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Tips for Translating Your Policy Degree into Academia, Public Service, and Other Scholarly Practices

By Meghan Grenda, APPAM Membership and Administration Manager

The APPAM 2018 California Regional Student Conference took place on March 9th – 10th in Claremont, CA. 

The conference featured 20 panel sessions, a poster session, networking reception and a lunch workshop: Tips for Translating Your Policy Degree into Academia, Public Service, and Other Scholarly Practices. Master’s and PhD students from across the country attended this event to present their research, receive feedback from policy academics, researchers, and practitioners, and network with other students.

CA2018_workshop4The lunch workshop coached students on how to best prepare for a career inside, or outside, academia. Career development experts were on hand to explore writing methods, general interviewing tips, and the skills and strategies needed to translate into a successful policy role post-graduation.  

Dr. Jeremy Schnieder, from the Preparing Future Faculty Center at Claremont Graduate University, discussed the importance of writing, publishing, and presenting while in your graduate program. These skills, which student attendees could practice during the APPAM Regional Student Conference, help Master’s and PhD graduate in any career path inside or outside of academia.  

Christine Kelly, PhD, Director of Career Development at Claremont Graduate University, focused on interviewing tips. Kelly suggested students do the following when preparing for the interview:

  • Re-read the job description
  • Think about if you would actually like working there
  • Do your research on the organization
  • Be specific on how you can contribute

When asked how to respond when asked for a salary range she said “avoid it if you can” but a helpful tip is to explain how you’re sure you can come to an agreement if/when an offer is made.  

CA2018_workshop3Lisa Jonsson, MPP, Doctoral Candidate and Assistant Policy Researcher at Pardee RAND Graduate School, and Jesse Melgar, Deputy Secretary of State and Chief Communications Officer at California Secretary of State, provided input from a recent graduate and student perspective. Jonsson discussed how to translate your success as a student into a work environment by using thought leadership to demonstrate to a future employer how you are capable of adding value.

Melgar reiterated the importance of networking as a student. “Credentials are great," he said. "But one thing that’s invaluable is who you’ve worked with. That goes so much farther than credentials.”

The workshop was moderated by Dr. Juliet Musso, Associate Professor at the University of Southern California, who concluded the discussion with a question and answer session. When asked how students can best decide to enroll in a PhD program upon completion of a MPP degree, she gave this valuable feedback:

“The decision on whether or not to get a PhD should not depend on whether or not you will be able to get hired after graduation. If you love research and want to teach, then a PhD is for you.”



Thank you to the conference host and sponsors

The conference was hosted at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and was sponsored by CGU, University of California Irvine, University of California San Diego, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside, Pepperdine University, the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and the University of Southern California.

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