Certificate in Applied Politics – What I Learned

By: Julianna Isbitts

Earlier this week, the names of students accepted in the 5th cohort of the Public Affairs Professional Certificate in Applied Politics were announced. As a member of the program’s 4th cohort, I can honestly say that applying to the program was one of the best decisions I have made during my first two years at UGA. Not only did the program expose me to a multitude of career options in public affairs and teach me the skills necessary to succeed in such careers, but it also provided me with a community of other SPIA and Grady students who shared my passion for government and public affairs.

Prior to applying to the Applied Politics program my freshman year, I knew very little about the plethora of public affairs careers available to me. I did know, however, that I loved learning about politics and that I wanted to go into a politically oriented career. In the Applied Politics class I took with Dr. Haynes, I learned from a variety of pubic affairs practitioners about their jobs working in politics at all levels of government. In particular, I enjoyed hearing from those who work in the Georgia state government. I had never considered working in government at the state level, but these speakers made me realize that often times working in the state government can be very rewarding. Thus, I was inspired to work even harder at my internship working for a representative in the General Assembly.

Another class that all members of the Public Affairs Professional Certificate must take is Public Affairs Communications with Professor Watson. This class focused more on the communications knowledge we would need as public affairs practitioners. We learned about the various strategies and tactics that public affairs practitioners use to communicate. We also got the opportunity to practice some of these skills by writing op-eds, letters to the editor, etc. While I do not plan on going into a communications-based career, this class still taught me skills that are valuable to understand in any career, but in public affairs careers in particular. I have already found myself utilizing such skills in both my classes and internships.

The final class that all Applied Politics students must take is research methods in political science. In addition to satisfying degree requirements for my political science degree, this class also taught me important information about understanding academic research and interpreting statistical software commonly used in the political realm. Based on everything I learned in applied politics, I know that these skills are invaluable for someone wanting to go into a political career.

Overall, applying for the Public Affairs Professional Certificate in the Applied Politics track was one of the best decisions I have made since coming  to UGA. I have already seen the skills, connections, and knowledge I have gained through the program assist me in numerous ways. I look forward to watching the program grow during its fifth year, and I look forward to watching the newest cohort of applied politics students grow with it.