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College of Business and Public Administration Introduces Public Service Minor

Old Dominion University's College of Business and Public Administration, through the Department of Urban Studies and Public Administration, has begun to offer a minor in the field of public service.

The first course - Foundations of Public Service - was offered this summer, with 12 students enrolling. So far, eight ODU students have declared public service as their minor.

Wie Yusuf, assistant professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Public Administration and coordinator of the new minor, believes the minor is tapping into a deep tradition of public service at the university.

"The ODU campus is very engaged. There are many, very engaged students who are involved in the community and involved at the student level," Yusuf said. "We saw this as an opportunity to highlight that this isn't new at ODU. It's what we do here."

Many universities offer majors and minors in public administration, but few have taken the step to offer a minor specifically aimed at public service. Yusuf, however, believes there is a need.

"When you talk about public service, you're not just talking about government. You're talking about nurses, teachers, firefighters, and people in nonprofit organizations. I think anybody who works in the public sector is a public servant. So it's really about career opportunities," she said.

The minor, which is open to all undergraduate students, consists of two core courses, plus a number of approved electives offered through different ODU colleges. Ultimately, Yusuf hopes to broaden the program by adding a service learning component, to offer students the opportunity to "get their hands dirty" trying out public service fields in which they are interested.

"That's one of our taglines … there's a public service career for any major," Yusuf said. "But it's not just about a career. It's about being a good citizen. It's about understanding my role in society, and how even if I'm not going to be part of government, what my expectations of government should be."

Yusuf said many of her friends and colleagues have left the private sector to take public service jobs with government or nonprofits. "They trade in high-paying jobs, for work that never ends, but a lot of them say it's not just about job security: 'There's something about doing this work and knowing that I'm making a difference.'"

The notion of public service in the ODU community will receive a boost Nov. 1-5, when the university hosts its first Public Service Week. Initially designed to spotlight the College of Business and Public Administration's public service minor, the event has spread to encompass events campus-wide.

"I think it's really important to the program," Yusuf said. "It's part of what we want to get these young minds at ODU to understand - that there's this wide world of public service out there."

Yusuf said Public Service Week also fits in with President Barack Obama's "call to service," which he issued when taking office in 2009.

"He's evoked this enthusiasm for service among Americans. It was a good time to capitalize on this enthusiasm and excitement for public service."

This article was posted on: August 19, 2010

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