Tuesday, April 30, 2019

First students to graduate from UIS’ new public policy bachelor’s degree program

A group of four students will make up the first graduating class of the University of Illinois Springfield’s new public policy bachelor’s degree program. Students first started to enroll in the program in Fall Semester 2016.

The degree is designed to give students comprehensive training in the field of public policy, including applied policy implementation and program evaluation. The degree prepares students for careers as lawmakers, policy analysts, legislative aides, community activists, lobbyists and attorneys.

“This program was started as a way to provide students who are interested in government and politics with a more applied curriculum and to utilize our location in the state capital to allow students, who already are interested in government, a chance to start interning and working in the field,” said Magic Wade, UIS assistant professor of political science.

In addition to what students learn in the classroom, they are also required to complete a six credit-hour internship with a state, local government or policymaking agency as part of the public policy bachelor’s degree curriculum. The internships are designed to introduce students to various post-graduate professional options.

The four students expected to graduate Saturday, May 11, 2019, with their bachelor’s degrees in public policy include Tristan Akers of Cambridge, Jason Edwards of Springfield, Andrew Jarmer of Springfield and James Wheeler of Rochester.

Jarmer says he decided to major in public policy because it is a hands-on program “based on real-life problems and solutions,” which makes it different from a traditional degree in political science.

“In contrast to political science, which is more based in theories and abstract concepts, public policy is essentially a study of how we, as a society, choose our priorities and act upon them. You can learn quite a bit about a society/government/group of people by examining their agenda and policy decisions,” he said.

Following graduation from UIS, Jarmer, who is also earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, plans to continue to work as a campaign/office staffer for the Democratic Party of Illinois before starting law school.

Wheeler, who is also active in politics as a political staffer for the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association transferred to UIS from Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) to earn his bachelor’s degree in public policy.

“It is wonderful,” he said. “I was very lucky to seamlessly glide from graduating at LLCC to studying at UIS in this new program, and am thankful that it was implemented at the time that it was.”

Following graduation, he plans to apply for state jobs and earn his master’s degree in political science, with a focus on public law, at UIS.

Edwards also transferred to UIS from LLCC and currently works at the Illinois State Capitol as a senate page. He also plans to earn his master’s degree in political science at UIS following the completion of his bachelor’s degree.

“When I started this degree, I really didn’t know what to expect or how it would go, but I have to say it has arguably been the best decision I have made here at UIS,” said Edwards. “I learned such a great amount of information about past, current, and future topics and subject matters that affect all of us citizens here in our own state and our country.”

Akers, who is a dual public policy and political science major, currently interns for the Illinois Senate Republican’s District Planning and Member Services staff. He will be attending law school following graduation from UIS. He says he chose the public policy degree because it was unique.

“I figured it would give me a step up,” he said. “It feels good knowing that many others will follow in our footsteps.”

The UIS public policy bachelor’s degree curriculum addresses questions surrounding the ethics of policy-making, the conditions in which policies are made, how programs should be implemented, and whether they are effective. Courses provide in-depth consideration of health, education, labor law, social welfare, environmental, or agricultural policy while equipping students with the tools to participate in the advocacy, drafting, and analysis of public policy.

For more information on the UIS bachelor’s degree in public policy, contact Magic Wade at 217/206-6523 or mwade7@uis.edu. Students may apply online at www.uis.edu/admissions/applytoday/.

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