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2022 In-Demand Careers

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University of Arkansas, Clinton School of Public Service

Highly Engaged Faculty, High-Impact Projects Create International Opportunities

As an innovative higher-education leader and the first Latina to lead a Presidential Institution, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, the new dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, is struck by the unique nature of the school’s Master of Public Service degree program.

“I don’t want to say this is a boutique program, because that has a pretentious connotation, and that’s not who we are,” she says. “But we are very concentrated on taking our students, giving them skills in the classroom, and pairing them off with faculty members right from the get-go. We put them in the field from their first semester. That is something that really sets the Clinton School apart—faculty deeply engaging with students.”

To prepare students to become global leaders in international affairs, the school teaches data collection and landscape analysis, and how to measure a program’s impact and return on investment. Students gain these skills in the classroom and through three major field service projects.

“We are very concentrated on taking our students, giving them skills in the classroom, and pairing them off with faculty members right from the get-go.” –Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Dean, Clinton School of Public Service, University of Arkansas

When students enter the program in the fall, the school takes an “inventory” of their interests and pairs them with faculty mentors, Soto says. They work directly with community partners in a first-year practicum project that allows students to “get their hands dirty” through fieldwork.

“We have partners from all over the region, where students become immersed in their field,” she says. As part of these projects, teams of three to four students are matched with a partner organization, for whom they work for multiple semesters. In the summer following their first year, all students complete international public service projects with organizations across the world.

Other unique opportunities for professional development come through the school’s position as a Presidential Institution. Students have worked with the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, and also have opportunities to meet with former President Bill Clinton.

After graduating, students work for employers across the spectrum, ranging from the World Bank to Walmart China. Public health is a popular career choice, as is economic development. In recent years, students have become increasingly interested in careers in data sciences, Soto says, so the school is incorporating a data sciences certificate track into its offerings.

Soto notes that many of the COVID-19-inspired workplace trends that have sparked the global Great Resignation are coloring students’ career choices as well. “We’ve seen a marked shift in what students want to pursue,” she says. “They have the versatility to seek out different employers. But they want fulfillment. They aren’t going to do a job they hate. They have a passion for service.”

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