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Sustainability, Development, and Social Action Career Path

This career path aims at students looking to analyze and tackle real world problems for social action, whether as an NGO activist, lobbyist, journalist, or policy analyst in a think tank. It offers you expertise on social issues from the environment, to human rights, poverty, health, or immigration, and the knowledge to formulate and implement innovative ideas. We’ll also give you concrete skills you need to succeed; analyzing data, using information to understand and solve problems, debating ideas, and making clear arguments.


  • Declare PS as your Major and pick your Career Path.
    • If you are a current PS Major, submit the declaration form to let us know your Career Path.
  • Enroll in classes you select from the Sustainability, Development, and Social Action Course List. And remember: these paths are road maps, not requirements—you can always go “off road” and define your own path.
    • Get started in 100-200-level courses
    • Develop skills in 300-level courses
    • Refine skills in 400-level courses
  • Check-in with a PS Advisor to be sure you meet PS major and university requirements along the way. Discuss how you can receive PS credit for an internship and consider working toward graduating with PS Honors.

Success stories: where PS degrees have taken our alums

Alison Friedman, Community Initiatives and Investments Manager, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado

Alison Friedman is Community Initiatives anInd Investments Manager at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado. She works on making grants, public policy advocacy, research, and a leadership program for high school girls. “On any given day you can find me visiting a nonprofit organization in Southwest Colorado, testifying at the State Capitol, or reviewing a research report at my desk. This role has exposed me to a diverse and inclusive set of populations and shown me the importance of considering a gender lens when examining social problems. Honestly, I use a number of different skills that began during my poli sci degree…I have to be organized, analytical, and thoughtful.”

A Colorado native who chose UO partly because it was a great university in a similarly beautiful natural setting, she interned at The Bus Project while still at UO. Then she worked for several foundations and earned a Master of Public Policy degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., focusing in courses on policy analysis, evaluation, and implementation. She encourages students to consider following her path into philanthropy: “I love working in philanthropy and think that not enough folks are aware of the opportunities it provides. It’s a really fantastic way to be a part of the nonprofit sector and allows me to use a number of different skills and abilities—many of which I learned at the U of O.”

Jessie McGrath, Ocean Policy Specialist, National Science Foundation

Jessie McGrath is the Ocean Policy Specialist for the National Science Foundation, and serves as a policy advisor for the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology. Her daily work involves research on domestic and international laws and environmental agreements, ocean science and technology-related topics, and coordinating efforts across US government agencies to promote these topics and their use in policy-making. “Working at NSF, I stand at the forefront of U.S. research and advancement,” she writes. “With my policy/politics background, I’m able to take it a step further to determine the broader impacts to society and pursuing change.”

A native of Bend, McGrath was a diehard Duck and knew she wanted to attend UO. She came late to political science, however, adding it alongside her Biology major. “I found that by balancing my biology classes with fascinating subjects such as International Relations, Gender and the Law, and Environmental Politics, it expanded my view of career possibilities. With my interests and experiences leading me, I realized that I wouldn’t be satisfied by a strict focus on the science of marine biology; I would rather bridge the gap between science and politics, to make a difference in the area of marine policy and resolve marine environmental issues.” Mentored by Profs. Ronald Mitchell and Alison Gash, her path took her through internships at the White House and Washington state government, research in the Arctic, and a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs at the University of Washington.

Click here to see more success stories and alumni updates…

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