WWS Blog

Advice from recent alumni!

Jun 26, 2018
Published by:
Steven Petric MPP '17

Greetings from Princeton. Each year, the Woodrow Wilson School (WWS) plays host to countless speakers, conferences and events. And while our summer programming is - by comparison - slower, we still work hard to keep educating the next generation of policy leaders.

One of our flagship programs, the Junior Summer Institute (JSI), has just welcomed its 32nd cohort to campus.

Since 1985, save one year, the WWS has hosted a JSI as part of its proud tradition of promoting diversity at Princeton and in the public service arena. The goal of the JSI program is to prepare students from diverse backgrounds - including underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities and students from families with lower socio-economic status - for graduate study and careers in public affairs and policy.

This year, we are pleased to welcome 31 JSI students to campus, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college! These students are accomplished, committed and wonderfully passionate. They come from 29 different colleges and universities, have 24 distinct majors and represent numerous nationalities and cultural identities. Nearly half are Pell grant recipients.

One unique aspect of the Princeton JSI is the active involvement of our recent MPA graduates as instructors, teaching and program assistants. Accomplished and committed in their own right, our MPA graduates offer individualized attention and mentorship, often sharing their own experiences and convictions with our JSI cohort of rising college seniors. We have five recent MPA graduates with us this year. Their focuses span the domestic and international landscape and policy issue areas from health care to economics to the foreign service.

Given their unique vantage, having just completed the MPA degree combined with their work on the JSI this summer, mentoring a new cadre of rising public service leaders, we asked them the following:

What is the one piece of advice you would give to a prospective student considering the WWS?

You will see their individual responses below, along with their hometown and undergraduate university. What we hope shines through is the wide-range of individuals that come to the WWS for study, community and to be challenged. Whether you are a junior in college thinking about our JSI program or someone who already has a number of years of public service work experience and are thinking about graduate school, we hope you will check out the programs on offer at the WWS. If you choose to apply, we look forward to reading your file.

Alex Brockwehl: Guilford, CT – Union College (not pictured)
My advice for prospective MPA students would be to think not only about what skills and experiences you hope to gain from graduate study but also about the environment you would like to study in. While the admissions process will prompt you to reflect on your career goals, it's just as important to think about the types of people you'd like to spend two years with. I was fortunate at the Woo to be surrounded by peers from a range of backgrounds who brought a diversity of interests and experiences into the classroom. At WWS, many of the students I learned the most from were interested in issues like healthcare, anti-poverty programs, and criminal justice, rather than sharing my focus on international human rights. When you consider specific programs for graduate study, ask yourself not only whether the students seem to share your academic or professional interests but also whether they share your values.

Martín Elías De Simone: Buenos Aires, Argentina – Universidad de San Andrés
My first reaction is that if you are just "considering" the WWS, you probably do not know enough about the school. The WWS is a unique place for many reasons, but I want to highlight two. First, at the Woo you can learn all the methodological tools that you will use as a public policy professional during your career, including econometrics and economics. Second, you will learn that besides all those tools, public policy is about people, people with dreams, aspirations, feelings, and fears. The most interesting part is that whereas you will learn all the tools to implement effective public policy from your professors, you will learn the human aspect of public policy from your classmates, who are an awesome group of talented individuals with whom you will create a supportive and cooperative environment, and a strong community that will last forever. Ok, maybe not forever, but at least until machines take control of all the policy decisions in the world (just kidding, I think).

Elaine Golden: Davie, Florida – University of Miami
I think prospective students should reflect on why they believe WWS would be a good fit for them. They should ask themselves how the curriculum, the cohort, and the broader Woo community would help them develop as policymakers and change agents. They should also ask themselves if they are willing to square dance with 70 strangers (new classmates) during the first few weeks at the Woo. It's an annual tradition and always full of fun and laughs.

Matthew Richardson: Kemmerer, Wyoming – Utah State University (not pictured)
Whether you are coming to the Woo for a graduate program or for JSI, make a deliberate effort to learn as much as you can from your peers. Your cohort will be a fantastic group of individuals who have gleaned valuable life lessons. Be proactive in asking people to grab lunch with you. Don’t settle for what you may pick up from others during casual encounters.  Enterprising individuals in my class even organized a weekly event called “Woo Tales” during which classmates shared their experiences and stories. Be sure to share your own bits of wisdom, as well!

James Ladi Williams: Lagos, Nigeria – John Jay College
Try to make sure that your personal statement doesn't read like a research paper or a laundry list of the amazing work experiences you've had. Honestly, that would be boring and uninspiring. Instead, use the essay to tell your story in a way that only you can. Your essay should draw readers in, helping them understand where you are coming from, what drives you, where you are headed, and where the MPA fits in with all this. In my experience, I found it really helpful to spend a lot of time thinking about my motivations for wanting to pursue an MPA from WWS as well as my past experiences-personal and professional-and why they mattered. It was also helpful to talk through my thoughts with trusted family members and friends. In sum, I think it's very important for you to use your voice and speak your truths in your essay. Good luck! 

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