February career expo connects Ford School students and a global alumni network

February 14, 2022

For more than 25 years, the Ford School’s top-notch Graduate Career Services and Alumni Relations offices have organized an intensive two days of career panels to connect current students to the school’s powerful alumni network. The annual event has inspired Ford School graduate students to explore careers, clarify goals, and make valuable connections to alumni working in policy institutions around the world.

This year, the Ford School offered a hybrid experience, with more than 80 master’s and Phd students engaging with Ford School alumni and friends from 24 different organizations. Leveraging the incredible global network, speakers participated from 9 U.S. states/territories and 5 countries. 

Six panel discussions over two days offered opportunities for alumni to share their career experiences and what it is like to work in different policy contexts.

Ryan Ruggiero (MPP '19), an analyst at Mathematica, spoke on the “Navigating a Career Pivot” panel, where she encouraged students to own their stories by focusing on their motivations for a career pivot. She said, “As the first person in my immediate family to attend college, I know how difficult it can be to navigate higher education and pursue a professional career. Students shouldn’t discount their previous experience or activities at the Ford School. By telling their story, they can help employers see the connections to their new career.” 

First year MPP student Sarah Godek said, "As someone who is navigating a career pivot, it was quite helpful to hear from alumni who had previously had that experience. Their comments and strategies helped me to put my mind at ease and really consider all of the strengths I bring from my previous experience that I can share with employers in making this transition."

Other sessions featured alumni and employer experts in international policy organizations/international development, nonprofit, federal government, social justice, and research and evaluation.

Laura Rivera-Carrion (MPP '02), coordinating officer for disaster recovery for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development in San Juan, Puerto Rico, shared tips for building a career in the Federal Government. She told students, “You need to have an entrepreneurial approach to your federal career, to set a plan, goals, and seize opportunities to grow professionally. This may include volunteering for other assignments, seeking out rotations in different divisions/agencies and being willing to step up and learn different things.”

The sessions were lively, with first and second year students actively engaged in conversations to help them navigate the path to a meaningful career of impact.

“The career expo, specifically the panel on careers making a difference in social policy, was important and empowering,” said first year MPP student Tania Harris. “The panelists provided their real stories and insight into the tools we should build moving forward throughout the summer and next year. I especially appreciated that the alumni panelists represented diverse backgrounds; as a student of color, it was important to see people who looked like me talk about navigating the policy workforce.”

Additional opportunities for networking with alumni will be offered later in the semester, including Mock Interview Month in March, and an alumni networking event later this semester.