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So What Does Somebody Do with a Bachelor's in Public Policy?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In the fall of 2007, the Ford School launched a bachelor's degree program in public policy. "One of the questions that has come up consistently—from the first time that we went public with this—is, 'So what does somebody do with a bachelor's in public policy?'" says John Chamberlin, director of the program. Now that we have our inaugural group of 55 BA alums, we can provide more than a hypothetical answer to that question.

Many of the school's bachelor's alumni, roughly 25 percent of those who have kept in touch, are in graduate school, pursuing advanced degrees in law, medicine, or public health. Fifteen percent have positions with Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, or the Fulbright program. And the rest are all over the board—working as legislative assistants, research analysts, teachers, and writers. Here's a quick snapshot.

Jeremy Borovitz, embarking on a two-year Peace Corps stint in the Ukraine, is currently doing intensive language training at a small village about an hour outside of Kiev. He begins his placement as a Ukraine Youth Development volunteer in June and is keeping a blog about the experience. Borovitz says he "joined the Peace Corps because after two years of hardship—of living in scrap metal huts and playing with chickens and getting fed by Babusias—everything else life throws at me will seem a little more manageable, a little less daunting."

Lizzy Brouwer, a legislative aide for Michigan State Representative Rebekah Warren and a representative on the Ford School Alumni Board, splits her weeks between offices in Lansing and Ann Arbor. Because Rep. Warren is chair of the House Great Lakes and Environment Committee, Brouwer has learned about Great Lakes conservation concerns like the potential spread of Asian carp and the sale of Great Lakes water. But she also researches health bills, corresponds with constituents, and works with the state lobbying community—most closely with Clean Water Action, the League of Conservation Voters, the ACLU of Michigan, and Planned Parenthood. This summer, she'll get some campaign experience, too, as Rep. Warren's campaign for State Senate shifts into high gear.

Sejal Patel

Michelle Liszt, a legislative correspondent for Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, is managing constituent correspondence and assisting with research for the senator's Judiciary Committee assignment. She also works on projects related to immigration reform, hearings for the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and judicial nominations. Living in DC, Liszt says, has been wonderful. "There are a ton of Michigan people here, and even though I miss Ann Arbor, I am having a great time."

Sejal Patel, now at Rush Medical College in Chicago, spends much of her time with cadavers—trying to learn every artery, nerve, and muscle in the human body. As president of the Rush Chapter of the New Life Volunteering Society, Patel also helps coordinate a free health clinic for low-income and homeless patients in a South Asian neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. "Volunteering with this clinic has really made me realize the need for health care reform since many of our patients would not receive primary care if not for this free health clinic," she says. As the only public policy major at Rush, Patel credits the Ford School for giving her a "valuable perspective on medicine and health care."

Ben Simon

Kelly Sampson, one of the many Ford School alumni pursuing a law degree, was a Big Ten Champion distance runner at U-M. Now she's running the Central Park circuit while studying law at Columbia University. This summer, she'll have an opportunity to go to Australia to work with a legal aid group for Aboriginals, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. "At Columbia, we learn a lot of policy with the law," says Sampson. "So the Ford School has prepared me well."

Ben Simon, an AmeriCorps teacher, is in southwestern Boston on a one-year urban education fellowship. He's working at Match Middle School, a public charter school where students work nine hours a day and Saturdays, too. "We serve mainly low-income students, many of whom enter our school two grade levels behind," says Simon, who tutors students, teaches math and filmmaking, and coaches basketball. "Our goal last year was for every student to make a two-grade level jump in reading," says Simon. "We met that goal, and this year we strive to do the same."

Emma Uman

Emma Uman, a second-grade Teach for America instructor at Trace Elementary School in San Jose, Calif., oversees a class of 30 seven- to eight-year-olds each day. The Title 1 school is working to improve academic performance for English language learners and students of low socioeconomic status. While the job requires a lot of energy, Uman says getting to know her students makes it all worthwhile. To encourage college aspirations, she leads the students in a college cheer that ends with, "Go Michigan!" daily.

John Chamberlin has nothing but praise for the undergrads he describes as "incredibly bright students who rip up every class they take." Is he surprised at where they've wound up as alums? Not really. "The biggest group wanted to go to graduate school, particularly law school, and I think a lot of them arranged that," he says. "The rest of the class is sort of spread out the way I'd hoped they would be... They're getting engaged with public life in ways that people with a liberal arts degree can get engaged—starting some place and seeing where it goes. We're thrilled that they've found so many ways to enrich the nation's public life."

So cheers to you, undergraduate alumni. We look forward to your continued involvement in the extended Ford School community and hope you'll keep us posted.

Are you a BA out in the world? Tell us where you are and what you are doing—your profile might be included in the next issue of State & Hill.


Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2010 State & Hill here.