Service beyond volunteerism: PC students pursuing service-minded careers

Service beyond volunteerism: PC students pursuing service-minded careers

Trinity Williams ’21 is one of many PC alumni who not only volunteer to serve in their communities but are also pursuing service as a career. Williams is now pursuing her MPA from the University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs and hopes to work in education law and policy, serving as an advocate for minority students and parents, as well as low-income school districts.

Thanks to a campus culture rooted in service, as well as opportunities like the new O’Neill-Presbyterian Fellowship with Indiana University, PC students are seeking ways to directly incorporate service into their livelihood – especially through public affairs, nonprofit and government work.

by Sarah Murphy

Service to the community reaches a whole new level when you make a career out of it.

Dum Vivimus Servimus, or “While We Live, We Serve,” has long been the motto of Presbyterian College. It is an essential part of campus culture at PC; approximately 75 percent of students volunteer during their time as a Blue Hose, making an impact in the Clinton community and beyond.

“It seemed like everyone was involved in some sort of service activity on campus,” said alumnus Reagan Osbon ‘21 of his time at PC. For Osbon, that included his time as PC student body president, raising funds to support cancer research and partnering with the Golden Harvest Food Bank of Columbia to help combat hunger throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“PC has an opportunity for every student to give back to a cause that they are passionate about, adding to the community and their own educational experience,” said Osbon, who majored in political science. “Presbyterian College instilled within me that desire to serve.”

Osbon is building a career from his passion for giving back. He is pursuing his Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs with a goal of serving citizens and supporting democracy through work in local government management.

“I want to help people by providing effective and efficient government at the scale closest to them – the local level,” Osbon said. “The community and service mindset of Presbyterian College played a large role in getting me to where I am today.”

Osbon isn’t alone – many PC students are choosing service-focused careers, exploring work in public affairs, nonprofit management, healthcare administration and government.

Hannah Garber ’16 (second from right) meets at the U.S. Capitol with green industry leaders as executive director of the Environmental Justice Alliance.

Hannah Garber ‘16, now executive director of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit the Environmental Justice Alliance, says life-long service is both what attracted her to attend PC and what continues to guide her work.

“My company’s motto, like PC’s, resonates with me deeply: Doing the Right Thing for People and Planet,” said Garber, who completed her master’s in public management from Johns Hopkins University. “This simple statement sums up what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Jaiden Tweed ‘22 explored law school, business, and medical school before realizing that the common thread she was passionate about in each area was actually nonprofit work. She is now enrolled in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, where she will pursue her MPA in nonprofit management.

“I want to serve my community and the people who need it the most,” she said. “The PC motto has been in the back of my mind since my freshman year, and my courses, as well as  my professors at PC helped me to embody it.”

Guiding career opportunities at PC

Dr. Ben Bailey, assistant professor of political science, and Dr. Erin McAdams, associate professor of political science, both work closely with PC students who are interested in making a career out of service. They say political science students in particular often think they need to make the leap to law school, not realizing how many other opportunities might be a better fit.

“While some may envision service as being only volunteerism, I see it as a step further, as being more than a career or a job, but a calling,” McAdams said. “I think there is no greater way we can serve each other as citizens than to work in some of these areas.”

A new partnership with Indiana University is opening up even more opportunities for PC students. The O’Neill-Presbyterian Fellowship gives PC students and alumni priority graduate admission to the Indiana University Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs—the top-ranked public affairs school in the nation.

“It says something about our institution that the number one MPA program in the country saw PC as a strong and worthy partner,” Bailey said. “Our students are now going to have this pipeline to the best school for this type of study; it’s an opportunity that I wish I had as a student.”

The O’Neill-Presbyterian Fellowship is the first of its kind for both schools. Through the fellowship, PC graduates are given an application fee waiver and priority admission to the O’Neill School’s graduate programs. Admitted PC students are awarded a 25 percent tuition reduction toward their master’s program of choice, which include an MPA and a number of other programs such as environmental science, international affairs, and art administration, among others. This fall, Ndayishimiye Florence ’22 will become the first PC student to enroll in the O’Neill School.

“What really attracted me to this partnership from the beginning was the interdisciplinary nature of it,” said McAdams. “Initially we started with just the MPA – but we soon discovered all of the other programs at Indiana and realized how they merge so many skills, so many different areas of inquiry and of academic study. Students and alumni from a variety of majors at PC can benefit from this. It’s all about enhancing the liberal arts.”

The O’Neill School at Indiana University is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. It seeks to prepare students for careers in public service, business, and nonprofit management with versatile degrees that let them move seamlessly amongst all three – an interdisciplinary approach also valued at PC.

Service for all

The O’Neill-Presbyterian Fellowship is a direct partnership, but it is just one of the avenues available to PC students who wish to serve. The same can be said for a student’s experience. Though a political science degree may seem like the most natural fit, McAdams and Bailey encourage PC students from all backgrounds to consider exploring their options and connect with PC alums who work in the area that interests them.

“Our PC alumni network runs deep and is very loyal,” said McAdams. “We have a number of folks who are in public administration or nonprofit that we can connect students with. Doing an informational interview with an alum to be able to ask them questions about what their job is and find out more directly from the source, even if they don’t have the time to do a shadowing or internship experience.”

“Students who want to solve problems, think critically about problems, and propose solutions that are good for the public – those are the things students are going to be trained in these types of degree programs,” Bailey said.

Trinity Williams ‘21 was an English major at PC and is now pursuing her MPA from the University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs. Williams hopes to work in education law and policy, serving as an advocate for minority students and parents, as well as low-income school districts.

She says that what makes service special is that it looks different for everyone.

“There is not one way to serve and advocate for individuals and communities,” said Williams. “PC allows students to find their unique way of giving back. With such a great group of professors and mentors, PC provides the resources and support to create strong advocates after graduating from the institution.”

For more information about the O’Neill-Presbyterian Fellowship, visit the fellowship website or contact Dr. Ben Bailey (, Dr. Erin McAdams ( or R.J. Woodring, Ed.D., Associate Dean of Educational Programs at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs (