Tony Allen, a UD alumnus and trustee, and communications executive with Bank of America, addresses the School of Public Policy and Administration career conference.

SPPA career conference

SPPA celebrates 50th with conference on careers in public service


3:21 p.m., March 22, 2012--If there was one take-away message from the March 19 conference on careers in public and community service, which brought together notable leaders and alumni from government, public policy and the nonprofit and private sectors, it was simply this -- careers in public and community service are challenging, rewarding and available to University of Delaware graduates who prepare for them.

Sponsored by UD's School of Public Policy and Administration in celebration of its 50-year anniversary and open to the entire campus community, the conference aimed to highlight the diverse array of public service careers while arming students with strategies to gain a competitive edge in their employment search. 

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In his keynote address, Tony Allen, a UD alumnus and member of the University's Board of Trustees, used his career trajectory—from “apathetic political science major with a dean’s list mentality for mischief,” to founding head of Public Allies Delaware and the Metropolitan Urban League of Wilmington, to speechwriter for now-Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., to his current position as communications executive for Bank of America—as a way to offer career advice to students. 

His three rules: Know who you are. Prepare. Create. 

“Everyone in this room is connected to the greatest academic training ground for public service in our country,” he said about the School of Public Policy and Administration to a packed room of students, faculty and alumni. “Don’t miss your opportunity to do something with it.” 

In panel sessions organized by employment sector—nonprofit, public policy, governmental and private business—alumni in each of those fields offered additional advice. 

“Keep a record of people you meet,” said Paula Gavin, president of the National Urban Fellows. “Networking needs to be two ways, so think of the ways you can help each other.”

In public policy, “Ask yourself, ‘What do you want to do? What are you passionate about?’ Then talk to people who do that,” suggested Gwen Angalet, senior adviser for academic affairs for Nemours Health and Prevention Services. 

When asked, “What are the best ways to learn about a company besides research their website,” Marcus Henry, general manager for community services for New Castle County, proposed reading annual reports and signing up for Google News alerts.

With more than 300 in attendance, the conference was “our collective gift back to students, alumni, partners and friends,” said SPPA Director Maria Aristigueta. 

In the future, the school plans to continue the momentum from this year’s conference with annual career conferences and job fairs in which current students can meet with potential employers in the public sector. 

The conference was followed by an anniversary reception.

Article by Artika Rangan Casini

Photos by Ambre Alexander

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