Paul A. Volcker Careers in Government Essay Contest

Effective government starts with YOU. If you are an undergraduate student enrolled at a City University of New York (CUNY) college, participate in the second annual Paul A. Volcker Careers in Government Essay Contest! The Volcker Alliance is hosting this contest in partnership with CUNY to recognize students who aspire to pursue careers in public service. The contest is now open for submissions!
  1. Contest Details
  2. Prizes
  3. How to Enter
  4. Information Session
  5. Frequently Asked Questions
  6. Contact us

Tell us about your public service career aspirations!

A central goal of the Paul A. Volcker Careers in Government Essay Contest is to better understand what motivates students to opt for a career in government. We also aim to raise student awareness about the opportunities that come with a career in public service, including mission, impact, job security, and pathways for career advancement.

Contest entrants must answer the following two essay questions (the response to each question may not exceed 500 words):

  1. How do you define effective government? How have the historic events of 2020, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, international protests against racism, or the upcoming election, shaped your views of what effective government means?
  1. Please describe your public service career aspirations. How would a career in public service allow you to have a meaningful impact on the issues that mean the most to you?

We will be looking for entries that are well organized, thoughtfully composed, and that present a compelling narrative about the values that drive your career aspirations. We want to understand how students are thinking about their potential contribution following graduation. We want to hear about students' vision of the public sector leaders they hope to become.

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Prizes

In January 2021, we will select two winners and three finalists.

Two winners will each receive $5,000, and three finalists will each receive $1,000. In addition, all winners and finalists will receive one-on-one career coaching and support from CUNY and the Volcker Alliance including:

  • Support identifying and applying to government internship or job opportunities
  • Resume review
  • Interview practice and preparation
  • Networking assistance

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How to Enter

All entries must be received no later than Sunday, October 25, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.—no exceptions.

To enter the Paul A. Volcker Careers in Government Essay Contest, click the button below or type volckeressay2020.awardsplatform.com into your web browser and register for an account.

ENTER THE CONTEST NOW

Other important dates:

  • Tuesday, September 29: Contest opens
  • Thursday, October 8: Online information session and Q&A with the Volcker Alliance and CUNY
  • Wednesday, October 14 at 3 p.m. EDT: Online Drop-in Q&A
  • Tuesday, October 20 at 12 p.m. EDT.: Online Drop-in Q&A
  • Sunday, October 25 at 11:59 p.m.: Submission deadline
  • Monday, December 7: Finalists announced
  • Monday, January 11 – Friday, January 22: Finalist interviews
  • Monday, January 25: Winners Announced

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at essay@volckeralliance.org.  Please include “Essay Contest” in the email subject line.

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Information Sessions

We held an virtual information session on Thursday, October 8, to provide details about the competition and discuss the potential and imperative of a career in public service. 

The information session featured Shirley Clarke Franklin, former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, who reflected on her experiences as a public servant and why she believes it is more important than ever for young people to go into public service. Additionally, we featured one of the 2019 Essay Contest winners, Arslan Mohamed, who shared his insights on the contest and discussed his experience interning for a government agency after winning last year’s contest. The event will concluded with a Q&A.

Attendance at the virtual information session was not required to enter the contest, but it offered an opportunity to learn more about this exceptional opportunity and engage with our impressive guest speakers about the potential and promise of a public service career.

We also hosted two virtual Q&As where students could drop in to ask any questions they had. The drop-in Q&As were held on Wednesday, October 14 at 3 p.m. EDT and Tuesday, October 20 at 12 p.m. EDT. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is Paul A. Volcker?
  2. What is “public service,” and who qualifies as a “public servant”?
  3. Why are we hosting this essay contest?
  4. Who’s eligible to enter?
  5. What is the prize for the essay contest winners?
  6. Should I attend the information session?
  7. How do I enter the contest?
  8. What are the characteristics of a strong essay submission?
  9. When will the finalists and winners be announced?
  10. In my response to the first essay contest question, do I need to address all three of the events listed?

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Q: Who is Paul A. Volcker?

