Working in Public Policy

Kelly works for city government, at the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. You can learn more about their work and how they engage with people across Chicago on their Facebook page

Government work is not the only way to be engaged in shaping public policy. Here’s a roundup of some types of public policy work.

There isn’t one set path into public policy work. A specific college major is less important than a desire to affect positive change. However, many people choose to pursue a master’s in public policy like Kelly did.  If you’re thinking about it, or wondering what value you might get out of an MPP, consider these questions.

Getting Involved with the Political Process

Kelly told us that seeing her parents volunteer for the Chicago mayoral campaign “planted the seeds of civic engagement and social justice and public service in me. “

In an election year, there are tons of opportunities to get involved in the political process. The major party conventions are taking place this month, and every news source is covering the national elections closely. Following the news is a great way to start understanding what’s going on in the world and in politics. There are often opportunities to meet state and local candidates or at least hear them speak. If there’s someone you really believe in, you can volunteer for a campaign (although if you’re under 18, you’ll need an adult with you).

There are also programs to get girls involved in the political process through organizations like Girls in Politics and IGNITE.

Jane Addams, founder of Hull House

Photo from here

Jane Addams and Settlement Houses

Kelly worked at Hull House in Chicago for several years. Founded by Jane Addams in 1889, Hull House was a settlement house. Settlement houses, like Hull House and the Henry Street Settlement in New York City were often homes for middle-class women who wanted to live independently, and centers for social reform work in the late 19th and early 20th century. They were usually located in poor or working-class neighborhoods, and offered clubs, classes like literature, sewing, and English, early childhood education, and cultural enrichment activities in areas like music. (The “King of Swing” Benny Goodman learned to play the clarinet at Hull House.) Jane Addams was a tireless advocate, and is considered the founder of the social work profession in the United States. She also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931!

Teaching English Abroad

After college, Kelly put her French language minor to good use living in Paris and working as an English teaching assistant in a local high school. There are opportunities to teach English abroad in many countries for college graduates. The program Kelly was part of is run through the French government and is very well-established. JET, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for US citizens, is another great way to teach English abroad.

Read our interview with Kelly and check out her reading picks!