News / USA

Harvard Grads Choose Public Service Over Big Bucks

Students from elite American university look for ways to help others

Jessica Ranucci began volunteering in her first year of college and plans to pursue a service career.
Jessica Ranucci began volunteering in her first year of college and plans to pursue a service career.

Multimedia

Audio

It's college graduation season in the United States.

Even in today's weak economy, students from prestigious Ivy League universities like Harvard have an extra advantage on the road to financial success. However, not everyone in Harvard College's Class of 2010 is striving for a lucrative career.

Career choices

Graduation is just days away, and Robin Mount is even busier than usual.

The director of Harvard's Office of Career Services is matching her students with the right employers and career opportunities, often in the fields of education, international development and public service.

"A lot of our students want to work in orphanages, micro-finance projects, AIDS [care] delivery 'on the ground,' global public health," she says.

Graduating senior Wes Howe intended to become a mainstream journalist, but he became passionate about social justice while working as a reporter during summer break.

Passion inspires career path

Howe wrote a news article about a man who spent his savings on a house trailer that turned out to be defective. The circumstances pointed to criminal fraud by the seller, but the man had little recourse to get his money back. Howe was outraged, but felt that, as a newspaper reporter, there was little he could do about it.

"There is a point where exposing injustice wasn't enough," Howe says, "and actually working either toward changing either the law or bringing this to the attention of law enforcement was something that was interesting to me."

While at Harvard, Howe took advantage of the school's Center for Public Interest Careers. The counselors there got him an internship as an education advocate for New York City school children. After graduation, he will go to work in the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Another way to jump start a public service career at Harvard is the Phillips Brooks House Association.

Public service jobs

The PBHA is an umbrella group for scores of community service and social action programs at the university. Director Gene Corbin says the organization imparts a distinct philosophy to the 1600 or so students who volunteer regularly through PBHA every year.

"One of the things our organization preaches a lot is you 'do with,' you don't 'do for,'" he says. "You don't walk into a low income community and assume you have all the answers to their problems. There is rich knowledge and traditions in these communities, and you can learn a lot."

Sociology major Jessica Ranucci worked with PBHA to smooth her path to a service career. She began volunteering at a community center for Vietnamese immigrants in nearby Dorchester, Massachusetts as a freshman. Later, she directed a summer camp for the community's children.

Ranucci admits that, as a naive 18 year old from the Indianapolis suburbs, she experienced some culture shock at first. The immigrants did too.

"I think that over four years of seeing the same children and families day after day…I've really been able to understand… what their lives are like. And I think they've gained an appreciation [of me] from my willingness to stick around," says Ranucci.

During his four years at college, Jarell Lee has assumed many volunteer roles: tutor, mentor, camp counselor and later, director of the Boston Black Students Network, with members in over 40 area colleges and universities. He has travelled far from the impoverished African American neighborhood in Cleveland Ohio where he was born.

After graduation Jarell Lee will be teaching at the Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn, New York under the auspices of the prestigious
After graduation Jarell Lee will be teaching at the Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn, New York under the auspices of the prestigious "Teach for America" non-profit organization.

After graduation Lee will be teaching at the Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn, New York under the auspices of the prestigious "Teach for America" non-profit organization.

"I am a black man. I know there aren't very many male teachers, number one, and not very many black teachers," says Lee. "So I know this is something I want to do, at least short term. And I really enjoy working with kids."

Statistics from Harvard's Office of Career Services do not show a trend among students away from lucrative careers in the private sectors and toward public service. However, one thing is clear: many of today's best and brightest are also committed to ensuring the well being of America's communities tomorrow.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs