Julia Reed, a second-year M.P.A. student, finally closed down the Woo’s festive-turned-somber election watch party at 1:30 a.m. Nov. 9, when few remained to witness Donald Trump’s victory. Personal disappointment aside, Reed, who had hoped to work in a Clinton administration, suddenly faced an ambiguous career landscape.
The Woodrow Wilson School grooms public servants, but the election outcome has some soon-to-be graduates, like Reed, looking for opportunities to work in the public interest outside of more traditional Washington, D.C., roles.
Simone Webster, a second-year M.P.A. student focused on education policy, said she was concerned “because you read different things every day — like, oh, there’s not going to be a Department of Education. I don’t know what that means for me, or what the implications will be on the ground level.” Her classmate Vivian Chang has not ruled out working on climate-change policy for the new administration, but is now considering alternatives. “I think people are even looking at working for solar companies, rather than government being the solution right now,” she said.
Second-year M.P.A. student Claire Denton-Spalding asked former professor Robert Hutchings for ethical advice and sent classmates his response. “Be prepared to wait until the dust settles before taking a position,” wrote Hutchings. “Don’t compromise on your principles — which means you need to know what they are. You are embarking on a long career, and the patterns of behavior you adopt now will be more important than any particular job that you take (or decline).”
Many have found such advice useful, including Ryan Stoffers, who interned at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last summer and hopes for a relatively “politically insulated position” after getting his M.P.A. degree this year. “There are still many places to make a positive impact,” he said.
International students also are deliberating. Francisco Varela, a second-year M.P.A. student, feels an urgent obligation to his native Mexico. “Originally, I wanted to stay here for a couple of years, but now I feel like I need to go back,” he said.
READ MORE: After the Election, the Campus Responds
Several students have career commitments, and some are enthusiastic about serving. Air Force Maj. Hugh Walker, one of five master’s candidates on active duty, explained, “Our mission never stops.” And three graduating M.P.A.s are committed to joining the U.S. Foreign Service.
Alex Wheatley ’16, who will serve a two-year federal internship as part of the University’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative after her first year in the M.P.A. program, said she came to realize that “the issues I care about may be more threatened by a Trump presidency than a Clinton presidency. I’ll use my fellowship years to do the most good that I can.”