Each week in 2019, we're highlighting someone in the College of Public Health—students, alumni, researchers and beyond—for a feature we're calling Public Health in Focus. Click the photo for a portrait of Mikayla Ferrell, a BSW student who also works in the mayor's office, or read on for the full interview.
What sparked your interest in politics?
I actually wasn’t interested in politics until my senior year of high school, right before election season started. I originally wanted to go into a social work field like human services, but then I realized I wanted to make a difference on a bigger level, so I figured macro level social work—politics—perfect.
Now that your interests have shifted, what is your dream career path?
My dream path is to be a chief of staff for someone or maybe even to run for office one day. Pennsylvania has never had a woman governor, so maybe one day? [laughter]
I definitely want to manage offices for elected officials. The main reason I wanted to get involved in politics is that I think our government should be more representative of its communities, and obviously it’s not at all. I found that social work is the perfect lens to make that happen, so my goal is to push social work through government in whatever job I do.
So what is your day-to-day like at your current internship?
I am the scheduling assistant, so I take all of the requests that we get in for events, put them through a spreadsheet and pass it on for approval by our chief of staff; then the mayor comes back to us, and we send out the denials and acceptances. I put together the briefing books. For every event, I compile all of the details do other office work in the background.
What has it been like to see behind the scenes of a mayor’s office in a big city like Philadelphia?
Working in the mayor's office, I've gotten to do things that I never thought I would get to do, especially not before I graduated college. It's interesting, because [the mayor] does a lot, and you really see how things work behind the scenes and the bureaucracy involved—things that people don't really see.
Favorite aspect of your time at Temple so far?
All the opportunities I’ve had. I come from a low-income background, so I never got to travel a lot. But because of Temple, gotten to go to D.C. multiple times, Harrisburg, and South Dakota. I love being able to learn about myself and have these opportunities to grow at the same time.
What would you like to do when you graduate?
If I had the opportunity, I would love to stay in Philly and keep working, but I do want to go to grad school for public administration. I would love to work for some kind of elected official on whatever scale while still going to school.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My life revolves around politics, so I just go home and watch Parks and Recreation and keep up to date on politics. It’s a nerdy life.
Mikayla Ferrell is in her junior year of the Bachelor of Social Work program and is also pursuing a minor in political science. She currently serves as a scheduling assistant in the Mayor's Office for the City of Philadelphia. Check out all of the Public Health in Focus portraits so far.