ASU, Volcker Alliance Launch National Initiative to Recruit Students to Public Service Careers

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Graphic illustration created by Karina Branson that illustrates the origins of Arizona State University's Public Service Academy
On June 26, ASU Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell led a webinar on the origins of the ASU Public Service Academy (PSA). Karina Branson, a graphic design artist, illustrated Koppell’s presentation in real-time, allowing audience members to visualize how the PSA operates.

Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions (ASU Watts College) has partnered with the Volcker Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and inspiring future government workers, to launch the Next Generation Service Partnership (NextGen Service), a nationwide initiative to encourage undergraduates to pursue public service careers. 

The Volcker Alliance was founded by Paul Volcker, who worked in the U.S. federal government for nearly three decades and spent two terms as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979 to 1987. 

The initiative consists of a cohort of colleges and universities working together to share best practices that tie into ASU’s Public Service Academy (PSA) model. This approach to undergraduate engagement encourages the union of public, nonprofit, and private sectors. It trains military and civilian students using special curriculum focused on leadership and social impact, cross-sector service internships, and enrichment activities such as retreats and seminars that build leadership experience. 

ASU is the first higher education institution in the country to launch a public service academy of this nature. 

“The Public Service Academy answers our nation’s call for a new type of leader, a character-driven leader armed with the courage to cross sectors, connect networks, and ignite action for the greater good,” the ASU website states. 

According to the Volcker Alliance, the NextGen Service initiative’s goals are as follows: 

● Elevate undergraduate engagement as a national priority for schools of public service 

● Expand the reach of educational strategies that work for undergraduates 

● Foster collaborative planning and learning between schools of public service and other     academic units and departments across campus 

 Provide technical assistance and resources to help schools of public service accelerate planning and implement innovative undergraduate programming quickly and effectively 

NextGen Service is operated through two tiers. Tier one is the Information Sharing Network. Leaders from any public service school can join and participate in a series of webinars and interactive sessions on ASU’s PSA model and other approaches to public service education. 

Tier two, launched in July, is known as the Active Planning Cohort. In this tier, NextGen Service selects schools that are actively implementing undergraduate public service programs that emulate the PSA model. Member schools have access to and support for one year from NextGen Service. 

“NextGen Service will give universities around the country the guidance and resources they need to better support their undergraduates’ drive to make a difference in careers of public service,” ASU President Michael Crow explained in a recent statement. 

Through this service, schools will gain resources to inform and accelerate planning and implementation efforts for their public service programs, including seed funding, strategic planning, project management support, facilitation, engagement of thought partners, documentation and synthesis, communications strategy assistance, and organized opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. 

As of August, four universities have joined the cohort: The City University of New York, Georgia State University, Indiana University, and University of Nebraska Omaha. 

“The civil unrest and pandemic we are currently experiencing are examples of the need to train the next generation of leaders to be effective across sectors,” Craig Maher, PhD, director of the University of Nebraska Omaha School of Public Administration, said in a statement. “Having the ability to partner with the Volcker Alliance and Arizona State University means that we have access to resources that will enable us to get this program up and running at a much quicker rate.”

This article was published in our November 2020 issue.