A: Paul Volcker worked for the federal government for almost thirty years as undersecretary of the Treasury for monetary affairs, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and chairman of the President’s Economic Recovery Board. Throughout his career, he worked alongside presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Obama, and many of the world’s other leading politicians, bankers, and financiers to provide wisdom, leadership, and a steady hand during many of the most severe financial and ethical crises experienced in this country over the past seventy years. While Mr. Volcker was widely recognized for profoundly shaping economic policy in the United States and around the world, his greatest life mission and his motivation for founding the Volcker Alliance in 2013 was to restore American trust in government and cultivate a vital, prepared public service. Mr. Volcker had an unwavering commitment to effective government and embodied dedication and excellence in public service.

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Q: What is “public service,” and who qualifies as a “public servant”?

A: For the purpose of this essay contest, we define “public service” as work in the public sector as a government employee. When many people think of government employees, they often only think of politicians, but in reality, public service encompasses a wide spectrum of careers. Public servants can be engineers, biologists, historians, paramedics, graphic designers, and much more. Public service encompasses government work at the local, state, and federal levels, both within the United States and internationally.

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Q: Why are we hosting this essay contest?

A: We are hosting this contest to raise student awareness about the opportunities of a career in public service, including mission, impact, job security and pathways for career advancement. At the same time, we aim to better understand what motivates students to opt for a career in government, offer modest financial support to ease students’ transition into the public workforce, help support students in finding and applying to government internships, and link them to active practitioners for ongoing guidance and professional mentorship.

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Q: Who’s eligible to enter?

A: All undergraduate students currently enrolled at a school in the City University of New York (CUNY) system are eligible to enter.

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Q: What is the prize for the essay contest winners?

A: Two winners will each receive $5,000, and three finalists will each receive $1,000. In addition, all winners and finalists will receive one-on-one career coaching and support from CUNY and the Volcker Alliance including:

  • Support identifying and applying to government internship or job opportunities
  • Resume review
  • Interview practice and preparation
  • Networking assistance

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Q: Should I attend the information session?

A: Yes! In addition to providing information about the contest, the information session will feature an impressive guest speaker, Shirley Clarke Franklin, former mayor of Atlanta, who has dedicated her career to public service. Mayor Franklin will answer questions you might have about working in the public sector, discuss the benefits of a career in public service, and talk about her personal career path. Attendance isn’t required, but it is highly encouraged.

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Q: How do I enter the contest?

  1. Click HERE or type volckeressay2020.awardsplatform.com into your web browser and register for an account.
  2. Make sure your name is displayed under “Entry Name” and click “Save + Next.”
  3. Fill out all the questions under the “Personal Information” tab and click “Save + Next.”
  4. Complete the two essay questions, making sure to limit each of your answers to 500 words per essay. You will be able to save and return to your entry until the submission period ends on Sunday, October 25, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.
  5. When all the information you entered is correct and you have finalized your written answers, click “Submit Entry”.
  6. You will receive an email confirming that your submission was received. If you advance to the finalist round, we will contact you on December 7 to schedule an interview with the selection committee between January 11 and January 22.

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Q: What are the characteristics of a strong essay submission?

A:  Strong essays will:

  • Demonstrate genuine interest in a public service career
  • Convey a compelling vision of what effective government looks like and why it matters
  • Respond directly to the questions posed
  • Be presented clearly, cleanly and with attention to proper grammar and spelling

To learn more about what an outstanding submission looks like, you can read excerpts from last year’s winning essays, written by Arslan Mohamed and Jason Waitkus, here. Additionally, if you are looking for more advice or inspiration, here are a few writing tips from last year’s essay contest winner Arslan Mohamed.

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Q: When will the finalists and winners be announced?

A: Finalists will be interviewed by the selection committee between January 11 and January 22, 2021. Winners will be notified by January 25, 2021.

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Q: In my response to the first essay contest question, do I need to address all three of the events listed (the pandemic, protests against racism, and the election)?

These examples are simply intended to be illustrative of the historic nature of 2020; you can address one of them, all of them, or even a different event in 2020 that you feel has shaped your view of what effective government means.

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