The School of Foreign Service announced this week that it will establish the Walsh Scholars Initiative, a program targeting students pursuing careers in public service.

The program’s aim is to make public sector careers more attractive by providing mentorship and institutional support in finding internships and career opportunities; by introducing the initiative amidst long-held criticisms of the SFS ignoring its original goals of service, it seems the administration has heeded student concerns.

The initiative has enormous potential to grow. We urge the administration to invest in the program and to make it a priority, especially in light of recent alarming post-graduation surveys showing that SFS graduates ultimately do not pursue careers in public service, with most choosing instead to pursue careers in banking and consulting.

Considering Tuesday’s appointment of Joel Hellman — former World Bank Chief Institutional Economist — to the position of dean, it is important to ensure that public service remains a legitimate option for students in the SFS. Hellman’s appointment could signal a restructuring of the school’s current resources and curriculum.

The administration and the SFSAC should continue to create and support similar programs in order to combat perceived image of the SFS as as a private-sector oriented school — a trend that could be addressed with a redistribution of the school’s resources and a renewed focus on its mission statement of service.
Programs like the Walsh Scholars Initiative are opportunities for the SFS to refocus itself and stay true to its original identity instead of focusing on private sector-orientated measures within the school such as the global business major.

While the Walsh Scholars Initiative is a step in the right direction, the program will initially accept just five students — not even a tenth of a percent of the total school.

The program must continue to grow and deliver its promises if it hopes to be more than a weightless venture in reaffirming the SFS’ commitment to public service.

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