Career Connections Trip – Where future leaders meet present leaders

By Sania Khursheed

“I hear and forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand” -Confucius

TSPA students talking to Aaron Jeffries at the MO Department of Conservation.

As an international student in the MPA Program from Pakistan, it was challenging at first to totally relate to how the government structure, processes and organizations work in the United States. I really wanted to learn how government agencies work in the United States, so that a comparative analysis would help me to better understand the system, the actors, and practical implications of all the text we are learning at TSPA. I decided to participate in the Career Connections Trip to Jefferson City organized by the TSPA Career & Alumni Services to learn more.

Students had lunch with TSPA alums. Alumna Mary Phillips is talking with 1st year students Davon Hughes, Michael Gawlick, and Rodney McDuffie.

We left on Friday, September 29th at 8:30 am with our Career Services Director. I had no idea what an enriching experience this would be. Incredibly, the trip was strategically designed to make the most of our time in Jefferson City. There were four government departments which we visited by the afternoon, including a lunch with alumni on High Street. There was something for everyone! The Departments we visited included: the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Missouri Office of Equal Opportunity, and the Missouri Department of Social Services.

The government officials we met were seasoned professionals with rich experience in public policy and implementation in the government sector, and to our delight they were welcoming, friendly, humble and extremely helpful.

Students talk to a variety of employees at the Missouri Department of Transportation.

They were Directors and Chief Officers in their respective organizations and two of them were even TSPA Alumni. They shared details of the functions, hierarchy, budgets, stakeholders, and end users of the public services and policies they put to use while making these huge departments function. They provided the students with information, literature, hand-outs, and brochures as well as addressed all of the questions asked. They gave us their business cards and welcomed our interests in internships and employment. The sessions were quite interactive because we were able to see the practical implementation of the public policies we learn every day at TSPA.

At the Missouri Office of Equal Opportunity, students visited with Corey Bolton.

I had a totally amazing and enriching experience at the Career Connections Trip. Certainly, making connections was the most beneficial and inevitable part of it, but the overall trip had a multi-dimensional impact on the students. The two most important takeaways for me were that: firstly, I was able to completely relate to the United States government system, and secondly, seeing the theoretical concepts put into practice. It is sometimes quite frustrating for the international students to comprehend theoretical concepts in the right context because of the perception bias. This bias exists because we come from different cultures and we can only get rid of this bias when are able to closely look at the concepts happening in real time and are able to communicate to the ground level policy implementers.

Site Supervisor, Scott Montgomery, joins students at the Missouri Department of Social Services.

I am so grateful to the TSPA Faculty, and specifically, the Director of Career Services, for not only proactively taking an interest in what we learn, but also about how and where are we going to use that knowledge. TSPA is not just a school producing knowledge, but a complete system which is involved in shaping future leaders in the best possible way.