Jul 31 2015 ASU’s Public Service Academy prepares students to solve society’s most complex challenges
Civilian and military organizations must often work together to address complex domestic security and humanitarian issues both in times of crisis and over multi-year projects. But certain barriers impede efficient and effective collaboration within and across private and public sectors — unpreparedness and lack of trust, for example. One route to produce leaders who can work effectively across sectors to tackle knotty problems is to provide early or pre-career training. The newly formed Public Service Academy, a certificate granting program at Arizona State University (ASU), is a program that does precisely this.
The Public Service Academy provides an intellectual base (coursework) and practical routes (internships) to annual cohorts of undergraduate students. Students, welcomed from all academic disciplines, who enter the Public Service Academy engage with both civilian and military instructors and complete the academy’s signature course in Cross-Sector Leadership. Students are positioned to gain important leadership characteristics that will prove useful as they become cross-sector practitioners in federal, state, or city government.
“That’s something the ASU Public Service Academy addresses, by giving students the opportunity to build trust through their experiences with people in the public and private sector.”
Highlighting the importance of actionable cross-sector professional experience, Jonathan Koppell, Dean of the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions, explained in a recent interview that individuals in civil service roles would be better able to solve complex social issues if they had experience working in cross-sector collaboration. His rationale is that shared experiences bring about collaborative understanding, and the common barrier of lack of trust across sectors can be surmounted. In regard to “mutual suspicion between government and the private sector,” Kopell says, “that’s something the ASU Public Service Academy addresses by giving students the opportunity to build trust through their experiences with people in the public and private sector.”
Summer internships in business, non-profit, and government sectors, facilitated by the Public Service Academy and mandatory for its students, provide excellent opportunities for students to act as trestles between sectors, building a structure that supports trust. Work experience also yields Transferrable Skills, hard skills and professional competencies such as such as quantitative analytics, strategic planning, and stakeholder management that are valued across sectors. Students’ exposure to all three sectors instills Contextual Intelligence, the ability to assess the differences and recognize the similarities between sectors, which will allow future graduates to navigate within and between sectors.
“One of the things that the private sector does exceptionally well is provide internships to MBA students…The federal government doesn’t do that. They are missing out on a huge talent pool. That needs to be addressed if we’re going to capture that talent.”
Building links between the private sector and the public sector also facilitates the entrance of talented and motivated employees into the public sector. “One of the things that the private sector does exceptionally well is provide internships to MBA students … The federal government doesn’t do that. They are missing out on a huge talent pool. That needs to be addressed if we’re going to capture that talent,” explains Koppell. Through exposure to civilian and military sectors, students at the Public Service Academy have the opportunity to gain strengths from various fields and use them along their own professional path. Koppell points out that the entrepreneurial spirit, most commonly understood to be connected to the private sector, is also integral to effectiveness in the public sector. The Public Service Academy program is primed to harness that entrepreneurial spirit among its students — the future leaders of the public sector.