My first year in the program

Written by Cara Robinson

This post was written by first year student, Julia Warren.

My experience this first year was incredible to say the least! This journey so far has been extremely rewarding. The MPA Program at UNC-CH is truly exceptional, and I know I made the right decision by accepting my admission into the program. While attending graduate school is no easy feat, I was eager for a challenge academically. Getting my MPA is the best decision I have ever made because I can already tell it has helped me professionally for my future career.

My classmate Matt Begley had a similar experience when he stated, “When I first applied to the program, I only knew that I was looking to develop a career in public service. I did not expect to meet as excellent colleagues as I have and receive the chance to work and help as many different organizations as I have. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend the UNC School of Government, and I am excited to see where this path takes me.” – Matt Begley, MPA Candidate.

All of my courses this year were truly captivating. The course work is designed to be applied to real-world scenarios.  First year student Skye Allan stated, “The MPA Program has helped me take the practical knowledge I’ve gained working in local government and understand the framework and theories that make it all happen” .  Stephen Wright elaborates further on how the program is helping to interpret his experiences in the public sector. “Coming from the Lead for North Carolina Fellowship, the MPA is helping me take what I learned working in the field and breaking down and reworking it in the classroom. This is preparing me for leadership position in the future.” – Stephen Wright, MPA Candidate.

One of my favorite courses was PUBA 710 Organizational Theory taught by Dr. Willow Jacobson.  I learned so much from this course, and it introduced me to an excellent non-profit that I am eyeing for future work. This course requires a semester-long project in which you conduct interviews with an organization of your choice and write two essays diagnosing that organization based off of class concepts. Another course that I thoroughly enjoyed was PUBA 723 Human Resource Management, taught by Dr. Leisha DeHart-Davis. The material for this course was very engaging and peaked my interest with its collaboration requirement.  Our piject which you and a group of your peers worked together on supported a client of Dr. DeHart-Davis’ Local Government Workplaces Initiative. My team worked with Guilford County focusing on Employee Engagement.

The professors are all experts and practitioners within their respective niches in public administration. The environment in the MPA Program at UNC is unlike any other, and the expertise of the professors is unmatched.  As my classmate Alyssa Pacheco found, “The professors in the program are some of the most brilliant public service minds and hearts. I love that they push us to be better in not just what we learn, but what we do, how treat others, and support our community. That’s the crux of our field.”

Our cohort is nicknamed the “clapping cohort” as we are always cheering on each other, professors, and faculty. The atmosphere within the School of Government is the most supportive I have ever been part of. There are no rankings, and it is not a competitive environment like some other graduate schools. We all just want to see each other thrive and be the best public servants they can be.

This summer I will begin my Professional Work Experience in May at the Recycling Partnership. This experience will allow my to apply the skills I have learned in Analysis and Evaluation I and II.  It will also be my first time working in a non-profit, which I am very excited about. I am incredibly grateful for being granted this opportunity which may have not been possible without joining the MPA Program at UNC.

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