UNM School of Public Administration Hopes to Attract Public Service Interest with New Undergraduate Minor

September 24, 2022

SPA Next Gen

A new undergraduate program designed to introduce students to the field of public service will be offered next year at the School of Public Administration (SPA) at The University of New Mexico. The new undergraduate minor in public service, created in collaboration with The Volcker Alliance, is designed to inspire and prepare college students to serve their communities and nation.

With programs like the Next Generation Service Corps, a groundbreaking initiative of the Volcker Alliance that draws diverse, talented young people into government and nonprofit careers, schools like the UNM SPA can introduce undergraduate students to public service, collaborative leadership skills, and the beginnings of government careers regardless of their chosen focus or background. The goal of SPA is to retain students as public servants in New Mexico and help them build a career for years to come.

The Volcker Alliance has awarded the UNM School of Public Administration a grant through its Next Generation Service Corps initiative to help UNM implement the program in Fall of 2023 with recruitment beginning next spring. The public service minor will be open to all students, so anyone looking to improve our democracy and address social problems through public service will be able to learn key values and build practical, collaborative leadership skills, regardless of their chosen major at UNM. 

“The College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) is excited that SPA is providing opportunities to outstanding and diverse undergraduate students across the university to realize their passion and desire to serve their communities and bring about the change they want to see,” said A&S Interim Dean Arash Mafi.

Patria de Lancer Julnes
Patria de Lancer Julnes

“There are many opportunities for students to enter public service,” said Rosenthal Endowed Professor and SPA Director Patria de Lancer Julnes. “You can come from many different backgrounds to work in public service, not just public administration. You could be an engineer and work for the government. You could be a business major who is interested in social entrepreneurship and create your own nonprofit to develop innovative approaches for the causes you care the most about in your community.

“There are many roads leading to Rome, so to speak. We want this program to help create public service values and provide students with skills that they can use to address the issues in their community.”

Whether students are interested in the environment, social equity, or health equity, SPA believes this program will open plenty of doors. There will be a chance for collaboration and learning with other departments like Native American Studies, Integrative Studies, Political Science, Community Safety & Human Security, and Management. Alumni will also play a role in connecting undergrads with expanding opportunities. Students in the minor will also be able to participate in the social entrepreneurship track of UNM’s Rainforest Accelerator. 

Kate Cartwright
Kate Cartwright

“Whatever people's skills are, whatever their interests are, whatever their passions are, there is a place for them in public service,” said SPA Associate Professor Kate Cartwright. “What's nice about that is we have a network of our MPA alumni and our MHA alumni. Our alumni are doing amazing things. We will be able to use our alumni network to to really connect our undergraduates to people doing public service work locally and all around the state.”

“In terms of careers, one of the things that's pretty neat about being part of the Next Generation Service Corps network is that students are going to be able to participate in skill-building and networking activities with other students across the nation, added de Lancer Julnes.

Over the next year, this minor will be designed, focusing on course development, elective selection, service-learning program ideas, and student recruitment. In the long term, SPA hopes this minor program is a seed to grow additional programs focused on public service for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

“The School of Public Administration at UNM is over 50 years old,” said Cartwright. “Historically, it’s been a master's program in public administration. We've been doing this work for over 50 years, training the leaders in public service in New Mexico. This is just a natural extension of the work that we're doing with people at the master's level and saying, how do we take that foundation and connect the undergraduate population to this work?”

New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of government employees. In 2018, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported it had the third highest proportion of employees who work at some level of government in the country, next to healthcare and the state’s labs. Despite the high number of public service jobs in New Mexico, interest nationwide in public service careers has waned over the years. That’s a sentiment de Lancer Julnes, and Cartwright hope to improve with this minor. 

The Volcker Alliance was created by Paul Volcker, who worked in the United States federal government for almost 30 years, culminating in two terms as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979 to 1987, a critical period in bringing a high level of inflation to an end. The Alliance builds partnerships with government and universities, promotes innovation in public service education, drives research on effective government, and inspires others with the story of Volcker’s commitment to public service.

“Volcker’s commitment when he retired and was looking at his life was to leave a legacy where he wanted everyone to consider careers in public service,” said Cartwright. “And that has led to this amazing network of programs and people who want young people to think about, and not just young people, but anyone who are the next public servants, the next people who are going to do this work.”

For more information, visit The Volcker Alliance.

Credit: UNM Newsroom