“The experience brought to my attention the inequality of opportunity and the cyclical nature of poverty.”
Ben Bentley wants to make a career out of changing people’s lives.
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College, Bentley worked as Americorps volunteer teaching reading to low-income students in Birmingham, Ala., Public Schools. Bentley, a master’s student in public policy, admits his work with Americorps was one of the hardest jobs of his life, but he also calls it one of the most fulfilling.
“The experience brought to my attention the inequality of opportunity and the cyclical nature of poverty,” Bentley says. “It highlighted the importance of smart and efficient public policy in improving the lives of individual citizens.”
In addition, the experience unlocked his interest in public policy. After working in several other positions, Bentley decided to continue his education at DU and enrolled in the University’s Institute for Public Policy Studies.
For Bentley — who graduates June 4 — the combination of education and service has resulted in a prestigious post-graduate fellowship. He was chosen for a Presidential Management Fellowship, which gives him the rare opportunity to bypass entry-level government work and jump right into a management position in federal government.
Bentley was chosen from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The office matched Bentley with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Nashville, Tenn.
True to the fellowship’s promise, Bentley will get a major head start in public service career. Starting July 19, he will assume a program analyst position in the department.
In addition to helping manage public housing, Bentley will get exposure to prominent government officials and research opportunities. He will have a direct influence on public policy changes.
“Ben is extremely dedicated and intellectual,” says Richard Caldwell, Bentley’s adviser and the director of graduate and undergraduate programs at the Institute for Public Policy Studies. “He understands how the federal government works and has figured out the best place to get his first professional post-master’s degree job.”
Caldwell says Bentley’s selection for the fellowship shows the emergence of DU’s master’s degree program in public policy. The program is relatively new — established in 2003 — yet Bentley beat fellowship applicants from more than 40 top schools, including Harvard University and Syracuse University.
Bentley will leave Denver immediately after Commencement and head to Nashville, just a couple hours from his home in Oneonta, Ala. Since a few of his family members live in Nashville, Bentley says he is eager for the move.
“Nashville is a lot like Denver,” Bentley says. “It has a lot to offer, without many of the problems associated with really big cities. It has a laid back feel that fits my lifestyle.”