Students Reflect on their Stories, Strengths, and Roles in Virtual Workshop Series

In the MPA Program’s Fall 2020 Workshop Series, students developed their personal narratives, identified their strengths, and explored their potential roles in the social change ecosystem.

The three virtual workshops aimed to help students take ownership of their professional paths and gain clarity about their core motives and values as they engage civically and build public service careers.  

Another goal was to create a space for students to build professional relationships with each other. This is a key objective of the MPA Program’s cohort model, in which students complete their core coursework together and graduate as a tightly knit group. 

“The pandemic has forced us to be socially distant, but that’s no reason to disengage from one another,” said Bobby Derival, the executive director of the MPA Program and lead facilitator of the workshops. “These virtual workshops pulled together our cohorts so they could find connection amidst chaos and lay the building blocks of their career planning.”

Derival developed the workshops in collaboration with program coordinator James Suggett and special guest Connor Moriarty, a licensed counselor, certified strengths coach, and founder of Reset Outdoors.  

Students engaged in deep peer-to-peer conversations and in-depth group discussions. Between sessions, they read articles, watched related TED Talks, and reflected on guiding questions.   

The first workshop gave students the opportunity to tell their personal stories and receive feedback. The goal was for students to develop a clear, compelling narrative about what makes them who they are, which they can use to shape their professional brand and craft an authentic leadership style. 

Students then filled out the CliftonStrengths Online Talent Assessment and received a personalized report of their results. In the second workshop, they discussed how they could apply these results to their career paths. With guidance from Moriarty, they reflected on what they love to do and what they do well, and how this self-awareness could help them build successful, satisfying careers. 

In the third workshop, students identified potential roles in their field of interest. They began mapping their social change ecosystems, the networks of interdependent people and organizations playing complementary roles in mutual efforts to improve society. To prepare for the workshop, students completed a self-guided reflection based on the Social Change Ecosystem Map developed by the Building Movement Project.

The fall workshops were part of a year-long sequence that will continue in the spring. The introspective exercises laid the groundwork for spring workshops that will focus on practical skills including networking, preparing resumes and cover letters, and interviewing effectively.

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