January 18, 2024

Civic Leadership Goes Beyond the Public Sector

Nathan Loutsis speaks with Evans School Dean Jodi Sandfort at the 2022 NextGen Launch event.

Nathan Loutsis speaks with Evans School Dean Jodi Sandfort at the 2022 NextGen Launch event.

For Nathan Loutsis, newly elected city councilperson for the city of Kenmore and a University of Washington undergraduate, it’s important to stir a desire for public service in everyone, not just folks working in the public sector.

“The private sector does a lot for the public good as well,” Loutsis said. “Partnerships with the public sector to build affordable housing through private developers, nonprofits who work with the public sector to provide a public good, there’s always going to be an opportunity to serve. Inspiring passion for public leadership now is something that is not strictly allocated for the public sector, but it’s for any student, no matter what they do.”

Loutsis’ first brush with public service came when he was appointed to Kenmore’s planning commission at age 16. He fell in love with public service immediately and knew that working for the public good, specifically at the local level, was what he was called to do. Last fall, Loutsis ran for, and was elected to, Kenmore’s City Council.

Part of Loutsis’ academic journey has been his involvement in NextGen Civic Leader Corps, a UW tri-campus, interdisciplinary program that exists to broaden lanes to public service. NextGen launched in 2022, with a pilot year in 2021, as a collaboration between the Community Engagement & Leadership Education (CELE) Center and the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance. The program is also part of a growing network of similar programs across the country powered by the Volcker Alliance Next Generation Service Corps.

Throughout the academic year, the NextGen community engages in myriad activities centered on public service. Students engage with leaders in the field, attend skill building workshops, and participate in community service and networking events. This coursework is aimed at connecting students to like-minded peers and deepening an understanding of, and commitment to, public service. The program is open to all UW undergraduate students who are passionate about public service, community engagement, and civic leadership, regardless of major.

“I like to think we are one of many programs across campus intentionally creating conditions and opportunities for students to explore and strengthen their service mindset,” said Amen Tsegai, who serves as NextGen’s program manager and helps guide the vision, strategy, and implementation of various aspects of the program. “We expose students to hear and learn from practitioners in the community and encourage them to make room for other ways of knowing and leading by centering others. I also believe when we are in service with others, we gain insights into the lives of those we serve and expand our understanding and awareness. And so our students truly benefit from it.”

For Loutsis, the program has already had an impact on his career. He connected with leaders from the greater Seattle area at events hosted by NextGen to talk about issues faced by various communities, learn about successful strategies, and take them back to the city of Kenmore.

“NextGen has given me numerous opportunities to work with and hear from others with different perspectives and backgrounds, providing me with new ways of approaching situations and developing more equitable solutions to challenges that face our community,” said Loutsis, who participates as a student advisor. “I think it is an awesome program because it’s for everyone. It’s not restricted to a single major or minor. It’s not tailored to political science students or even public policy minor folks. Anyone who’s interested in public service and leadership can be involved.”