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How Community Engagement Will Enhance My Public Policy Career


Me and Katy 2 Katy 3 Katy Baker graduated from UT’s Master of Public Policy and Administration program on May 13, 2016.   

By Katy Baker

Since September of last year, I have been working as an intern in the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach with Elizabeth Burman. As a student in the Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) graduate program at the University of Tennessee, I had the option to work as an intern for class credit. Knowing that I was not able to work outside of Knoxville, I was really unsure of what type of internship, if any, I would be able to participate in.

In the summer of 2015, Dr. David Folz of the MPPA program mentioned the OCEO internship to me, and I was eager to seize the opportunity. Entering my time as an intern, I knew very little about the true meaning of community engagement. Community engagement is not community service or philanthropy, though it may embody these concepts. Rather, community engagement is the recognition that both the community and university have knowledge and expertise that the other may benefit from.

By working on several OCEO projects, this view of community engagement became clearer to me. Moreover, as I think about future career plans, I realize how valuable community engagement can be to me. In the world of public policy and administration, there is often a breakdown in interactions between public officials and the citizens with which they work. These interactions could be improved if public officials would engage the community with respect, realizing the contributions they have to offer. I look forward to applying this insight to my future work.

To a future OCEO intern, I would advise being open to learning—learning how an organization functions, learning how to be flexible, and learning to reshape pre-conceived views about the meaning of community engagement.

I am very thankful for my time as an intern in the OCEO. Much like the reciprocal partnership that occurs in community engagement, I learned that while I was able to apply my knowledge and skills to the job, I also acquired new knowledge and skills from others.

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