The Walsh Scholars Initiative, a program supervised by the School of Foreign Service Academic Council to promote careers in the public sector, received applications for its first class of participants over the past weeks.
Applications for the yearlong program were due yesterday. Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Ambassador Barbara Bodine, who directs the WSI, declined to provide the number of applications received.
Freshmen, sophomores and juniors in the SFS were eligible for the program, which will accept five applicants.
Walsh Scholars receive a professional mentor, personalized career guidance and a stipend to pursue an internship in public service for the summer of 2016. Throughout the academic year, participants will attend monthly events, including dinners, workshops and formal networking sessions with professionals, alumni and professors.
In addition to these events, the program also provides workshops on professional skills such as writing, briefing and research.
SFSAC President and WSI Student Director Anna Hernick (SFS ’16) said she was pleased with the applications they have received.
“We’ve been really happy with the caliber and the quantity of applications,” Hernick wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We expected students to be excited about it, but the response from students has really been great, so I think that reinforces the fact that this program is needed.”
Hernick said that the program will help students develop a diverse range of skills to focus on potential career choices.
“We plan on offering a good variety of events in order to build a community, but also to give them practical, tangible skills that they can take with them,” Hernick wrote.
The WSI was established last year by former SFSAC President Megan Murday (SFS ’15) and former SFSAC Senior Class Representative Annie Kennelly (SFS ’15). The program grew out of the academic council’s efforts to balance the disproportionate emphasis placed on private-sector recruiting they have observed in recent years.
According to a report from the Cawley Career Education Center, only 11 percent of SFS graduates in the Class of 2014 found jobs in nonprofit and public service work, while only six percent held positions in government. By contrast, 25 percent of graduates entered into consulting services and 15 percent took jobs in the financial sector.
Kennelly said that her two years on the opportunities committee of the SFSAC, which publicized internships and entry-level jobs to SFS students, opened her eyes to this disparity.
“That experience brought to light how few viable opportunities exist for undergraduates to pursue a career in government and public service,” Kennelly wrote in an email to The Hoya. “WSI grew out of that void.”
Murday expressed similar concerns on the general student body’s disinterest in the public sector.
“[Kennelly] and I discussed the oftentimes confusing, unpaid and overlooked route to a career in the public sector,” Murday wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Too frequently, our best students gave up on or postponed public-sector jobs in order to pursue a more financially-secure position with well-known firms.”
Murday said that the SFSAC will continue to work with WSI to serve as an important source of planning and feedback.
“As WSI came from the SFSAC, I hope that WSI and the SFSAC will have a long-term, collaborative relationship,” Murday wrote.
Murday and Kennelly met with Bodine last year to launch the program and enlisted help from the SFS Dean’s Office and other faculty members. Bodine had run a similar program called The Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative during her time at Princeton University.
“WSI will be an internship program that creates a nexus of Georgetown’s outstanding faculty, Washington’s vast professional opportunities, and motivated SFS students,” Kennelly wrote. “It will be a community … who will work on creating a pipeline to public service careers that improve the world in meaningful ways.”
Maximilian Fiege (SFS ’18), an applicant to the program, said that he hopes to receive more regular support in finding a public-sector job, especially in light of the extensive recruitment by the private sector on campus.
“You have Deloitte coming every week, you have Goldman Sachs all the time, but there’s no real recruiting channel for the public sector, especially in the realm of foreign affairs,” Fiege said. “With the WSI, you get mentorship opportunities and internship guarantees, and that finally elevates the public sector to the standard of the private sector.”
Vanessa Sorrentino (SFS ’18), another applicant, echoed this sentiment and said that this program upholds the university’s Jesuit values.
“In Georgetown’s emphasis on things like ‘men and women for others,’ we’re instilled with this sense of pride in service,” Sorrentino said. “To apply that to a professional setting is something many of us want to do, [and] the WSI makes this easier.”
Hernick said that she hopes the WSI will allow students to form positive connections with the community around them.
“Students come into Georgetown with the idea that they want to use it as a pathway to public service, but … it’s not always so obvious how to make that happen,” Hernick said.
Hoya Staff Writer Tom Garzillo contributed reporting.
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