What I Wish I Knew as a SPIA Freshman

By Alex Corluyan

Lots of students walk onto campus during orientation, look at the Arch, and can’t wait to finally walk under it 4 years later.

That’s a mistake.

Being at UGA and graduating is more than checking off boxes in DegreeWorks. Students who simply glide through their college careers are making a huge mistake. You should be taking every opportunity you have to gain leadership positions within the university, join organizations that you enjoy, work on special projects that interest you, and most importantly: have fun! Here are some ways I would go about that if I were a SPIA Freshman.


CURO stands for the Center of Undergraduate Research Opportunities. Through CURO, you can work on your own research or help a professor with their research while getting paid! Students who are accepted into the CURO program – an accomplishment in itself – get paid a stipend of $1000 in 3 payments. Following the completion of your CURO project, you can choose to deliver a presentation to a panel or make a poster about your research. You can also apply to have CURO count for 3 upper level credit hours, and it makes for one of the best resume lines you can get as an undergraduate. More information about this program can be found here: http://curo.uga.edu/

Research Assistant

An alternative to CURO, you can instead simply conduct research directly with a professor. This option counts as a 3 hour upper level class, and can allow for a more direct relationship with the professor you’re working for. Unfortunately, you don’t receive a $1000 stipend like you do through CURO. However, you can’t just sign up for this class or send in an application. Generally, you need a direct invitation from a professor. You can accomplish this in one of two ways: some professors announce at the end of an upper level class that they have openings for this position and anyone in the class can see them and sign up. If your professor doesn’t announce this position, you can still get a position as an RA by meeting them during office hours and asking if they have any positions available.


Did you know that you can get your internship to count for UGA credit? After taking one of the prerequisite classes, you can obtain an internship and apply to have it count for UGA credit. Some students don’t even stay in Athens. Internships are plenty in Atlanta, and many students work for State Representatives while never even stepping on UGA campus and receiving credit for it. In order to make this work, you will need a professor to sponsor you and complete some additional UGA requirements. Find more information at http://spia.uga.edu/undergraduate/experiential-learning/

Minors & Certificates

SPIA only offers two undergraduate majors, but it offers minors and certificates to go along with them that help expand the breadth of your education. The certificate in Global Studies allows students to focus on European or Asian political systems, and can be obtained while studying abroad. More information about this program can be found here: http://spia.uga.edu/undergraduate/certificate-programs/certificate-in-global-studies/

SPIA also offers a Public Affairs Professional Certificate. This interdisciplinary certificate prepares a cohort of students who are majoring in either SPIA or Grady (or both in the case of double majors) with critical academic knowledge, practical information, and technical skills in the area of applied politics and public affairs communications. By engaging in real-world applications, students and faculty will be better able to generate better theory, better research that tests the theory, and better training for those who wish to work in the real world. More information about this program can be found here: http://spia.uga.edu/undergraduate/certificate-programs/public-affairs-professional-certificate/

SPIA in Washington

Want to study abroad, but don’t want to get too far away from home? Go to Washington D.C.! Every semester, students from UGA head to UGA’s Delta Hall in Washington to work internships in every part of government – from the Library of Congress to The Office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Additional options include working for lobbying firms, PR firms, and even special interest groups or campaigns. If you’re lucky and it’s an election year, you could find yourself in D.C. for the inauguration. Find more information at: http://dcsemester.uga.edu/

Get involved in SPIA Organizations

SPIA has many student run clubs and organizations, as well as SPIA run programs that every SPIA student should take part in. More information about these organizations can be found here: http://spia.uga.edu/undergraduate/student-organizations/

Also, if you’re an international affairs major, make sure to check out CITS at http://spia.uga.edu/cits or GLOBIS at http://spia.uga.edu/globis