Special Interview: Kellie Sauls of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

By Georgia Warrington| September 30, 2014

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If you haven’t heard, tomorrow night at 6:30 PM, admissions counselors from UVA are going to be present at a special buffet dinner where they’ll answer your questions about grad school and UVA admissions.

Kellie Sauls, Director of Financial Aid and Admissions at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, was kind enough to sit down with The WISHington Post for an interview.  Read on for important graduate school knowledge straight from the head of admissions!

What are you eager to share with the WISH interns tomorrow?

Three Key Takeaways.  First, I want them to know what a Masters of Public Policy degree is, and what it can do for their goals and careers.  Second, I want to communicate why the Batten School in particular is such a great program and third, I want to give the interns a chance to talk with myself, with my co-worker Patti and the six or seven alumni we have coming to the event.

Our alumni come from a bunch of different sectors, not all of them are working in government jobs, and a Masters of Public Policy certainly doesn’t limit you to working in government.  We also have alumni with careers in the non-profit sector and the private sector, so tomorrow we’re going to have a lot of different career paths represented.  I’m excited for it!

How can someone know they’re ready for grad school?

If you feel as if your career has reached a plateau, or there are no additional ropes to climb professionally, it might be time to assess whether a graduate degree is right for you.

Or, if you’re coming right out of undergrad, make sure you have a very strong sense of the career you want and what kind of degree it takes to get there.

Explore. Understand what it’s going to require just to apply. Graduate school applications are a big undertaking!  There are exams, a lot of paperwork…it takes time, planning, and financial resources.  I think you’ll know you’re ready when all of that’s understood.

What’s the best thing a prospective student can do to know whether or not a graduate school is right for them?

You know, I always say “know thyself”.  Selfreflection is so important when making this kind of decision.

You need to take time to figure out what your passions are, to explore and discover the career that really fits those passions.

And then, you have to figure out the gaps.  What do you need to learn and improve in order to get to that desired career, and that’s where I think a great grad school comes in. Grad school really helps you bridge those gaps.

As for which specific program is right for you, in the case of someone interested in pursuing an MPP, there is nothing more valuable than visiting and meeting people at the school.  Faculty, staff, alumni, and especially the current students.  It’ll help you develop a sense of whether or not that program is a great fit.

Honestly, visiting the campus, getting to know the community is even more important for prospective grad students.  Grad programs are usually much more intimate, they’re smaller, it’s a much more tight knit community so getting a sense of the school is so, so important.

What kind of transformation do you see students go through in graduate school?

Huge. It’s a huge  transformation, and it’s honestly incredible to watch.

In your classrooms there are going to be so many different kinds of people, you’re going to be encountering different backgrounds and experiences and you’re going to learn so much just engaging with your peers.  Without a doubt, it broadens our student’s perspective.  It’s magic.  Or it’s what I call magic at least.

The Batten school in particular is all about experiential learning, which is such an important part of any grad school experience.  It’s not just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about going out and practicing what you’re doing in the field.

Our program in particular has, as a part of the curriculum, a summer internship in between years 1 and 2, and every year, watching how our students grow and mature over that summer is just amazing.

Besides your summer internship, what sets the Batten school apart from other universities?

“Leadership” is in the name of our school, it’s at the core of our mission, it’s a core value.  No other MPP program has built their curriculum around leadership the way we have.

We assume our students will assume leadership roles, and we’re interested in cultivating their own personal leadership philosophies.  We ask our students to define their missions as society’s leaders, and our classes instill in them some fundamental truths about what it takes to be a leader, and the psychology of leadership.

What are you looking forward to most about the event tomorrow?

I’m looking forward to meeting all the interns!  Honestly, my favorite part about my job is the traveling I get to do because of all the people I get to meet.  I’ve met so many lovely people, had them tell me their stories, and heard their personal visions for our society and our communities.  It’s inspiring.

Thank you so much for your time Kellie! 

If you want to meet Kellie and other staff members at UVA, please RSVP tointerns@internsdc.com for a spot at our buffet dinner. 

Tomorrow, October 1st, 6;30 PM.  See you there!

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