Scholars in the Nation’s Service
Innovative program addresses critical need to attract greater numbers of talented students to careers in federal government
The Scholars in the Nation’s Service initiative was announced on Feb. 24 during a Woodrow Wilson School conference that brought together practitioners, academics and policy-makers to examine the challenges in attracting the best and brightest to government and the concept of government service as the highest form of public service to the nation. Leading one of the panel discussions were (from left): Leonard Lance, a 1982 graduate alumnus and New Jersey’s Senate minority leader; Cara Abercrombie, a 2003 graduate alumna and country director for India in the U.S. Department of Defense; Mike McCurry, a 1976 alumnus and former press secretary to President Bill Clinton; and Eliot Spitzer, a 1981 alumnus and New York State attorney general. The conference was part of a yearlong celebration of the school’s 75th anniversary. (photo by John Jameson)
Princeton NJ — The University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs has created a highly selective “Scholars in the Nation’s Service” initiative to encourage more of the nation’s best and brightest students to pursue careers in the U.S. federal government, especially in the international relations arena.
Beginning in a student’s junior year in college, the six-year program will include a summer federal government internship, approximately two years of federal government service after college and a master’s degree in public affairs from the Wilson School.
“This ‘Scholars in the Nation’s Service’ program is a direct response to the critical need in this country to attract greater numbers of talented students to careers in the federal government,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School. “All the efforts of the nonprofit sector and the private sector cannot substitute for a strong and competent government committed to finding and implementing solutions to public problems.
“For many years, public officials and other leaders have expressed concern that government service does not compete successfully when our very best students nationwide are making their career plans, a concern that has grown more acute in recent years as many government employees approach retirement age,” Slaughter added. “‘Princeton in the Nation’s Service,’ the University’s informal motto, encompasses many different kinds of service but at the core of public service, as Woodrow Wilson knew, is government service. This is the training the Woodrow Wilson School provides at the graduate level; this is the commitment we now seek to foster at the undergraduate level through this new program.”
The purposes of the program, modeled after the Rhodes and Marshall scholars, are twofold. The first is to ensure that a wide range of Princeton undergraduates, and eventually undergraduates at other colleges and universities, appreciate the range and impact of positions available to them in government service. The second is to provide exceptional students with opportunities to experience government service first-hand and to gain the skills they need to succeed in government positions.
“We believe this program breaks new ground,” Slaughter said. “At the same time, we hope other schools of public and international affairs will follow our lead, to increase the prestige and attraction of government service nationwide.”
The costs of the initial group of scholars will be covered by the earnings on $2 million in endowment from outside donors to support the undergraduate portion of the program and the earnings on $10 million from the Robertson Foundation endowment to support the two years in government service. The Robertson Foundation was established in 1961 to provide support for the Woodrow Wilson School’s graduate program, where men and women may prepare for careers in government service, with an emphasis on education for careers in those areas of the federal government that are concerned with international relations and affairs.
Program is a ‘win-win’
The first five Scholars in the Nation’s Service will be drawn from Princeton undergraduates. These students will be selected in the fall of 2006 as they begin their junior years at Princeton. They will spend their final two college years completing their majors, taking selected courses in public policy, learning about career opportunities in the federal government and spending the summer after their junior year in a federal government internship. All Princeton juniors will be eligible to apply.
The Woodrow Wilson School and the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing public service, will work with the scholars before graduation to match their skills with substantive work in federal agencies, with a special emphasis on international affairs careers. If the position they seek cannot be funded by the federal government, the scholarship will cover the salary for two years. After their two-year tour in government, scholars will return to the school to earn an MPA degree.
Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service, said, “This new program is a win-win. Government will benefit from an infusion of new talent and fresh ideas, while outstanding students gain invaluable experience that will launch their careers. Princeton should be commended for initiating this innovative program, and the Partnership is proud to be a partner.”
