Professional Development

Video of Community Conversations Event: Housing Solutions in the Pikes Peak Region

Professional Development

The School of Public Affairs (SPA) provides numerous opportunities for student academic and professional development to supplement those that take place in the physical and virtual classroom environments. In alignment with our mission, enrichment opportunities are created to address the following competencies:

Strategic Leadership Skills

  • Critical thinking and decision-making
  • Creative problem solving
  • Knowledge management
  • Multi-sector understanding
  • Global citizenship


  • Written communication skills
  • Oral communication and presentation skills
  • Data presentation
  • Civil public discourse

Personal and Professional Management

  • Citizenship, responsibility, respect
  • Continuous development of the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to adapt to the changing nature of the field(s)

Criminal Justice Engagement Series

The Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (BACJ) program, as part of its mission, includes campus and community engagement as part of the student grading criteria. The BACJ program commitment to student success is shown not only in the content of classroom instruction captured in the traditional academic transcript - grades, but also in out-of-classroom learning that is such an important part of student development.

Skills Development Series

Both academic and professional skills are addressed via presentations and workshops in the Skills Development Series, open to all School of Public Affairs students. Several events, the content of which is selected in response to student and faculty input, are held throughout the academic year.

Community Conversation Series

Community Conversations is a series of events highlighting the ways in which members of our community play an integral role in transforming lives. These events are free and open to the public.

Graduate Networking

As a graduate student, it is important to build a diverse network of professors, fellow students, community members, alumni, and other individuals in your field of study. An effective professional network can open up opportunities for internships, employment, and even help you find that perfect capstone project. The School of Public Affairs holds networking events once or twice per year to assist our students in making these vital connections.

Inspiring Internships Opportunities

Undergraduate Internships

Internship experiences in the field of criminal justice serve multiple purposes. The UCCS Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (BACJ) intern will learn how to be self-directed and develop her/his goals and skills. Additionally, the BACJ intern will gain a better understanding and appreciation of knowledge presented in the classroom, and through real-life exposure during the internship, better understand the complexities of working in the criminal justice system. Internship requirements are listed on the School of Public Affairs website.

Graduate Internships

Some graduate Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) students may be required to complete an internship as part of their degree program. Others may want to obtain additional experience that differs from or is more specialized than previous experiences.

The School of Public Affairs collaborates with public and nonprofit entities to provide enriching learning opportunities in Colorado Springs and beyond.

Professional Development in the Classroom

Service Learning

The subject matter of some courses lends itself to supervised service learning projects. These projects may be undertaken by the class as a whole or by individual students. The Nonprofit Management and Grant Writing classes, for example, typically match students with nonprofits to provide services in accordance with the themes of each class. A recent Research Methods class worked as a whole to develop a survey for the Nonprofit Economic Indicator Study implemented by the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. A recent Social Entrepreneurship class developed a business plan for the Disability Store at The Independence Center. A current Criminal Justice Interrogations class partners students with Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) detectives to observe interviews and study current investigations. These are just a few examples of service learning projects implemented through the UCCS School of Public Affairs.

Capstone Projects

Most Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Criminal Justice (MCJ) students complete a Capstone Project during their last semester in the program. Capstones are client-based projects; students conduct original research to analyze a problem or concern and produce a product for the client. While the task should be of significant and practical use to the client, the project must be completed within the time constraints of a single semester (fall or spring). Clients and academic subject matter experts collaborate with the student and Capstone Seminar instructor to produce valuable results.

Capstone projects cover a wide range of agencies and issues. Some recent examples include:

  • Benchmark Review of the UCCS Emergency Management Plan
  • Police Intern Best Practices
  • Bridging the Funding Gap between Government Reimbursements of Medicare and Medical Provider Costs
  • How Social Media and Effective Communications Strategies can Grow a Nonprofit Organization
  • Visitor Perception and Experience for a local museum
  • Analysis of Homeless Measurement Methodologies

Literature Reviews

Literature Reviews are required and fundamental to the process of obtaining a graduate degree and completing a capstone or thesis at the UCCS School of Public Affairs. To facilitate, we provide explanations and examples of literature reviews.

Special Events

McConkie Leadership Conference

The McConkie Leadership Conference, held every spring, is now in its 19th year. The McConkie Leadership Conference is a community staple that provides professional development for the Pikes Peak Region at large. Students are invited to attend the one-day conference along with community leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, including local government employees and elected officials; police, fire, and other first responders; as well as a variety of professionals.

Center for Human Security

The Center for Human Security (CHS) provides the School of Public Affairs students, the campus, and the wider Colorado Springs community critical exposure to human security issues. CHS organizes and hosts events with notable international figures and scholars to dialogue about security matters, international cooperation and solutions, and strengthen relationships.

UCCS 50th Anniversary Events

The School of Public Affairs celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs in 2015 with events exhibiting and highlighting public administration and policy. Included were the Emotional Labor Workshop, Child Protection Symposium, Mexico and the United States Human Security events.

Colorado Springs Mayoral Forum

School of Public Affairs (SPA) faculty and students helped shape the format of the Colorado Springs Mayoral Forum hosted by UCCS on March 19, 2015. Questions for the candidates were solicited from the entire UCCS student body and reviewed by SPA graduate students, who developed criteria for evaluation. The selected questions were recorded and delivered to the candidates on the evening of the Forum via video feed.

Emotional Labor Workshop

Public service jobs can be emotionally intense. The event was a workshop that focused on emotional labor and included topics on how affective components of jobs drives performance and citizen satisfaction, what skills are required, and how protective measures can help workers overcome the threat of burnout.

International Study

Study Abroad

The School of Public Affairs encourages students to expand their academic horizons by studying. There are opportunities to study international development, criminal justice, security, and more in authentic international contexts.


Upcoming Professional Development Events

Professional Development Event Videos

Pamala Sawyer

Pamala Sawyer portrait

Director of Strategic Initiatives & Alumni Relations
Work: (719) 255-3406
Pamala Sawyer's Bio