Imagery of Regent people and campus

Forum Exposes Students to Nonprofit Field Options

By Amanda Morad | March 13, 2014

Regent University's Robertson School of Government (RSG) added a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree to its roster last year, and its students are preparing to lead the world of the future in public administration, public policy, political science, economics, finance and many other fields of public service.

To help students get a feel for their employment prospects, the Hampton Roads chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) hosted a forum on Regent's campus on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The ASPA sponsored the event to encourage motivated young people to consider public and nonprofit agencies for their future.

"Local government service is a calling," said Jim Oliver, emeritus chairman of the Hampton Roads Center for Civic Engagement and the evening's first plenary speaker. He discussed the importance of public service and the many facets of service available to pursue.

He encouraged students that the demographics and opportunities in government are changing. "There will be a huge number of local, state and federal employees retiring in the next few years, a 'Silver Tsunami.' Jobs are being re-thought, so there are opportunities and also challenges in the job market."

Next, Kate Meechan, executive director of Volunteer Hampton Roads, discussed necessary preparation for employment at nonprofit organizations. "Nonprofit is a whole sector unto itself," she said. "You still need specific skills for the position you may be interested in." While business and management skills are important, she explained, it's also important to have patience, tenacity, vision and initiative to work in nonprofit. "Don't wait for a job posting," she said. "Send your resume even if nothing is posted."

Concerning starting nonprofits, Meechan warned that double efforts do more harm than good. "Is there an organization already doing the same thing?" she asked. "Do a market analysis because it is a lot of work to get started."

Naturally, Meechan encouraged students to volunteer in order to get experience, to network and to learn what they really want to know. "Goals are good, but don't miss the opportunities to serve along the way," she said.

Meechan and Oliver then joined a panel of public service experts, which included RSG professors Dr. Bob Dyer and Dr. Gary Roberts, and Shannon Kendrick, district director for Congressman Scott Rigell '90 (R-VA, 2nd District). Dyer also serves on Virginia Beach City Council. Each panelist explained his or her role in public service—from the classroom to Capitol Hill—and left students with valuable advice.

"Internships are valuable opportunities for your future," Kendrick encouraged. Roberts emphasized "soft skills" as equally vital to a career in public service: "Be a servant leader in managing and working with people," he said. "The next generation needs to help to rebuild trust within government and government agencies."

Over all, they encouraged students to seek out their callings in public service and pursue them whole-heartedly. "Success is being on the career path God has planned for you," said Dyer.

Learn more about the Robertson School of Government.


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