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There is an ASPA for That!

Bonnie Doty and Sarah Chen

Upcoming grads: Wondering how to stay connected to others with a heart for public service? Scared of becoming disconnected from encouraging professors, mentors, and colleagues? Puzzled on how to continue networking in your field? As the LBJ School class of 2010 matriculates with Masters Degrees in Public Affairs and Global Policy Studies, I encourage you to check out the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).

Admittedly, this organization sounds pretty generic by title. Don’t be misled. This year’s ASPA Conference, themed “Invigorating Public Service for Change,” delivered exactly what it promised.

Myth: ASPA is too generic and doesn’t fit my policy interest.

Fact: MPA students, in case you’re wondering if ASPA will fit your specific policy interest, fear not. The conference held workshops, discussion circles, and panels for no less than 24 different policy “tracks.” The tracks included everything from traditional tracks (budgeting and finance, emergency management, education, transportation) to the new frontier of public affairs (social justice, science and technology, energy, natural resources, women’s affairs and more).

Myth: ASPA is only for people who are interested in domestic affairs.

Fact: MPGS students, don’t worry about ASPA not being “global” enough. The conference had participants from over 26 countries. Professors and practitioners from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Europe crowded every event providing their perspective and comparative experiences.

Myth: ASPA doesn’t apply to me because I’m not going into public affairs.

Fact: Dual degree students, ASPA isn’t just for conventional public administrators. Lawyers, planners, engineers and nonprofit administrators came out in force for new ideas and best practices.

Students, if you haven’t found your intellectual or practical home base…if you haven’t explored national professional networks…you owe it to yourself to check out ASPA. A student membership will gain you access to chapter directories, webinars, job postings and encouraging mentors throughout your career.

ASPA can connect you with local, state, county, federal, nonprofit and private industry colleagues that recognize the value of your degree and share your passion for public service. Think of it as your expanded alumni network. You owe it to yourself and your chosen field to get plugged in.

Your masters degree is your first investment. Consider ASPA as your next. It might be the best return on investment you make this year besides graduation. Congratulations to the Class of 2010.

Sarah Chen is a second year masters of public affairs candidate at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. She splits her research interests between China/cyber policy and state/urban legislative issues.
Email: [email protected] 

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