“Why, if they’re pursuing a major in public service, aren’t they going into public service?”
This was a question that School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) undergraduate program director, Elizabeth Choe, found herself asking ahead of her organizing SPIA’s first-ever career fair, the idea for which she said came from the 2021–22 career center data which showed that just 7 percent of alumni that majored in SPIA reported entering careers in the public sector.
In contrast to the University’s career fair — which represented more employers from “Investment/Portfolio Management” than any other industry — the SPIA career day, which will be held this Friday, will feature nearly 20 alumni, highlighting opportunities in public service. SPIA has previously hosted public service events, but only with alumni as individual lone speakers.
Princeton students have faced criticism in the past for entering into for-profit fields at higher rates than public service, despite the University’s unofficial motto: “In the nation's service and the service of humanity.”
Paul Lipton, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Administration in SPIA, came up with the idea for a Public Service Career day in spring of 2023 as a way to better facilitate careers in public service. Planning for the event continued over summer 2023.
“The main objective is to draw attention to careers in public service for not only the students in SPIA but students in other majors,” wrote Lipton in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “But also give students who are curious about careers in public service some exposure to what the pathways look like, what the opportunities are.”
Lipton said that the different timeline for hiring and recruiting used by public service careers and government agencies presents may prevent some students from pursuing those career paths.
“They are not in this active recruiting season at this point for positions that would begin over the summer of next year,” Lipton stated. “And so while it would have been wonderful to include in this event, something like a career fair that Princeton typically hosts in the fall semester, the timeline just doesn’t work out.”
Lipton continued, “Getting them all in one room doesn’t really work in the same way that it would for business and consultant recruiting firms.”
According to Choe, the career fair is the beginning of a larger initiative to introduce SPIA majors and other students to public service opportunities. Plans for similar events in the future include reaching out to potential recruiters and hiring agents, she added. Nearly 100 students are registered to attend the public service career day, according to the Handshake sign-up.
Janny Eng is a senior News writer for the ‘Prince.’
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