Public policy can be described as an “umbrella” that encompasses a variety of majors, including criminal justice, environmental policy, and legal studies to name a few.
Getting “real world” experience in these areas can be a grueling task, but Rachel Rayburn, an assistant professor of public policy at IPFW, manages to provide her students with just that. Professor Rayburn feels that the best way to set students up for success after they graduate is to give them that firsthand experience, both inside and outside the classroom.
1. Invite guest speakers.
“For my Public Law and Government Relations class we had a local coroner come in and talk about their job. Most of my students had no idea it was an elected position, or that you can even volunteer to become a coroner,” Rayburn says.
2. Take frequent class trips to meet professionals.
“We’ve been to the Forensics Lab at the Indiana State Police post in Fort Wayne—which unfortunately is not quite as exciting as CSI paints forensics labs to be,” Professor Rayburn shares. “Also the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center, Department of Homeland Security, and more.”
Rayburn says she will often ask students what they’re interested in and they’ll take class field trips based on their answers, past trips including the DEA in Fort Wayne or the U.S. Marshals Training Program.
3. Network with local organizations to secure student internship opportunities.
“I know the Allen County Adult Probation is always seeking interns,” Professor Rayburn says. Students can go on house calls with a probation officer (job shadowing) and can also intern with the Indiana State Police by riding through a couple shifts with officers and trying out some of the (extensive) paperwork that comes with a career in criminal justice.
The U.S. Marshals Training Program is also a popular choice. “I met the head of the Marshals Training Program because we were in the same CrossFit class, and I asked him if he’d be interested in student interns, Rayburn says. “Now it’s a popular internship for students because it’s the kind of ‘busting down doors’ work that they imagine."
These avenues for “real world” experience in preparation for today’s job market are crucial in landing the job you want (or a job, period). Professor Rayburn says that two of her students are now working in drug court and one is working at ATF in Chicago (which also has an internship program), largely in part due to experience they gathered during college.
Your next step? Schedule a campus visit and talk to faculty members in your desired department of study. Learn more about IPFW’s Department of Public Policy, schedule a campus visit, and download the College Visit Checklist to take with you!