Can you tell us about your professional journey and current position?
I was enrolled at App State for undergrad as an ACCESS Scholar where I majored in political science, as every prospective law school applicant does, and I kind of just fell into the public management track in the Department of Government and Justice Studies. I am a first-generation college student, so there were a lot of unknowns that I was trying to fumble my way through while in undergrad. After taking a few undergraduate PA classes, I realized how applicable the courses were to the real world. During this time I also enlisted in the Navy Reserve and enrolled in the accelerated MPA program at ASU to make my law school admissions application look competitive, but there was just something about the MPA courses that I found enthralling. After graduating with my bachelor's in 2016 and working for a year, I looked at my cost of attendance for law school, which was way more than I was willing to pay, so I deployed to Iraq where I finally figured out what I wanted to do. After returning home at the end of 2018, I realized that I had wasted time chasing a childhood dream that wasn't really my passion. Public administration was my calling. I decided to return to the ASU MPA program in the summer of 2019 and graduated in December of 2020. Throughout the MPA program, I was a member of the Hickory cohort while also working in the field of PA as an academic advisor for the Gaston College Upward Bound Program. This position has allowed me to work with students that sometimes remind me of myself; first-generation kids from just muddling their way through to college. The thing that I love about public administration is that if used appropriately, it can be a tool for positive change, and that is how I have viewed my position here at Upward Bound. The App State MPA program also led me to the Appalachian Development Finance Fellowship that I am currently participating in; this fellowship is just another way for me to gain experience in economic development, and it also allows me to provide some sort of help to people in impoverished communities across Appalachia. My desire to promote positive societal impacts and my love for learning is what has led me to seek my Ph.D. in public administration as well.
What contributed to your decision to pursue an MPA degree?
My experience as an undergraduate student in the public management courses and the accelerated program, along with the wonderful professors are what ultimately influenced my decision to obtain an MPA.
How did the App State MPA program prepare you to work in government, nonprofit, or the private sector?
Well first off, budgeting, Org Theory, and Personnel Administration can be used in any job within any sector. I use some of what I learned in each of those classes daily; the ability to create a succession plan and use basic software like excel are needed in any sector. More recently, I have had to rely on skills that I learned in the Grant Writing and Economic Development courses for my current job and in the economic development fellowship that I am doing. ARC and Department of Education grant applications require a ton of work, and if it had not been for the combination of all of my classes from research methods to my capstone, I don't think I would have developed the skills needed to be successful.
What advice would you give to individuals considering the App State MPA program?
First, take advantage of accelerated admissions or the extension cohort programs. Second, take advantage of every practitioner opportunity that comes your way. Dr. Webb-Farley is excellent at sending out opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. Because of her, I have helped develop a Popular Annual Financial Report for the City of Charlotte through the Engaging Local Government Leaders program, competed in an international simulation competition in Washington D.C., and now I am working on this economic development opportunity learning about New Market Tax Credits and Opportunity Zones. My resume is full of experiences that have made me very competitive on the job market.
If hiring, what would you look for in new graduates of the App State MPA program?
Of course! I am going to be leaving my job soon to obtain my Ph.D. and as soon as my position is posted I am going to be reaching out to the App State MPA program (and others) and encouraging them to apply. Although I cannot guarantee that they will get my job, I believe it would benefit the students and my current organization to have someone with skillsets that the App State MPA program teaches. For any hiring that I may do in the future, I would certainly make a hiring announcement through the ASULGAA listserv.