Public Service as Responsible Citizenship

Add This

The Public Service Major at Rutgers University–Newark

"Reprinted with permission from AAC&U News #108. Copyright 2012 by the Association of American Colleges and Universities."

When the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University–Newark began designing an undergraduate program to complement the school’s masters’ and doctoral programs, the chancellor of the university gave the faculty a particular charge: “to come up with a curriculum that really engaged the whole community,” says Sharon Stroye, assistant dean of SPAA. The new program should help students understand their immediate environment and recognize the contributions they could make, and foster an understanding of wider issues happening not just in Newark but around the state, nation, and world.

The faculty ultimately conceived of public service as the organizing principle for the new undergraduate program. The Public Service major, which enrolled its first cohort of students in the fall of 2008, both provides an introduction to the role of the public sector and asks students to investigate broader questions about contemporary social issues. The program’s curriculum combines service learning and internships with academic theory in order to give students a diverse skill set. That’s particularly important given the rapidly changing economy and shifting work patterns students will face, says Kyle Farmbry, director of undergraduate studies in SPAA.

“Students aren’t just training to get this degree and dive into a public sector career,” he says. “Students may go on to work in the public sector, or they may work in the private or nonprofit sectors, but they’ll find themselves interacting with all sectors. They have to have an understanding of the language of the three sectors and be able to think fast enough that they can figure out what people want and come up with solutions to the different challenges they’ll face.” more ...