Work experiences shape student's future in public policy

Contact: Erin Flynn

Li Cheng

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Graduates thrive in their fields because of the experiential learning opportunities offered at WMU. According to a recent survey, 68% of WMU graduates had an internship, co-op, practicum or field experience where they applied what they were learning in the classroom.

Li Cheng was already working at the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry—a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.—when she decided the key to her future success was in Kalamazoo. 

"I realized my dream job needs professional skills and related working experiences, so I decided to pursue a Ph.D.," says Cheng, who grew up in China. "I chose WMU because the School of Public Affairs and Administration fits my research interests."

WMU also offers the only Ph.D. program in public administration in the state of Michigan.

"My doctoral degree adds to my qualifications. The program not only requires students to acquire knowledge of public policy and administration, but it also emphasizes the importance of research methods and skills," says Cheng. "The proficiencies I gained through both core courses and elective courses make me a very strong candidate in the job market."

Cheng also earned a graduate certificate in applied statistics while studying at WMU and took advantage of several opportunities to build work experience on campus. She worked on a federally-funded research project during a doctoral research associateship in the College of Aviation, managed a state-funded program for the Division of Multicultural Affairs, and assessed the welcoming and inclusive environment at Sindecuse Health Center.

"In addition to actual working experience, I gained practical knowledge of program evaluation, equity in education and education policymaking."

Those skills helped Cheng secure a job offer from the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C., where she will work after graduation in April. The organization works to "equip leaders to better prepare children and youth for college, careers, & citizenship."

While she's looking forward to a career in nonprofits, Cheng is interested in eventually becoming a professor to inspire future public policy and administration students. She'll carry her experience at WMU wherever she goes.

"I value the culture. I like the welcoming and inclusive community as well as the professional and supportive academic environment."

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