ASPD Professional Development Courses [Guest Post: Joseph Cozza]

The Office for Undergraduate students offers several 1-credit professional development courses for students in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. In Spring 2013, there are three courses to choose from: ASPD 2000 Professional Development (10 sections), ASPD 2003 Professional Communication, and ASPD 2004 Social Networking. 

ASPD 1000 is recommended for all Arts and Sciences undergraduates to learn how to create a professional resume, research internships and professional positions, conduct an informational interview, and create a professional development plan. The course will teach you how to market the skills you are developing as a student in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences effectively for professional positions. The course schedule for Spring 2013 can be found here.

This fall, students had the opportunity to take ASPD 2006 The Political Ecosystem with speaker Policy Advisor for the Speaker of the House, and Villanova alum, Brett Loper. Below is an awesome guest post by Joseph Cozza, a senior Political Science major, who took the course:

To many, what goes on inside the beltway is a mystery. We get glimpses of the political process through shows like “The West Wing,” segments on the 24-hour news cycle, and even through conversations in our homes and neighborhoods. However, the picture is often incomplete and doesn’t quite capture the intricate web of public and private organizations and entities working with and against each other. In many ways, the constant motion and competition of ou68623_10151136337786711_1600686814_nr nation’s political process is comparable to any natural ecosystem; there is an overarching environment, there is a food chain, and there are factions among various competing actors.

This fall, Villanova offered a one-credit professional development course centered on that very concept. “The Political Ecosystem” was a class designed to give students seeking employment in any political field an understanding of the political environment, how it operates, and what actors influence its movement. Taught by Policy Advisor for the Speaker of the House, and Villanova graduate, Brett Loper, this course sought to help students understand the system so that they may better understand what role they could play after graduation. With years of experience working for the federal government, campaigns and advocacy organizations, and the media, Loper was able to give students a broad and thorough understanding of the key players in the political process. The course also included a one-day trip to Washington, D.C. to meet some of the very actors we had discussed in the course. This gave students an opportunity to see possible career trajectories and to learn from their immense experiences.

As I sat in class on Tuesday evenings, the incredible opportunities that this course presented were not lost on me. I had come into the course with some knowledge of the political process. I am a senior political science major who has had significant coursework in American politics and I am an avid follower of political news. I have also interned for a federal agency, Peace Corps, as well as the campaign for local Congressman Pat Meehan. In these internships, I was able to see how certain sectors of the political world operate. Also, I was introduced to opportunities in the political system. In these positions, I helped plan events, coordinate fundraisers, interact with constituents, and conduct policy research. I learned a great deal about government, advocacy, and politics through these positions and they were a great way to start my real world political education.

Thus, I didn’t quite know what more there was to learn. However, not only did this course introduce me to new actors in the political arena, but it also helped to show me the broad range of opportunities to engage the political process and shape policy. As someone who is looking for a policy position, I had only considered employment on the Hill. However, this course opened my eyes to the immense influence that think tanks, lobbying firms, and even private companies, can have on creating and shaping legislation, thus piquing my interest in new fields of employment. In doing so, the course was able to make connections between various actors within the political system and show how advocacy organizations, political organizations, and media organizations work with and against each other.

All of these insights gained in the classroom were bolstered and deepened by our class trip to Washington at the end of October. Sitting in a stunning room in the United States Capital Building, the class had a chance to hear from speakers who represented the various entities we discussed in class. These speakers not only discussed their current positions, but also the path that lead them there, showing us the fluidity of the political ecosystem, as well as the diversity of opportunity it presents. They were able to offer us targeted career advice about finding entry-level positions in our various fields of interest, while also showing us the multitude of paths we may take. All of these speakers were engaging, enlightening and eager to answer our questions. It was definitely an amazing and successful trip.

The Washington trip was the capstone on an amazing course. Brett Loper, an already distinguished actor in the political system, demonstrated that he is an engaging and effective instructor. He is always eager to give back to Villanova and its students, as he offered us advice and guidance. His course effectively brought the political process to life by giving students a unique look at this complex and vital ecosystem.

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