The Art and Science of Encouraging Public Service at a Critical Time

US Capitol

“I will always be grateful for the phenomenal experience, networking opportunities, and mentorship that I received. The connections I made with Key into Public Service Scholars helped me achieve success in a recent internship offer.” 

—Jessia Avila, McDaniel College 

When the Society began accepting applications for our Key into Public Service program last fall, we could never have imagined how health, economic, and racial justice crises would soon make clear the crucial need for arts and sciences in government. Although challenging times required us to change our original plan to host the inaugural group of scholarship recipients in Washington, D.C., a remarkable group of Phi Beta Kappa members came together virtually from around the nation to donate their time, share their knowledge, and give valuable advice to our 2020 Service Scholars cohort.

The virtual conference kicked off with curated tips and specific resources for liberal arts and sciences students on how to enter federal, state, and local government. We partnered with the Partnership for Public Service, the Volcker Alliance, and Lead for America—all leading service organizations founded by Phi Beta Kappa members—for the training. Each organization highlighted fellowship opportunities, internships, and recruitment processes. A panel on federal service also featured a robust conversation with hiring managers from the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.  

Is graduate school key to a public service career? Experts from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, and Harvard Law School’s Office of Public Interest Advising explored strategies and advice for applying to graduate school in public service legal, international, medical, and public health careers. Students also learned how to pitch the value of their arts and sciences education to prospective employers with LinkedIn Senior Editor-at-Large and Phi Beta Kappa member George Anders (ΦBK, Stanford University), an expert on the path from college to careers.  

Of course, like any good advocates, the Society knows the importance of inspiring member stories too. Ambassador Nicholas Burns (ΦBK, Boston College), public health expert Dr. Abdul El-Sayed (ΦBK, University of Michigan), and former White House and United Nations Senior Advisor Maya Shankar (ΦBK, Yale University) shared their experiences in a plenary conversation with ΦBK Secretary Frederick M. Lawrence, underscoring the importance of multidisciplinary perspectives in launching, growing, and advancing government careers. The students also benefited from the individual attention of one-on-one mentoring conversations. The Society thanks 20 remarkable Phi Beta Kappa members who matched with the ideal careers of our Service Scholars for their participation.  

On November 2, the Society will invite applications for our 2021 Key into Public Service program. If you know a talented liberal arts and sciences student at one of our 290 chapters, please encourage them to visit There you can also find resources from all conference sessions.