Special activities for the scholars during their junior and senior years and their summer internships will be funded by individual donors. During this period recipients of the scholarship will be known, depending on their funding source, as Frederick Hitz ’61 Scholars in the Nation’s Service; Martha Darling *70 and Gilbert Omenn ’61 Scholars in the Nation’s Service; or Tom and Andrea Bernstein ’80 Scholars in the Nation’s Service.
During students’ postgraduate government service and graduate academic work, recipients will be known as Charles and Marie Robertson Scholars in the Nation’s Service, and will be supported by the Robertson Foundation.
During the 2006-07 graduate admission process, the school hopes to expand the initiative to include five incoming Woodrow Wilson School MPA students. This will allow undergraduates from across the country to participate in the program. Graduate scholars will not be able to take advantage of the summer internship with the federal government, but they will otherwise have the same opportunity to spend two years in a federal government position before or during their MPA education, and they will be able to take advantage of the training and career advising services available to the undergraduate scholars.
Scholars in the Nation’s Service will be selected based on superior academic performance, a proven track record of accomplishment and a demonstrated commitment to government service, with emphasis on those areas of the federal government that are concerned with international relations and affairs. The program will be particularly interested in students who combine knowledge of public policy with high achievement in natural science or engineering, or students with substantial knowledge of languages considered to be “difficult” (Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Sanskrit, Swahili, Urdu, etc.). While undergraduate majors in the Woodrow Wilson School will be eligible to apply, they will receive no special preference.
Addressing a major national need
President Tilghman underscored the initiative as a “bold and creative effort to address a major national need,” noting that “since her arrival as dean in the fall of 2002, Anne-Marie Slaughter has been doing just what we brought her here to do: strengthening the teaching and research programs of the Woodrow Wilson School, especially in the area of international affairs; increasing the engagement of experienced public policy practitioners in the life of the school; increasing Princeton’s visibility and impact in the world of public and international affairs; and expanding its efforts to prepare students for public service, and especially for government service, and to encourage more students, including some of our very best students, to contribute their talents and skills to the government. This initiative is just one of many examples of the energetic leadership she has brought to Princeton.”
Paul Volcker, former chair of the Federal Reserve and a 1949 Princeton graduate who majored in the Woodrow Wilson School and taught in the school as a faculty member in international economic policy, said, “I’m delighted that Princeton is bringing its financial and intellectual resources to bear more directly on a pressing but too little recognized national problem. The significance of the new initiative extends far beyond the incentive it will provide for a limited number of exceptional students to find a challenging and satisfying position in government. By recognizing in a concrete way the compelling need to maintain a strong civil service able to support American policies and leadership, the Princeton initiative should help catalyze further efforts to rebuild a sense of competence and confidence in government. I look forward to other prestigious universities joining the effort ‘In the Nation’s Service.’”
The Scholars in the Nation’s Service initiative was announced on Feb. 24 during an all-day Woodrow Wilson School conference that brought together practitioners, academics and policy-makers to examine the challenges in attracting the best and brightest to government and the concept of government service as the highest form of public service to the nation. The conference was held as part of a yearlong celebration of the school’s 75th anniversary as one of the nation’s leading institutions for teaching and research in public and international affairs.
This program is one of several initiatives in recent years by Slaughter to increase the placement of students in federal government service. Other initiatives have included expanding the number of former federal officials in multi-year appointments at the school; introducing a new diplomat-in-residence program to give students greater exposure to individuals who have served in government; and developing a new “beyond the classroom” program, geared toward encouraging students to pursue careers in the U.S. foreign service, that provides students with first-hand knowledge about programs and opportunities at the U.S. State Department.
In addition, last year Slaughter urged the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program, a primary gateway for graduating MPA students to take jobs in the federal government, to remove an applications cap which previously allowed only 10 percent of the graduating class to apply for the program. When the cap was lifted, more than half of the eligible students in Princeton’s graduating class applied for the program, which provides two-year internships in the federal government, and despite intense national competition, more than half of Princeton’s applicants were selected.