Stephen J. Trachtenberg: Public service – a rich and fulfilling career path

GW is internationally known for its student achievers – among them are those interning at the White House, the U.S. Capitol, other government agencies, international organizations, non-profits and numerous volunteer programs.

I am therefore pleased, yet not surprised, that GW has been selected by the Partnership for Public Service as one of six schools in the nation to pilot the Call to Serve Campaign, a program designed to develop interest among students in pursuing careers in the federal government upon graduation. GW has been recognized by organizations such as Washington Monthly and the Princeton Review as a leading school for community service. A vital component of that community service is a commitment to the public sector, be it federal or local government, non-governmental organizations, international organizations or other community service activities.

Indeed, several of GW’s academic programs already are geared to public service training. The School of Public Policy and Public Administration, for example, has initiated two graduate programs that give students the educational tools to be successful analysts and managers in the government and non-profit sectors. The school also conducts research on public policy and governance, including the Government Performance Project, which evaluates state government management, and hosts the annual Flemming Awards recognizing excellence in public service.

I have long believed that our commitment to service should extend outside of the classroom, and continue after graduation. Many GW graduates choose to serve in programs such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps. Some of our most prominent alumni have exemplified the benefits of heeding the call to public service. Colin Powell, for example, has shown the world his commitment to international relations. As a former public servant, I can say firsthand that I fondly remember my experiences serving on Capitol Hill as an aide to Congressman John Brademas and a special assistant to the U.S. commissioner of education. It instilled in me the desire to devote some of my energies toward public service in whatever I do.

I am writing today to encourage all students to take advantage of what the Call to Serve Campaign can provide for you. We are fortunate to be located in the heart of a dynamic city where leaders of influential organizations make important decisions every day, and GW students are able to be a part of the action. Government work is a meaningful route to career advancement. This year, I hope you take part in the Call to Service Campaign – the benefits of working in the public sector may surprise you.

To learn more about the GW Call to Serve Campaign, please visit

-The writer is the University president.

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