By Peyton Sammons

“What’s SPIA?” and Other Questions I’ve Answered About as Many Times as my 810

As I embark on my 16th year of formal education, and 4th year here in the School of Public and International Affairs, I’ve been reflecting a fair amount about my experience as a Georgia Bulldog. I have grown up, into the person my high-school-Senior-self always hoped I would become, in SPIA over the last four years, and truly credit the school for being the catalyst for my changes. Along the way, I’ve been a part of many organizations within the school, and through each of those experiences have considered it a great honor and privilege to represent and champion SPIA. While each experience has been unique, there has been one thing that has remained constant: the questions I have been asked about the school, and about my time here.

  1. “What’s SPIA?”

I always start with a slightly sarcastic internal-response along the lines of “You mean, other than the best place on earth?” However, aloud I inevitably begin with spelling out the long-winded acronym. I often – as my SPIA Ambassador training has prepared me for – rattle off the number of students, our average GPAs, our highly-ranked and respected programs, etc. But, while these numbers certainly illustrate the high caliber of our student body and faculty, I hasten to add details about SPIA that are harder to quantify. Like, how I have found in SPIA my second home- a place where I feel comfortable to grow, ask questions, share my “big” ideas, and make close interpersonal connections. I will be leaving SPIA with more than a liberal arts degree- I will be leaving with a new “family” that I am certain I can turn to with queries and challenges for years to come.

  1. “So, what are you going to do with an International Affairs degree?”

This question generally comes, rapid-fire, after I offer what basically amounts to a love-letter-like description of my school. The answer? Well, specifically for me, I will be working in government; but the answer overall is: literally, anything. You read that right- I could do anything with a degree in International Affairs. Politics, lobbying, law, business, finance, banking, social work, policy writing, teaching, journalism, and a multitude of other job-fields can be entered with an IA degree. Why? Because having a global perspective is useful in any context, and understanding things on a macro-scale offers valuable insight into the micro-side of things. And, if the events of the past year have taught us anything, it’s that there is a tremendous need for more people to understand these things.

  1. “Why UGA? Why SPIA?”

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, even by my peers in other schools within UGA itself, I could pay back my loans with a lump sum on Graduation Day. As an incoming freshman, I had thoughts of transferring elsewhere after finishing my core; what I discovered within the first 3 months of my time here was that there is truly no better place for me at this juncture of my life. I can break down the “why” into three parts, which are specific to SPIA, rather than the University at large:

  1. SPIA’s reputation as a school that “prepares undergraduate students for good citizenship and careers in public life, and trains future generations of teachers and scholars in the fields of international affairs, political science, and public administration and policy” is well deserved. It is a name and a brand that is respected and revered by students past and present, as well as employers in a variety of professional spheres. And for those who stay on as Double Dawgs, which I hope to eventually be one, will be graduates of the fourth ranked graduate school of public affairs. Being only after schools like Harvard, Syracuse, and Indiana is impressive to say the least.
  2. As a small school within a large university, students are able to make close working and mentoring relationships with professors. Where else can a freshman participate in and design research projects? Answer: very few places, especially on a large campus such as UGA.
  3. Opportunities abound for those who seek them: from studying abroad in Verona, Italy, Kyoto, Japan, Stellenbosch, South Africa, and virtually anywhere else that you can think of, to analyzing international export controls for CBRN weapons, SPIA offers a diverse portfolio of opportunities for its students. Not to mention the various organizations one can join, as well as ways to conduct undergraduate research from your very first semester (I would know). There’s no place like SPIA for the go-getters of the world.

4. “How does it feel to be almost done?”

This question is pretty new to me, and the first time I was asked this was only a couple of weeks ago by my supervisor for my internship- and to be frank, my first instinct was to cover my ears and sing loudly until the question, and my corresponding anxiety, vanished. How do I feel? Grateful would be a good word.  The first month of school has flown by, and the remaining nine will pass just as quickly, I’m sure. At the moment, I am focused more on cherishing my limited time left here, and looking hopefully forward to how to give back to a school that has given me so much. After all, once a Dawg, always a Dawg.