WHAT WAS YOUR BACKGROUND PRIOR TO GRADUATE PROFESSIONAL STUDIES?
I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Communication but wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I spent the next six years working for an international product sourcing company based in Los Angeles doing a variety of job - designing proprietary software, working in factories in China, and managing top five accounts.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN GRADUATE PROFESSIONAL STUDIES?
I learned a lot at my job, but realized I wanted to be working internationally in a different way. Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) seemed like a good opportunity for me to explore Washington DC, make sure that international affairs was the masters degree and career I wanted to pursue, and it would allow me to demonstrate to schools and organizations that I was actively working to make a career change.
What did you do at your internship?
I interned at the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN). I assisted in the planning and logistics for seminars, including moderating panels during the seminar. I also collected and coded the surveys conducted at the beginning and end of the seminars. From the data I wrote summary reports for the Board of Directors and designed infographics.
DID YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR CAREER/ACADEMIC PATH LOOKED LIKE BEFORE YOU JOINED THE PROGRAM?
I had an idea, but I wasn't sure the best way to approach it. GPS (and my internship) helped me identify the best path for me. Instead of pursuing a Masters in International Affairs, I decided to get my Masters in Public Policy and focus my research projects on international affairs.
What would you tell people considering a semester in Graduate Professional Studies?
This is a great opportunity to find out if graduate school is the right next step and if the field you think you're interested in is the field you are actually are interested in for a career.
WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER COMPLETING YOUR GPS SEMESTER?
After I finished GPS, I spent the summer and fall working on campaigns. I ultimately ended up as the Congressional Campaign Operations Coordinator for the NYSDC. In January 2015, I started my Masters in Public Policy and worked as a contractor at PLEN, the same nonprofit I had interned for during my GPS semester.
My internship led to my current position at PLEN and has given me a network of people I now see as mentors.
HOW WOULD YOU SUMMARIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN AU'S GRADUATE PROFESSIONAL STUDIES?
As someone looking to make a career transition, it gave me a great opportunity to explore a new field, hear from experts, and decide if grad school was the right next step for me.
Please note: Graduate Professional Studies was known as the Graduate Gateway Program at the time of Caitlin's participation. Caitlin's profile has been updated to reflect the program name change.