Public policy students await new building


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 2:12 a.m.
The dozen students accepted into University of Florida's first public policy certificate program are diving right into their coursework, which consists of 18 hours, including a political internship.
They will be the first class to graduate in the program created in part by former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who is trying to lay the groundwork to train a future generation of public leaders, said political science professor Walter Rosenbaum, who is now interim director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Policy at Pugh Hall.
"This program is the first thing off the ground," he said. "We're pleased that we have gotten so far so soon."
Graham helped establish the center to facilitate discussion of government and policy issues and to encourage students to seek careers in public service.
Construction on Pugh Hall, which is located between Dauer and Newell halls, began over the summer. The 40,000-square-feet facility will include a teaching auditorium and is scheduled for completion early next year. A Web camera chronicles daily progress at http://ufl.oxblue.com/grahamcenter/.
The certificate is an initiative of the center, and is not a major or a minor.
David Hedge, student coordinator for political science, said in about two years UF will offer a bachelor's degree in public policy, and UF's existing master's program will be improved.
If young people are cultivated to become leaders, then Graham's vision will be realized, Rosenbaum said.
The program is designed to complement any major program. In fact, individuals from a broad array of backgrounds are encouraged to apply, so that it is not merely a political science or liberal arts program, Rosenbaum said.
The students currently enrolled are from varying fields, such as pre-med, public relations, business and real estate.
All students should develop a "public service ethic," because inevitably, "public policy will be on their plates," said Hedge, who is also associate director for academic programs.
"We should be finding common ground and focusing on what happens after campaigns," he said.
A small committee of UF faculty selects the individuals in the program. Only 15 to 20 students each year will be accepted. In order to be selected, students must submit a two- to three-page statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation and a brief resume.
The process does lead to opportunities such as interning within one's career field or in one's hometown, Rosenbaum said.
A hands-on component of the program consists of a public affairs internship in which students are able to work in a setting related to their future careers as well as public policy. Students earn credit and in some cases are paid for their work.
The courses, some of which are designed specifically for the certificate program, are made to challenge students to analyze public policy and to equip them with the tools and opportunities to address issues, Rosenbaum said. The courses cover topics such as public leadership writing, Florida history and ethics in public leadership.
"All students need to have a sense of how governments operate," Hedge said. "The certificate is one way to provide students with what they need."
Hedge, a child of the 1960s era, is hopeful that the students of this generation will address issues of public policy, especially with the creation of this program and similar ones across the country. "I think people rise to the occasion when they're given reason to, " he said. For more information on the program, visit: www.clas.ufl.edu/users/dhedge/LEADERSHIPWEBPAGE.htm.

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