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Journal of College Student Development 45.2 (2004) 257-259

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Policy Passages: Career Options for Policy Wonks. Howard J. Wiarda (Editor). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2002, 233 pages, $39.95 (softcover)

There is no doubt that public policy, as it develops at international, national, state and local levels, has a tremendous impact on the practice of student affairs administration. Indeed, national associations are spending increasing amounts of time and resources in tracking legislation, informing members about pertinent public policy issues and attempting to influence lawmakers as policies are enacted.

The path to a career in public policy, however, has typically been circuitous and uncharted. This book seeks to identify the key choices that individuals who select such a career make at certain points in their lives and how these choices impact career success. It explores the dilemmas of when to pursue additional education beyond the undergraduate degree, which academic programs are most beneficial, whether to stay in the public policy arena or move back and forth between academia and policy assignments, and how to transition between various public policy-related environments. The book's focus is on real-life experiences of policy makers, including persons of diverse backgrounds, race, age, gender and career tracks. Each contributor was asked to analyze his or her career, the various options open at different stages, and career and lifestyle implications of decisions made at each stage. The editor was seeking consistent themes which would provide guidance to those seeking careers in public policy.

In the first three chapters, "Storming Washington—And Returning to Graduate School," "Coming to Washington to Earn an M.A. and a Career," and "The M.P.A: Careers in the Public Sector," Carolyn Blackwell, Janine T. Perfit and Steven Bosacker describe the choices each made regarding when to begin a graduate degree. While each agreed that an advanced degree was essential, they opted to continue their education at significantly different times. They reflected that timing and the ability to demonstrate career preparation were critical when opportunities for advancement were presented.

John Brigham, author of Chapter 4, "The Academy as Pastoral Policy Shop (or, Campus Activism as Policy Making)," sees the college campus as a center of political innovation and the key critical and imaginative force in American public policy. He also extols the fact that integrity is still valued in education, but often is missing when public policy is being made.

Chapters 5 and 6, "A State Department Career—And Afterwards" (Lowell R. Fleisher) and "A Career as an In 'n' Outer" (Joseph S. Nye, Jr.), describe the challenges of working exclusively in Washington, D.C. versus moving from that public policy arena to academia and back. Both approaches [End Page 257] require different educational preparation at different stages in one's career.

Susan Kaufman Purcell's Chapter 7, "On Being a Woman in Academia and in Research Institutes," reflects on a career which led from Latin America to higher education and back to Washington, D.C. She confirms the importance of finding a balance between work and career and the necessity of being proactive in pursuing career opportunities.

In Chapter 8, "Law and Public Policy," author William D. Rogers details a legal career in which he switched from private law practice to public service and back three times, each time taking on public functions in which he was lacking specific experience. He believes that these career shifts compelled him to pick up new responsibilities and undertake new challenges.

Chapters 9 through 17, "Close to Home: Working in State Government (Steve D. Boilard), "The World of the Washington Think Tanks" (Howard J. Wiarda), "Influencing Policy on an International Level: Life and Work in a United Nations Agency" (Elizabeth D. Gibbons), "The Satisfactions of Nonpartisan Policy Analysis on Capitol Hill (K. Larry Storrs), "Up and Down Pennsylvania Avenue: Congress and the Executive Branch" (Victor C. Johnson), "Dealing with the Media" (Norman Ornstein), "A Foot in Both Camps: Building a Career in Washington and Academe" (Thomas E. Mann), "The CIA, Defense Department, and Hard Choices" (Melvin A Goodman), and "Born in...


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pp. 257-259
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