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Student Spotlight: Direct Route to Meaningful Impact

April 7, 2022

SU News

New pathways allow undergraduates to pursue their dreams from day one.

When Jenna Poma ’25 applied to the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs to pursue majors in  citizenship and civic engagement and  policy studies, she didn’t realize she was doing anything new. But Poma was among the first group of students to apply directly to the Maxwell School. Previously, students pursuing majors in the social sciences would apply to the College of Arts and Sciences and in their junior year declare a major in the Maxwell School.

By applying directly, students have access to faculty mentoring and department-level advising from day one, while still receiving top-notch career and academic advising through the shared College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School  Office of Undergraduate Academic and Career Advising.

For students passionate about public administration and international relations, the Maxwell School has also introduced the option to earn a degree through the 4+1 accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program, which allows a student to earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree with just one additional year of study. Students with substantial AP credit can do both programs in four years. These programs are cost-effective, save time and allow students to gain valuable internship experience.

Meet four students currently pursuing their degrees—and their dreams—in the Maxwell School.

Jenna Poma ’25

It was a beautiful summer’s day when Jenna Poma ’25 first heard about the Maxwell School from a lawyer—a Syracuse University  College of Law and Maxwell School alumnus—during an internship at a law firm. Initially interested in both politics and law as potential career paths, Poma did her research. “I really liked the experiential learning of the Maxwell School.” Poma ultimately chose Syracuse because she was able to start in the Maxwell School from her first day as a dual major in policy studies and citizenship and civic engagement. “The direct admittance into the Maxwell School is what made me decide to attend Syracuse. I had that security of being able to study what I wanted right away.”

Her favorite class, Introduction to the Analysis of Public Policy, opened her eyes to other career fields she hadn’t previously considered, including consulting.

Poma, a  Renée Crown University Honors Program scholar, is also a member of the Maxwell Leadership Scholars Program and the Phanstiel Scholars Program. She is grateful that she gets to make connections with peers and faculty and will be part of an active and passionate alumni community. “Getting to know alumni and learn about what they do has been beneficial since I’m still undecided on my career path,” Poma says. “The Maxwell community is huge and being part of that has opened so many doors to network with alumni.”

Aden Solomon ’25

Aden Solomon ’25 came to Syracuse University with a purpose. The New York City native knew when he worked on the political campaign for Congressman Max Rose that he wanted to study public policy. “I was looking at the best schools for public policy. I found the Maxwell School's curriculum to be one of a kind,” Solomon says.

Solomon applied to the Maxwell School as a policy studies major and was able to begin meaningful and relevant coursework right away. “Applying directly to the Maxwell School allowed me to be focused and jump right into public policy the minute I got to Syracuse,” he says. “I had immediate access to the policy studies core classes my first year, and to all these great professors, which I wouldn’t have had without being directly admitted.”

As the representative for first-year students for the student body assembly, Solomon acts as an advocate for freshmen, voicing their concerns, discussing bill proposals and passing resolutions that go to university administrators. “I’m interested in advocacy and possibly attending law school so I can advocate for others,” he says. “I love being able to impact change, whether big or small.”

One way Solomon has done that is through the Association of Jewish Students, the Syracuse University chapter of the nonprofit organization he started last year, which allows students of all academic disciplines to engage in pre-professional programming alongside Jewish students through workshops, a public lecture series and conversations with on- and off-campus leaders.

Even with all the experiential learning Solomon is engaging in both inside and outside of the classroom, he’s quick to point out that it’s not just the practical knowledge that is making his experience at Syracuse University so meaningful. “There is no one thing that defines Syracuse more than school spirit. It feels like one big community.”

“The Maxwell School puts out stellar citizens who really care about public service. I think that there's something to be said for the motivation and the inspiration you get from the curriculum that's centered around the founding principles of democracy and what it means to be a good public citizen.”

Hailey Williams ’23 B.A. (PSt/PPhil)

Taylor Grosso ’21, G’22

Taylor Grosso ’21, G’22 grew up on a farm in Lafayette, New York, tending to horses and other animals. As an undergraduate at Syracuse University, she found an opportunity to combine her interests in agriculture and public policy, earning bachelor of science degrees in  biochemistry from the College of Arts and Sciences and  environment, sustainability and policy from the Maxwell School. After taking policy and administration classes as part of her undergraduate degree, she applied to the master of public administration (M.P.A.) program in her senior year—a great segue as it turned out. Going right into the program following the end of her undergraduate degree work was a benefit for Grosso. She didn’t want to break the momentum of her education.

As an undergraduate, she was a research assistant for the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute under its founding director, Associate Provost Jamie Winders. “Researching in the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute really drove me to the M.P.A. program. I was able to combine my interests in environmental sustainability and policy while I researched the effects and regulations of implementing autonomous vehicles into society.”

Grosso began the master’s program last July with a cohort of about 100 other students. “I've met people from all over the country in my program,” she says. “Many of them have experience and a wealth of knowledge that you want to learn from.”

Despite the accelerated structure of the 12-month program, Grosso is determined to take advantage of every opportunity before she graduates in June. That includes engaging in leadership development programming as a graduate assistant for Maxwell School professor Sean O’Keefe—who among other leadership positions has served as secretary of the Navy, administrator of NASA, chairman and CEO of Airbus and chancellor of Louisiana State University.

An advantage, Grosso says, of being at the Maxwell School is the access to expert advising and the guidance of the alumni network. In addition to O’Keefe, himself a Maxwell M.P.A. alumnus, she’s connecting with a range of alumni who work for the federal government and in consulting, which are the careers she’s considering following graduation. “If you reach out to any Maxwell alumni, they will immediately respond and set up a meeting with you. The Maxwell alumni base is fantastic.”

Hailey Williams ’23

Hailey Williams

One trip to Syracuse University was all it took for Hailey Williams ’23. “It was something about the campus feel and how the students were so excited to be there,” she says. “I hadn't been to a campus yet where the students seemed grateful and glad to be there. The Maxwell School at Syracuse University really makes me feel wanted and nurtured.”

Williams, a Crown Honors student and  Coronat Scholar, is studying  political philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences and policy studies at the Maxwell School. Policy studies wasn’t on her radar until her sociology professor, Arthur Paris, suggested it. He introduced her to Professor Bill Coplin, chair of the department, and to Maxwell School Dean David Van Slyke. Not only would the major give her insight into drafting policy but also how to apply it. “Through the conversations that day I learned how I could connect political philosophy and policy studies to impact policy,” Williams says.

Now, after interning for the dean, becoming a teaching assistant for Professor Coplin’s Introduction to the Analysis of Public Policy course, and a  study abroad experience in  London, Williams is entering the 4+1 program to earn a M.P.A. “The Maxwell School puts out stellar citizens who really care about public service,” she says. “I think that there's something to be said for the motivation and the inspiration you get from the curriculum that's centered around the founding principles of democracy and what it means to be a good public citizen.”

For students considering the program, Williams says that applying credit hours to both an undergraduate and graduate degree is a cost-effective and streamlined benefit. Staying at a university where she’s already established herself, is familiar with the campus, and made connections with faculty were all factors in her decision to apply.

Williams, who co-founded the Black Honors Society on campus, is passionate about racial justice and plans to start her career as a research consultant at a policy think tank and eventually move into lobbying. She says her classes leading up the M.P.A. are preparing her well. “I'm gaining a lot of hands-on, tangible practice in what I want to do. I’m taking a class right now where I can act as a policy research consultant. We have a very experiential-based learning curriculum.”

By Lisa Maresca

Communications and Media Relations Office
200 Eggers Hall