Thursday, December 19, 2013

All Over

Rick, MPIA-SIS, 2014

Blog Post #5

Well, the semester has drawn to a close.  When I arrived in Washington it was about 100 degrees and humid as anywhere; now it’s 30 degrees, snowing, and holiday decorations are everywhere.  I guess it’s time to look back and reflect on my time in Washington.

First, I cannot believe how fast it goes.  I was just trying to keep my schedule straight each day between work, school, networking, and so on. The days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into a semester.  I guess the lesson is don’t waste a day.  At the beginning of the semester there were always more days, and if something didn’t work out in the schedule, it could be put off until the next week.  Now, I wish I had another couple of days here before my lease runs out -- let alone a week!  If you’re trying to network with someone or visit places while you’re here or anywhere, make your default meeting request “how about later today?”  Don’t fail to capitalize on any of your time here, or anywhere.

Second, I don’t know how I managed to juggle a full-time work schedule, full-time course load, putting together fellowship applications, and trying to expand my network.  It was really difficult to fit things in from time to time, but the key is to stay extremely organized.  It might sound even crazier to suggest keeping everything organized with all that going on, but without keeping half a dozen lists of day plans, week plans, upcoming events, deadlines, and long-term calendar reminders, I know I would not have been able to keep track of everything!

Third, Washington is the place to be.  If you’re interested in a career in federal public service, you need to find your way down here sooner rather than later!  The professional opportunities here are far better than just about anywhere (depending on your specialty) in the realm of government service.  If you’re interested in the Think Tank world, there are few other places that rival D.C.  Honestly, GSPIA is great and all, but I wish I were staying here for my final semester as well.

Fourth, in your internship, make sure you find a project that you can make your own.  This should be something that if a potential employer calls your internship supervisor, he or she will immediately think “Rick was great. He took over this issue and delivered a great project.”  Not only is this great for evaluations, it’s also a great thing to have in your experience as a response to future interview questions.  If you get to your internship and you think that you won’t get opportunities to shine, don’t hesitate to ask around about other opportunities in the city.  I know of several people who switched internships during their first few weeks in Washington so don’t be afraid to look around!  With as many government offices, Think Tanks, and non-profits as are in this city, there are always opportunities for people offering to work (read: intern) for free.

Finally, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  If you’ve got a lot going on, a lot of pressure, and more deadlines than you can count, then you’re going to need to blow off some steam from time to time.  Washington has a ton of nightlife, great (compared to Pittsburgh) public transportation, and tons of people.  Meet other Pitt classmates and alums out on weekends.  Make new friends in the GDSP program.  Find new, professional friends while networking.  It doesn’t matter whom, but get out there and have some fun after all that work you’re doing!

One last class and that’s a wrap, folks.  See you all back in Posvar in January!

Friday, December 6, 2013

GSPIA Students Compete in Allegheny County DHS Policy Case Competition

On November 9, several GSPIA students competed in the Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ annual policy case competition. The Department of Human Services recapped the event in its monthly newsletter:

A team of graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) took first place and the $3,000 prize in the Department of Human Service (DHS) 7th annual case competition, held Nov. 9 in the Human Services Building, Downtown.
Aston Armstrong, of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; Andrea Thurau of Pitt’s School of Social Work; and Maureen Washburn of CMU’s H. John Heinz III College won the competition,  operating as Team Birmingham….
DHS challenged teams to develop a three-year recruitment and retention plan to meet the department’s desire to build a modern human services workforce while meeting a range of employment challenges.
Teams devised strategies to improve one key workforce characteristic -- talent, diversity or commitment – for one targeted workforce segment – front line, support or leadership. Teams had to think creatively; develop a timeline; ensure their plan extended to providers and contracted workers; offer a process of evaluation; and finally, make a 20-minute presentation using PowerPoint and verbal arguments before a panel of judges to convince them of the viability of their ideas.
The teams had from Wednesday evening, Nov. 6, when they received the challenge issue, to 7 a.m. Saturday to prepare their case….
Fourth Place, Team Homestead [Grays]:  Aviva Diamond, Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College; Deborah Garofalo, Duquesne University, Social and Public Policy; David Streeter, University of Pittsburgh, GSPIA; Stephen Zumbrun, University of Pittsburgh, School of Law.
GSPIA students Kayla Branch, Megan Davis, Katelyn Haas, Michael Toronto, Yuzhao Xie, and Linghui Zhu also participated in the competition.
You can learn more about the case competition here.