logo

Beyond the Classroom: A Semester in Review

May 1, 2018 | Students

By Varad Dabke

Varad Dabke

Beyond the Classroom: A Semester in Review

When I wrote my first blog in the Beyond the Classroom series, I said I hoped to apply a lens—a student’s perspective—to the intricacies of state and local government. Today, as I read back on my first post again, I realize that I created a new lens instead.

My understanding of public service is a product of my involvement in learning about different projects. At the end of this semester, I learned that each employee I spoke with has created their own lens through their own experiences and conversations. I came to this realization when stopped looking at my blog as a student and began viewing it as a fellow employee. That’s why in my last installment to the Beyond the Classroom series, I want to update my original understanding: Service cannot be defined through any one perspective—it’s the evolving potential for new experiences that makes public service so unique. It took each new story and each new conversation to gradually lead me to this realization.    

I originally lumped all public service into one big category before I learned more about the public service side of the university’s mission and began writing about the plethora of different services and research projects conducted at the Institute. Much like an all-inclusive heading on the syllabus for a new part of the semester, I was looking for a general dictionary definition of public service. Now, in my last blog of the series, there is only one thing in common to any interview or presentation I discussed this semester: Every explanation, every perspective and every project was uniquely attributable to only those faculty or students involved. Whether it was cybersecurity services, the 2020 Census or downtown redevelopment, each topic involved a skill-set and type of expertise that couldn’t be used in the others. That breadth in understanding was the lens I was able to create.

The process of creating a weekly blog caused me to experience public service not only beyond the classroom but also from every angle within the Institute.  

As I close the series, I want to take this opportunity to thank my mentors, Public Relations Coordinator Roger Nielsen and Director of Communications Jana Wiggins. Roger’s experience as a journalist was tremendously helpful in teaching me how to adapt my writing style to a new audience. He made sure I knew the key takeaways from every new blog post, from first draft to final draft. Just as I discussed some of the behind-the-scenes work at the Institute, Roger’s revision process — paired with Jana’s topic ideas and help in reaching out to different faculty — constitute the behind-the-scenes part of writing this blog. I am so thankful to say that I will be able to bring these writing skills back to coursework and future professional endeavors. 

I am also excited to announce that I will be staying with the Institute over the summer to work in one of the same offices that I was able to learn about for my blog this semester. I will be joining Danny Bivins and his team to assist in their downtown redevelopment efforts! Thank you for taking the time to read this series and for your support this semester. I look forward to reporting back over the summer on new assignments, as I carry the lens into yet another capacity at the Institute.


Varad Dabke is a third-year English and international affairs major from Columbus. He is the public and alumni relations chair for the UGA Undergraduate Mock Trial program and serves as an expert-witness in simulated trial competitions. Varad also was selected for a faculty-sponsored research assistantship with the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. After graduation, Varad hopes to pursue a career in the legal field.