Public sector careers, advising are focus of national conference


School of Public Affairs Dean Paul Teske addresses the NASPAA Career Professionals Conference Dec. 6 in the Terrace Room. Seated at right in the photo is Heather Wright of George Mason University in Virginia.

A diverse group of career services professionals from about 40 graduate schools in public affairs, policy and administration convened last week at the University of Colorado Denver for a two-day conference.

The School of Public Affairs hosted the 2012 Career Professionals Conference of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration.

The annual conference has typically been held on the East Coast, said Brendan Hardy, director of student recruitment and career services for the School of Public Affairs, but this year the NASPAA chose to come west. This year's gathering has a couple purposes, said Hardy, who chaired the conference's planning committee as part of the host team.

"One is to introduce Denver as far as job opportunities, career opportunities related to the public sector," Hardy said. "The other point is to bring together counselors from the different schools to share resources and skills to bring the field of advising forward."

The NASPAA has more than 280 member schools in the United States and overseas. The School of Public Affairs' MPA program is the only NASPAA-accredited master's program in Colorado, and one of only 172 nationally.

Paul Teske, Ph.D., dean of the School of Public Affairs welcomed the group Dec. 6. He said that CU Denver has almost 400 MPA students, most of whom are working on their Masters of Public Administration degree while working either full or part time. He noted that CU Denver’s fully online MPA program recently was ranked 15th most affordable in the country by, adding, "Like a lot of you, we're offering the MPA degree in lots of different ways to try to be appealing and attractive to students."

The work of counselors is growing in complexity, Teske noted, as current students are expected to have at least seven different jobs, and even multiple careers, in their lifetimes. "I think it's really interesting to try to think about how those career paths are going to change," he said.

The conference includes multiple presentations and panels. Tom Clark, CEO of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. and executive vice president of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, gave an overview of Colorado's economic landscape. Other presentations included an Environmental & Energy Panel (featuring CU Denver School of Public Affairs alumnus Mike King, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources); Federal Hiring Strategies & Advice; Federal Executive Board presentation; and Local Government Careers.

Teske told the group that because the career paths available to SPA graduates are multifaceted and cover the spectrum of public and private fields, "That's something that makes your jobs and our jobs at the School of Public Affairs exciting and important. We all know that the quality of public service is critical to how our government functions and, certainly in the last few years, whether it's the fiscal cliff or the election or all the other issues that are out there, our graduates in our schools play a critical role."