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HBCUs as a Path to Public Service

Historically Black Colleges and Universities have created pathways of opportunity for generations of professionals. These schools provide education, community and professional growth for students around the country, and they can be a pipeline to success in public service. We spoke with several of our colleagues about how their college experience laid the groundwork for a career at the Department of Labor.

 

How did your school prepare you for the work you do today?

HBCUs have a sense of community, pride and tradition. Southern University and A&M College provided me with a supportive atmosphere and a diverse and encouraging faculty that was deliberate in preparing students for overall success, but especially success within my career.  Constance Buckley| Southern University/A&M College| Federal Project OfficerAttending Spelman taught me the meaning of sisterhood, womanhood and increased my understanding of the importance of service. Attending also taught me how to tap into my innate gifts and talents so I could endeavor to act on Spelman’s mantra to make A Choice to Change the World. I graduated with not only an academic degree, but also credentials in confidence, perseverance, determination and a clear understanding and strong sense of self as a Black woman – all of which have been major contributors to the successes I have experienced as a public servant. Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper| Spelman College| Senior Trial AttorneyThe legacy of Howard is one of community, leadership and service. When I attended Howard, I was able to build a strong network of professionals who were invested in my success not only as a student, but as a leader. I was provided a wide range of opportunities to work in internships, which undoubtedly guided me to where I am today. Without my experience at Howard, I wouldn’t have the relationships, skillset or tenacity that I have today. Emma Eatman| Howard University| Press SecretaryI attended Clark Atlanta University for my bachelor’s and master’s, and my school’s motto is I’ll Find A Way or Make One. That has been my life motto because I always work hard to try and find another way to complete a task or get the job done. When options look limited, that is when I find a way to create a new option. LaToya Lott| Clark Atlanta University| Program Communications SpecialistI chose federal service because it offered the opportunity to make a difference, even if it’s a small difference. To be a civil servant in my mind is a way to give back and contribute to society. It’s a rewarding feeling when at the end of the day, you can look at your work as an effort to make this country better. Also job security is another major factor of choosing a career in the federal government. Edgar A. Gleason| University of the District of Columbia/Bowie State University| Legislative AnalystI’ve always had a desire to help others and serving our federal government allows to me to do work that directly impacts the public. Christopher D. Lopez-Loftis| Texas Southern University| Trial Attorney I don’t think that I chose my career, as much as I truly feel it chose me. Throughout my educational experiences and internships, along with work exposure, my pathway presented itself through the work I was involved in and provided a natural progression for me to be a public servant with the federal government. Christopher Ransome| West Virginia University| Federal Project OfficerI chose a career with the federal government because of my dedication to public service, the great work-life balance that the federal government offers, and the chance to make a difference in the world that we live in. Queena Villere| Jackson State University| Assistant District Director, Atlanta

 

What makes you proud of your work?

I am incredibly proud of the work I do in the Solicitor’s Office because I help enforce laws and create policies centered on civil rights. My career allows me to effect change in underserved communities on a systemic level. Knowing that I contribute to the agency’s mission to foster, promote and develop the welfare of wage earners, job seekers and retirees gives me a great sense of pride. Kiesha N. Cockett| Spelman College | Senior AttorneyI consider it a privilege to prosecute labor and employment enforcement matters on behalf of the federal government in order to try and protect our nation’s workforce, especially workers with special vulnerabilities. I am proud that the cases my colleagues and I litigate have a significant, positive impact on workers (and their families) locally, regionally, nationally and abroad. Jana J. Edmondson-Cooper| Spelman College| Senior Trial AttorneyI enjoy producing stories about America's workers and how the policies and programs developed by the department help improve their lives. Ashleigh N. Ingram| Morgan State University| Audio Visual Production SpecialistI am primarily proud of the mission of the Wage and Hour Division. The results of the work we do daily can be readily seen in the employee protections, wage payments and services we provide to workers who diligently complete their daily employment tasks but still may be taken advantage of – intently or unintentionally. Our work helps these employees pay their bills, have uninterrupted life occurrences and continue to be productive citizens. Frank H. McGriggs| Alcorn State University| Wage and Hour Division Deputy Regional AdministratorI’m proud to know when we have successfully managed positive outcomes for our training programs that it immediately translates into the individuals successfully attaining their education and training goals leading to sustainable employment. I’m proud that over my 15 years we have been able to assist thousands of individuals in need of training to secure employment and attain their goals. Christopher Ransome| West Virginia University| Federal Project Officer

 

What advice would you give to a student considering a public service career?

My advice for current students considering a career in public service would be to be sure engage your advisor early to devise a plan. Connect with your career services department to prepare for career fairs, recruitments etc., research different agencies and lastly, take advantage of summer internships with the federal government. Constance Buckley| Southern University/A&M College| Federal Project OfficerMy advice is to seek internships and other employment opportunities in public service as soon as possible. It is the best way to gain substantive experience early in one’s career. When applying, tailor your resume to the job description, demonstrate your commitment to public service and show initiative. With the right training, these are areas that I believe translate into success with the federal government. Kiesha N. Cockett| Spelman College | Senior AttorneyPublic service is an incredible way to give back to your community. I encourage anyone seeking a career in public service to lean on your network, take advantage of internship opportunities and identify the issues that inspire you the most. Emma Eatman| Howard University| Press SecretaryI would advise students--if they want a career that gives them the flexibility to travel, job security, opportunities for advancement, great benefits, work to life balance and lastly an opportunity to make a difference, then the federal government is an opportunity for you. Edgar A. Gleason| University of the District of Columbia/Bowie State University| Legislative AnalystFind a cause or mission that is important to you. Apply to the agency that is closely related to your passion. Know that the work you are doing is having a positive effect on the everyday lives of Americans. Take comfort in knowing that you can be home by 5 p.m. to enjoy your family.  Ashleigh N. Ingram| Morgan State University| Audio Visual Production SpecialistMy advice to a student is to have a servant’s mentality if you want to work in public service because the work will push limits but the reward of serving others will keep you going when it gets tough. Christopher D. Lopez-Loftis| Texas Southern University| Trial Attorney	I would say working as a public servant is more than what you hear on the news about federal government workers. Each federal agency works tirelessly for the American people, and it is a great feeling to know you helped make those changes. LaToya Lott| Clark Atlanta University| Program Communications SpecialistPublic service is principally the business of helping and serving members of the community. If you are a student with an interest in the enforcement of statutes, regulations and laws that are enacted to make life better for others while enjoying a personal satisfaction for doing so, I would encourage you to consider a career in public service. The fulfillment that comes from upholding our democracy to making one person’s day slightly better is unrivaled. Frank H. McGriggs| Alcorn State University| Wage and Hour Division Deputy Regional Administrator, AtlantaThe pay may not always be the best; but the benefits are life-changing! Dr. Sidney W. Samuel| Fayetteville State University| EconomistPublic service must be a passion. There are great opportunities in the government to include pay, benefits and flexibilities. However, in public service the greatest reward is knowing that the work that I perform here at OFCCP is making a difference in America’s workforce and in the lives of families. Knowing that families are depending on our office to show up every day and do our best at our job to close the pay gap in America and make America’s workforce fair and equitable for all Americans. Queena Villere| Jackson State University| Assistant District Director, Atlanta
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