The Institute for Public Engagement at Wake Forest University has launched a new Public Engagement Fellows program to bolster support for students interested in pursuing careers in public service, public policy or public administration.
The inaugural class of 15 fellows will explore career paths in public sector work and receive guidance and mentoring as they develop individual plans to integrate their academic learning with relevant, real-world experiences.
Steven Virgil, professor of law and director of the Institute for Public Engagement, says the Public Engagement Fellows program is an extension of the University’s academic, research and service missions to anchor Wake Forest in the community. “We have a unique responsibility to our students who are looking forward to using their education as a force for good, whether that be as advocates for social equity, health and well-being or the environment. There are unsolved problems and unmet needs that the students in our fellowship program are eager to address.”
Careers in the public sector include positions in government, nonprofits, international development and education.
Junior Gurdeep Singh, a classics and sociology double major, says he is working toward a career where he can have an active role in public policy. “When I heard of this new program created to give students an opportunity to explore policy from their own unique perspective, I rushed to join,” Singh says. After graduation, he plans to pursue both a law degree and a public policy degree. “Ultimately I hope to alleviate the effects of social stratification and give the poor greater opportunities for economic success.”
During their remaining time as undergraduates, Public Engagement Fellows will receive personal guidance in selecting classes and extra-curricular activities tailored to help them meet their post-graduate goals. They will have access to programming and networking opportunities on campus, in the local community and during visits to Raleigh and Washington, D.C. Fellows will also develop and maintain an online web portfolio where they can keep track of their academic, personal and professional goals.
“There is no single career path for work in public service,” says Virgil. “Ironically, the public sector is not as visible and easily understood as the private sector. Wake Forest is responding to a definite need in helping students identify opportunities and find pathways into the public sector that connect with the issues they care about.”
The Institute for Public Engagement promotes the common good and sets a standard of university-wide excellence in public engagement, collaboration, interdisciplinary teaching and research. The Institute prepares students for civic leadership and supports innovative relationships among faculty, students, administration, staff, alumni and the broader community.
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