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Whether you’re a recent college grad, a seasoned nonprofit professional, or an aspiring sector-switcher, attending the right graduate program can advance your career. For many prospective students, the Idealist Grad School Fairs are the perfect opportunity to take that first step and explore all of your options.

We had an opportunity to speak with James Warren about how attending the 2018 Idealist Grad School Fair in Denver helped to shape his career path.

Name: James Warren (he/him)

Idealist Grad School Fair attended: Denver 2018

Undergraduate degree: Bachelor’s in Political Science, Azusa Pacific University, class of 2016

Graduate degree: Master of Public Administration, Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, class of 2021

Current job title: Public Sector Consultant for the Colorado Workforce Development Council

During your undergraduate career, did you have an idea of what you wanted to do for work?

You know, not really! I knew I enjoyed politics and policy because it can be a powerful tool for shaping the world. There were so many things I cared about—bringing clean water access to developing communities, doing what we can to stave off the environmental crisis—but I didn’t know how to address them through my career.

I wanted to work in the nonprofit or public sector because of my work with Charity: water, and I wasn’t opposed to find a government role because it was sort of the boots-on-the-ground version of policy.

What was your motivation for attending graduate school, and what were you looking for in a graduate program?

After college, I moved to Denver. While working for the Criminal County Court, I became interested in systemic injustices that seemed fixable with policy shifts—like making the justice system rehabilitative—and I realized I wanted to get into writing and policy reform.

My undergraduate degree in political science focused on political philosophy but not on analyzing or writing policy. I knew I needed to get a public policy or public administration degree to gain those skills.

How did the Idealist Grad School Fair help you find your graduate program?

I had used Idealist to apply to jobs, so when I saw that CU Denver was going to be at the Idealist Grad School Fair, I decided to go! I was planning to attend CU Denver because it was local, and I could take night classes while working during the day.

At the fair, I talked to the grad school representative from Cornell’s Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and mentioned my passion for community. I love doing things with my neighbors, like participating in trash cleanups and connecting Denver-based employees with volunteer opportunities.

The representative, Judy, mentioned that Cornell facilitates similar opportunities for students, which inspired me to look into their program and think outside of Denver.

What was your graduate school experience like?

At Cornell, I found a community of learners and people who were willing to engage in interesting and tough conversations. There were students from all over the world attending class with me, which allowed me to plug into diverse perspectives.

I was able to connect with community organizations and environmental groups, like the Ithaca Green New Deal. I also volunteered at the local bike shop, so I definitely found that sense of community Judy and I talked about at the fair.

How did your grad program align with your career goals?

The skills and tools I learned in grad school have directly related to my work with the Colorado Workforce Development Council. I received a certificate in Environmental Finance and Impact Investing, which focused on innovative finance solutions to serve social and environmental causes; right now, I am designing a program at work that uses what I learned when earning that certificate.

Also, I gained a broader and more practical understanding of policy, which has definitely helped me in my career.

What advice would you give to people considering graduate school?

You’re always going to doubt whether now is the right moment to go back to school, but I don't think there is a wrong moment. At the Idealist Grad School Fair, there are so many schools to explore, and you’ll find that you really connect with some of the reps in a special way, so it’s a cool opportunity.

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Interested in exploring grad programs ranging from public policy to international studies? Search for universities and programs using the Idealist Grad School Directory and contact admissions representatives directly.

Jaxx Artz profile image

Jaxx Artz

I oversee the content and resources we share at Idealist to help organizations, prospective grad students, and job seekers make an impact in their personal and professional lives. In my spare time, I love to read, cook, and explore NYC's parks.