Panel Encourages Public Service Work

Panelists at the Institute of Politics (IOP) on Friday encouraged College students to put high-paying jobs on hold after graduation and instead help improve society through teaching.

Attended by only a handful of students, the panel was the last event of a day long “Dream Job” conference on careers in public service, scheduled as part of the Office of Career Service’s Career Week. In addition to education, panels focused on careers in social enterprise, public health, community and international development and government.

“We aim to build social capital in our community,” said education panel attendee Jessica R. Dugan, director of community and business partnerships at the Boston Renaissance Charter School.

“There is a tendency among students at elite colleges to be starters, which is very important, but there also needs to be doers,” said Will Austin ’00, who now serves as a sixth grade mathematics teacher at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. “That’s why I’m a teacher, and I plan to teach for a long time.”

According to the charter school’s brochure, roughly 65 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced price lunch.

“Whereas at Harvard, the student caliber is uniformly outstanding, there is a diversity of academic level among my students,” Austin said.

Though Dugan encouraged Harvard graduates to consider permanent careers in teaching, she noted that even temporary teaching jobs could be rewarding.

The opportunities to network while serving as a teacher are “really quite huge,” Dugan said.

But Austin said he does not feel pressured to embark on a higher-profile career.

“You come to an elite institution to have the privilege to choose what you want to do in life,” Austin said. “True, most of my friends are either consulting or in grad schools now, and many are happy with what they are doing, which is the most important thing. I’m teaching, and I like what I’m doing.”