College of Education > News and Publications > News: July - Sept. 2010 > First Cohort of Students Complete the College’s New Education and Public Policy Program

First Cohort of Students Complete the College’s New Education and Public Policy Program

An internship in the office of a U.S. senator--just an example of the fascinating experiences of students enrolled in Penn State's Education and Public Policy program.

Kelly Duncan.jpgby Joe Savrock (September 2010)

Kelly Duncan ’10 EPP has always wanted to contribute to the improvement of American education. So in 2008, the incoming freshman enrolled in one of the teacher preparation programs in Penn State’s College of Education.

Shortly afterward, she discovered a newly developed pathway in the College—the Education and Public Policy (EPP) program—which would allow her to pursue an educational career in a civic capacity rather than in a classroom setting.

“I was originally in the Secondary Education English program, and I heard about the Education and Public Policy program in the EDTHP 115 (Education in American Society) course,” says Duncan. “I was really interested in the course material in EDTHP 115, so I spoke to Dr. (Dana) Mitra and decided to join the major. Being involved in education on a large scale was really interesting to me.”

The EPP program, launched in 2008, was created to accommodate mission-driven undergraduates who want to build democratic participation and improve civic capacity through educational institutions and communities. It is specially designed for students who would like to work in education, but who do not want to become certified classroom teachers.

duncan_sml.jpg“The EPP major was the University's response to the growing demand for skilled and effective advocates for education policy at the local, state, and federal levels,” says Angela Duncan, assistant professor and EPP program coordinator. “We needed a way to accommodate those who were passionate about education and social change, but on a more global level than that of the classroom.”

EPP students gain an overarching exposure to education policy, concepts, and research while learning professional workplace skills such as delivering presentations, implementing collaborative projects, and writing field notes and memos. “Students in the major study the intersection of education and policy, politics, political science, sociology, and economics issues,” notes Angela Duncan. “It is a highly flexible and highly interdisciplinary degree, and it includes actual internship time in the field they wish to enter.”

Those internships are a key element of the program. Each student is required to secure an internship with a nonprofit, governmental, or civic organization that has an educational policy component. The students gain hands-on, real-world experience while implementing the Field Placement Plan that they have developed in prior EPP classes.

Kelly Duncan received her EPP degree in August after completing her internship in the high-profile office of U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), in Washington, D.C. She began her six-week internship May 19 and completed it July 2. She says her internship was greatly facilitated by her EPP coursework. “I received hands-on experience in my courses that I used during my internship, such as writing memos under a time constraint,” she says. “The program also taught me how to research and think critically about education policies and issues.”

During her internship, Kelly Duncan attended committee hearings and wrote memos summarizing the hearings, processed constituent correspondences, drafted constituent response letters, escorted constituents to the Capitol Visitor Center, and did research relevant to education policy.

“It was definitely very exciting interning at Sen. Casey’s office,” says Duncan. “You’re part of something that can have a large impact on the country and on Pennsylvania. The environment on the Hill is great because you’re immersed in politics and policy; it’s a very different experience than reading about it in the news.”

EPP students have interned with a variety of organizations. Some noteworthy venues include the New York City Department of Education, A+ Schools (Pittsburgh), the Educational Policy Leadership Center (Harrisburg), the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Policy and Programs.

“Because of the broad fashion of the major, students are able to continue on in many different fields,” says Angela Duncan. “Students graduating with the major are going into fields such as education policy, state and federal government, think-tanks, nonprofit advocacy organizations, research, and philanthropy. Some are attending graduate school, and some are applying for law school.”

Four other students in the first EPP cohort—Antonio Torres, Kelli Bradley, Adam Nye, and Stephen Moczydlowski—completed their internships in summer 2009 and received their B.S. degrees this past May.

The EPP program is growing. “There are currently 23 undergraduates enrolled,” says Angela Duncan. “We are looking to grow the program to about double this size and are always open to new folks coming in.”

For more information on the EPP program, please contact Angela Duncan by e-mail (ald270@psu.edu) or phone (814-863-3783).