Inspiring Local Government Careers: ELGL Undergraduate Project

Inspiring Local Government Careers: ELGL Undergraduate Project

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new program in 2018: the “Inspiring Local Government Careers” project. This is a program specifically designed to introduce undergraduate students to the variety and impact of a local government career.

As many people working in local government will tell you: they often “fell” into the profession by accident, or didn’t discover the diversity of jobs you can have working at the local level until after they had graduated from college. There has also been a tendency to follow in the footsteps of parents who have worked at the local level, but that’s not useful to the talented undergrads who don’t have that career path modeled for them.

There are many reasons why this could happen:

  • Undergraduate Programs:
    Many undergraduate programs in political science focus on federal and international politics; do not offer undergraduate public administration degrees; do not make a clear link from economics, environmental science, etc. undergraduate programs to local government jobs that utilize those degrees.
  • On Campus Recruiting:
    Local government has been behind the curve for years when it comes to recruiting on college campuses. Blame it on the campuses for charging high fees to have booths at career fairs… blame it on local government for not using their recruitment efforts on college campuses. Whatever the reason – local government hasn’t reached out to college campuses effectively.
  • Undergraduate Internships:
    Does your local government offer an internship program? Is it for graduate students only? We can’t fault the fact that tight budgets make it difficult to offer any internships, and if we do, they’re often targeted toward students who have already focused on a public service careers. Organizations like Hillsboro, Oregon are doing awesome work getting high schoolers and undergrads into internships, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

These realities become more stark when we couple them with the fact that local governments across the country are worried about their pipeline of talent: who will fill positions as people retire or are promoted? How are we building the bench to come into the game, warmed up and ready to play? If we’re not getting people excited about local service when they’re in undergrad, how do we fill entry level positions, or get people into MPA/MPP/MURP/etc. programs?

And so…

ELGL’s pilot program is taking our excitement and exuberance for local service onto college campuses to offer a free half day of learning for undergraduate students about the jobs they can have working for a local government.

In 1Q of 2018, we’re launching on two campuses: Willamette University on February 16, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on March 2. (Side note: YES, these are the schools where ELGL Executive Director Kirsten Wyatt went to school.)

We chose a small school and a large school so we could scale the pilots and learn from these first two programs. The goal is to be able to package up the program and it make it available to ELGL members and college campuses around the country who want to also inspire students to a local government career. (Side note: if you’re interested in bringing this program to a campus near you, please email Noor Shaikh and let’s chat about how to make it happen.)

The agenda for the learning sessions are open for discussion, but generally will include a format similar to this agenda:

  1. Welcome
  2. Lunch
  3. Introduction to the program
  4. Pecha Kucha presentations about local government careers, covering fields like: Communications, Economic Development, Environmental Science, Finance, Fire, Infrastructure, Land Use/Planning, Libraries, Parks, Police, Transportation
  5. Breakout sessions with Pecha Kucha speakers on their career paths
  6. Panel session on “how to find a local government job”
  7. Keynote address from local government leader of prominence/inspiration
  8. Social hour/networking

We anticipate the costs to participating campuses/regions to include catering, supplies, and some ELGL overhead – in the range of $2,500 per event. The universities have dedicated staff and are donating space for the events.

We also expect that for each campus this launches on, that the regional local government(s) will cosponsor to help spread the word and build excitement about the event (for example – at the Willamette event, the city of Salem is a sponsor; at the UNC event, the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, and the city of Durham are sponsors). And for funding, we’re very grateful to GFOA and the League of Oregon Cities for their early support of the Inspiring Local Government Careers programs.

Specific to the UNC program – we’re focusing on getting more undergraduate women into local government, in partnership with the UNC Engaging Women Project, the Carolina Center for Public Service, and the Carolina Women’s Center.

Questions? Want to learn more? Check out the program registration pages below, or send us an email or a tweet and let us know what you think about this program, and if you’d like to bring it to your neck of the woods.


Willamette University – February 16 @ Cat Cavern, Salem,OR

Event Registration | Event Facebook Page


UNC Chapel Hill – March 2 @ School of Government, Chapel Hill, NC

Event Registration | Event Facebook Page