MSU’s Davis, Hutchins anticipate prestigious Harvard public service conference

Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State students interested in public service will join other high-performing undergraduates from across the country for an immersive networking and graduate school-preparatory experience at Harvard University this month.

Payton Davis
Payton Davis (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Payton Davis, a sophomore majoring in environmental economics and sustainability, and Devin Hutchins, a junior double majoring in philosophy and economics, will travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the Harvard Kennedy School’s 23rd annual Public Policy Leadership Conference, Oct. 12-15. There, they will learn about the school’s public policy graduate student experience while connecting with HKS students, faculty and staff.

Devin Hutchins
Devin Hutchins (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

PPLC attendees must have a 3.0 grade point average and show a commitment to public service through activism, student leadership and civic engagement in their schools and communities, or through volunteer efforts.

Davis, a native of Ocala, Florida, chose her major because of her passion for both agriculture and environmental sciences. After graduating, she plans to enroll in law school and become either an agricultural or environmental attorney.

At MSU, Davis participates through the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College’s Honor Council in “plarning”—the process of turning plastic bags into a yarn-like material used to make mats for people experiencing homelessness.

“I’m hoping to one day work for a government organization, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Environmental Protection Agency, so this conference will be beneficial to my career,” she said. “I hope to learn more about the opportunities that are available to me after graduation, but I also hope to network with new people that could help me later on.”

Hutchins plans to attend law school to be a civil rights attorney.  The Hernando native said attending MSU allows him to put his skills to work through a variety of activities, including tutoring students at Starkville Oktibbeha School District’s Partnership Middle School, conducting research and working with local civil rights organizations.

“Frankly, for as much need exists for public servants, there is a relative dearth of information out there for aspiring students when compared to the private sector. The paths to becoming a servant in your community aren’t put in a pamphlet or on a shiny website. The PPLC aims to correct for that disparity,” Hutchins said. “At this conference, I hope to learn how to carve out my own trail to actualize my aspirations, afford law school and organize people for the sake of impact. The PPLC will assure me of the path I am taking and keep me headed in the right direction with advice and new opportunities.”

Both Davis and Hutchins said they are grateful for their time at MSU and how faculty and staff have supported their academic pursuits.

“I came to MSU because of the welcoming and family environment,” Davis said. “Even though this is a Southeastern Conference school, you don’t get lost in the crowd; everyone makes an effort to get to know you.”

“Mississippi State doesn’t keep you on the bench when you study here—it gets you ready to play at the next level. MSU is a pioneering university that includes one more school than most others: the school of life,” Hutchins added. “Endless encouragement, sage mentorship, and indispensable academic resources have kept me on the right path. That isn’t a fluke—support is the norm at State.”

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