I definitely biased in that. I liked how I was studying, felt really practical the entire time. Thank you. I’m gonna throw in one more question before we go which we also got several different versions of it.
The question is this major reading intensive and I guess more, more generally, like how does the workload compared to other types of things you might do in college, or, what demands does it place on you as a student, as a scholar? Yeah, so I would err on the side of, yes, it is reading intensive.
Again, I can only talk from my experience at brown but at least poet policy, I know poly sign I are also international relations are also very reading intensive. I like, I guess like a General’s courseload looks like for me more like reading and writing than it does look like studying for exams and taking time to exams.
I think I’ve only taken a timed exam for one class in my entire college career. The rest are essays that you turn in by a deadline. And so for that reason, yeah. There is a lot of reading that you obviously will write on that you’ll write about. And things like that. Yeah. That’s been my experience at brown and what the workload looks like in policy.
Yeah, the other quick thing I would add is I think a good way to think about it is like classes that are problem set and test based and problems that are reading I’d say based. And definitely my experience is the same as Bailey’s most of my classes outside of the core were reading intensive and were paper-based.
So it’s not only reading intensive, but writing intensive. And I think one of the things for me is it actually, I find does require you to be a little more proactive in terms of getting things done because in a, an econ class, you might be turning into problems that every week or every two weeks, and that’s something that you have to do, and they’re you’re encouraged to do it because you have to turn it in to get the grade, whereas you might have, two or three papers over the course of a a quarter or a semester that you’re doing in a in a reading based class.
And it’s easier to say, I’m not going to do that reading this week. I’m going to worry about that paper later because they aren’t as frequent. So that’s it can require you to be a little more proactive, I think, than some other problems set based. I had a lot of problems set some tests. But I loved it.
Like personally, I was really cool with it. I like go to library on Sundays and just cranking them out. With my friends and with tests, I was really good about studying in advance and putting it together, putting together study guides and collaborating with people in that aspect. I like writing a lot and I can do it a lot now, but I was always so annoyed when I had a paper and then I had a test, like I just preferred to get things over with.
You definitely know those things. So looking at the syllabus before you enter into a class or register. So I would say also just gauge it upon that because I had a lot of friends who preferred having papers like Bailey and Zach, but for me, I was always happy if I knew I had a test, a midterm and three problems that cause I could gauge how the class is going to go early on.
Thank you so much. Bailey Dominique Zack. Thank you to everyone who is joining us tonight. We’re going to wrap up now. We had a really great time just talking about policy and public policy and I hope it really gave you a good image of what it’s like to study in this discipline. And we have a new webinar series that’s going on throughout throughout February.
And if there are any other majors and subjects that you would like to check out, we encourage you to come back for another one of these webinars. Thank you. Thank you so much for coming out tonight and have a good one, everyone.