Public Policy (LBJ) Pre-Grad Intern Cortney Sanders

Corney SandersStep By Step: Final Essay

I am sad to say the IE program is coming to an end, yet the relationships and knowledge to a better future are just beginning thanks to this class. I am glad that I decided to stick with my intuition, register, and finish my last semester confident about going graduate school. I have learned so much from my faculty mentor, faculty interviews, IE peers, and the guest in our course sessions. My journey with the IE program has changed my life one step at a time and my experience is a great story to tell.

This past fall I was in Washington DC for the Archer Program. During my search for spring semester classes a close friend and alumni of the IE program told me about this course. At first I didnt want to take the course because I was not sure if it would fit my degree plan. However, after emailing Dr. Cherwitz and looking at the website I didnt care because the course was worth so much more to me. In addition to a few testimonies from my friends, I was excited to see so many diverse groups of students and areas of interest on the website. The IE program is a rare experience because it gives you the opportunity to expand and grow in your undergraduate years for the future. Luckily enough, the course was just what I needed to finish my minor in Political Communications and graduate in May with a BA in Government.

Once I decided that I was going to register for the course I had to find my mentor. The first thing I did was look at the professors at the Public Policy school on campus. I went to the LBJ School for Public Affairs and searched for terms such as economic development, education, Washington, DC, and social justice. After a few hours of research I narrowed my search down to four professors. Since I was not on campus and could not run to their office them, I sent the list of people to one of my advising professors. Dr. Bryan Jones, the J.J. Pickle Regents Chair for Congressional Studies and my faculty mentor, said he knew one person from the list and trusting his judgment I connected with that professor. I contacted Dr. Angela Evans in the fall and asked her to be my faculty mentor. At first, I was very nervous, because I was a total stranger and we were making a commitment to each other with no relationship ties. To my surprise after a couple of emails and a long phone call during a lunch break she decided to become my mentor for the IE program. I think my experience is unique because I didn't physically meet my mentor until the first week of the program. Ironically, working with Dr. Evans has changed my life and we have grown very close over the semester.

Who is Dr. Evans? Well beside the fact that she is an awesome IE mentor, Dr. Evans is a LBJ School of Public Affairs professor that focuses on the practice of public policy and management in public sector/ service environments. Before coming to the university, with 30 year of experience she served the U.S. Congress for 13 years as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. During her long career she worked with Members of Congress and their staffs on all major legislative deliberations, assisting them as they confronted some of the most critical and complex policy problems facing the nation. I wanted to work with her because in the past she has focused on public management, leadership, and politics, and ethics. This semester, under Dr. Evans supervision, I have explored my career goals, academic goals, and personal in public service.

I helped conduct research that will allow people to better understand the evolution of public policy for academia and government. Specifically, I researched past presidents speeches of the national Journal for Public Policy Analysis and Management in order to learn about past and present triumphs/failures of policy theories and implementation in America.

Throughout the semester I have attended Dr. Evans course on Public Administration in which I participated in classroom discussions and presentations. I am certainly grateful for this program because it has allowed me to gain a proper understanding of graduate school for public policy.

Now that the program has come to an end, I am looking forward to making more connections with employers and graduate schools in order to better my competiveness for public policy school. I have learned that taking some time off is not always a bad thing yet an opportunity for me to be certain about their academic and career goals. Some things I am not looking forward to prepare for is the job market during my time off. I understand that with dedication and perseverance you can get the job you want with the benefits you need, but without hard work you are not so lucky. I am also worried about location and the cost/ investments I will have to make to visit schools that I am potentially thinking about attending. In other words, I am not looking forward to saving and raising money to travel while I am working and studying for my GRE. Consequently, I understand that graduate school is what I want to do because it will benefit me greatly for my future goals in public service. Having a master's in Public Policy will allow me to help with practical implementations on a local, state, and federal level around topics/ issues I am most passionate about.

I know that the IE program acted as a catapult to new dreams, bigger goals, and game plan to being successful in the near future.

In the heart of my mentorship, I really enjoyed the extra opportunities throughout the semester such as interviewing other faculty in the LBJ School, listening to fellow classmates talk about their undergraduate IE experiences, and sharing my victories with the IE family. This semester I had the privilege to interview Professor Shirley Franklin, the Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor of Ethics and Political Values. Honorable Franklin is the first female and first African-American woman to hold an official local office as Mayor in the Atlanta Georgia. She served two terms as mayor and is currently lecturing professor and acting advocate for social justice and diversity within the School of Public Affairs. I really liked talking to her because she gave me advice for my future in public service. Ms. Franklin also acknowledged my diverse qualities and encouraged me to use those characteristics as motivation to move forward in social justice and public service. We also discussed my options after my undergraduate studies. She suggested that I find a political campaign or nonprofit that is similar to my interest and passions. She encourages students to take time off in between undergraduate and graduate school because she understands that with more growth the beneficial you are to our society. My course assignments became a delightful surprise and the meeting session where even more interesting. I was excited to hear from my peers about what they were thinking about what rumors they held to be true for graduate school potentials. On the other hand, I enjoyed the invited guest that tried to help us with those difficult questions and reaffirm or deny any preconceived notions about our academic and career paths.

Listening to everyone's responses made my experience much easier and fun. The best part is I have an IE family that supports me and my leadership. As soon as I got an award or accolade many of them added me to Facebook or personally came to me and told me congratulations on your awards. Those few kind words made all the difference to my IE experience and it gave many people an opportunity to talk me for advice on how to get things like the Archer Fellowship or leadership scholarships on campus. So it was a sure win-win for all of us in the end.

In conclusion, I must say that this is the most diverse and innovative academic program on campus thus far. It is the first program I have been in which I don't feel like a number or an odd ball. I become important because I have team of people that cares about my future endeavors and goals in life. The IE Fellowship opened my eyes to new possibilities and made me realize that the first step is the best step to the next step towards the future. I am so excited to tell all my friends and incoming students about this fellowship because it truly made a difference in my life.

Read about Cortney's 2014 J. J. "Jake" Pickle Citizenship Award