Adeola Adeyemo is still in college, but she knows what she wants to do with her life.
Due to graduate in the spring of 2024 from the University of Baltimore with a Master’s of Fine Arts in creative writing and publishing arts, Adeyemo wants to work for an organization that, as she put it, “directly caters to marginalized people in the community and helps them feel heard and understood.”
With that goal in mind, Adeyemo is in the midst of a paid internship with the city of Laurel, in Prince George’s County, writing and designing projects for the city’s Environmental Programs Department.
The work has provided “valuable experience,” she said, and also exposed her to specific projects that can help small communities.
Adeyemo is one of 60 students with the university’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy who have been placed in a variety of agencies and positions as part of a multifaceted effort to train more students for public service jobs.
“Maryland is facing a public service crisis – too few people are entering public service and many experienced employees are retiring from service,” said Dr. Ann Cotten, director of the Schaefer Center.
The school is tackling the problem, she said, by linking interested students to internships with a variety of public and non-profit agencies, These include state agencies such as the Department of the Environment, Department of Aging and Department of Transportation, local government agencies, including the Baltimore County Office of the Executive, the Baltimore City Council and the Montgomery County Department of Parks, and nonprofits such as Baltimore Main Streets and Healthy Neighborhoods, among others.
Everyone benefits from the internships, Cotten said. “Agencies get access to qualified, young professionals who want to make a difference and students gain valuable work experience that can launch their career.”
The initiative is affiliated with the Volcker Alliance NextGen program, a national program designed to draw diverse, talented young people into government careers.
The internship initiative officially launched in December 2022, but the school has been working on attracting students to careers in public service for a long time, according to Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore College of Public Affairs.
He said he and Cotten have been strategizing for years to find a way to interest students, no matter what their field of study, in a public service career, either in government or with nonprofits.
Hartley cited reports that some state public agencies have double-digit percentage vacancies and noted that Gov. Wes Moore has called for help in rebuilding the capacity of state government.
“We join Gov. Moore’s call to help rebuild the capacity of state government – but also state and local governments,” Hartley said.
Besides the internships, the school is also offering a new public service minor, a non-degree certificate in public service, as well as a “Voices of Public Service” speaker series that has included Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, among others.
While the school has always had internships and learning opportunities with local governments, the current array of initiatives has taken its drive to steer students into public service to a new level, Hartley said, and the school plans to do even more in the future.
“It is about the students and about building a better public service with renewed, energetic leadership,” he said.
The University of Baltimore’s drive has the full support of the school’s president Kurt Schmoke, who said such initiatives are top priorities at his school.
“One of the things we value most at the University of Baltimore is public engagement,” said Schmoke, who was mayor of Baltimore from 1987-1999, in an email response to questions.
“Over the years we have partnered with state and local government agencies to maintain a highly skilled workforce,” he added “Our goal is to remain partners in progress with the state to make certain that Marylanders are served in an effective and efficient manner.”
As for intern Adeyemo, she had a ready answer when asked if the internship will help her in her career.
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’ve learned more practical ways to enhance my environment and I’m sure these skills would be useful in any career I choose.”