This is Us – Meet some of our Newest UNC MPA Graduates

This December the UNC MPA program will be welcoming 17 new graduates into our alumni community.

Read about a few of them below.  

——————————————————————————————————Amanda Wesson

Amanda Wesson, UNC MPA Class of 2023

Hometown: Wake Forest, NC
Alma mater: North Carolina Central University
Degree: BA Psychology, MEd Communication Disorders

What’s your current title, and what do you do?

I am a speech-language pathologist of over a decade who most recently assessed preschoolers as part of a transdisciplinary team for a local school system. In this work, I used play therapy techniques to elicit responses for assessments to help determine young children’s needs. I also recently worked as an early childhood policy analyst with a non-profit organization. There, I helped coordinate events for legislators, synthesized information and provided policy considerations on various topics related to child care and early education.

What are your plans after graduation?

I recently signed on with Wake County Budget and Management Services to become a Budget and Management Analyst beginning in January! There, I will work closely with department staff to evaluate funding and program requests, collaborate to develop alternatives, and recommend approaches that align with the County’s overall objectives. I plan to engage in continuous learning activities and also hope to maintain my license and certification as a speech-language pathologist.

Looking back on who you were at the start of the program to who you are now, how have you changed?

Wow, it feels like so long ago, but I began this process as a direct provider and clinician. I knew I had a heart for public service and always strived to produce outcomes for public benefit. My experience led me to look at each case with an individualized lens. With the knowledge and connections I’ve gained from this program, I now have a head for public service—I’ve gained technical skills, theoretical frameworks, and practical experience. More than that, I’ve opened up myself to all the possibilities and ways I can contribute to my community and the communities of those I serve.

What is one class, one project, one faculty member, one experience, one discussion, or some other aspect of our program that had an impact on you and proved to be meaningful in your professional life?

I entered this program with a general idea of which direction I thought it would take me. However, I became interested in budget and management while taking PUBA 731 – Public Financial Management, taught by Monica Allen. I assumed it would be merely accounting, but it is much more comprehensive. It encompasses data, strategy, stakeholder and citizen engagement, problem-solving, and writing—many of the things that attracted me to the field of speech-language pathology. In taking this course, I realized how I could make a more significant impact at a macro level to support systems that provide education, public health, and human services.

A brief quote or piece of advice for those considering the UNC MPA or a career in public service?

The UNC MPA program has been instrumental in shaping my journey from a seasoned speech-language pathologist to an emerging public administrator in budget and management services. Embrace the opportunity to broaden your horizons, as the skills and insights gained here will empower you to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others.

Shane Rudloff 

Shane Rudloff, UNC MPA Class of 2023

Hometown: Denver, CO
Alma mater: Ohio State University
Degree: BS International Relations

What’s your current title, and what do you do?

I am currently a Senior Grant Writer at a nonprofit called Growing Home in Westminster, CO. I build relationships with funders and secure grants for our programs which include a food pantry, a community garden, housing assistance, and early childhood education resources.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I’d like to pursue a career in local government, preferably at the City Manager’s Office where I can interact with all kinds of stakeholders that work with government. I live by learning and enjoy observing the contexts and perspectives of different experts and professionals in the public sector.

Looking back on who you were at the start of the program to who you are now, how have you changed?

Looking back at who I was before I started the program, I’d say I’m much more cognizant of the inner workings of how the government operates. I was originally aware of the surface level details (elections, bills becoming law, politics, etc.), but now I understand there’s more that goes into getting things done (budgets, hiring the right people, working with private contractors, etc.). I have a more holistic view of how the public sector works.

What is one class, one project, one faculty member, one experience, one discussion, or some other aspect of our program that had an impact on you and proved to be meaningful in your professional life?

I would say that one class/experience that really stood out to me during my time at UNC was the immersion. I loved the opportunity to get to meet some of my peers in person which is a rarity for an online student. There I was able to meet some incredible professionals and people, and I am still very close friends with some of my classmates.

A brief quote or piece of advice for those considering the UNC MPA or a career in public service?

This is a pathway that provides an opportunity to help shape the way communities, states, and nations operate. It will make you a person people turn to when they are looking for solutions, and you will do little things daily that contribute to improving something. I take pride in that fact, and that is what public service is all about.

Jonathan Hill

Joanthan Hill, UNC MPA Class of 2023

Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Alma mater: Duke University
Degree: Public Policy and History

What’s your current title, and what do you do?

My current title is Executive Director of Keep Charlotte Beautiful. I’m a full-time employee of the City of Charlotte, but it’s a little like running a nonprofit within the city government. The program has a City Council-appointed board, its own social media channels, and conducts some fundraising. An AmeriCorps service member (whom I manage) and I run numerous, community-driven initiatives related to litter prevention, waste reduction, and beautification.

What are your plans after graduation?

Throughout the MPA program, I’ve been able to apply lessons learned from class to greatly expand the programming scope and offerings of Keep Charlotte Beautiful. I hope to continue that after graduation. Two of my goals for the coming year are to launch a resident-operated ‘Friends of Keep Charlotte Beautiful’ spin-off nonprofit to enable easier fundraising for the program and to implement an in-depth litter study using our city’s Solid Waste Services department and students from UNC-Charlotte.

Looking back on who you were at the start of the program to who you are now, how have you changed?

When I applied for the program, I had just learned that I had received funding to hire an AmeriCorps service member for the first time, and wanted to hone in my leadership skills. The MPA program has enabled me to do that and more. In some instances, the MPA program enabled me to put a theoretical name to practices I was already implementing. In many others, it enabled me to consider new ideas and new ways of managing. I have become a more strategic-thinking, results-driven, and public-oriented manager because of it.

What is one class, one project, one faculty member, one experience, one discussion, or some other aspect of our program that had an impact on you and proved to be meaningful in your professional life?

As I mentioned to my oral exam panel, the idea of inspiring a shared vision from Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge has stuck with me. Much of the work I do is collaborative, but a lot of it is driven by me, rather than being driven with the help of others. That message has reoriented my focus towards public engagement. In other words, I have what I think are a lot of great ideas, but they may not be what the public wants or even needs. Deploying a consensus-driven approach to tackling wicked problems provides for a more meaningful solution while broadening my perspective as a public servant.

A brief quote or piece of advice for those considering the UNC MPA or a career in public service?

 Always consider how you might apply the lessons learned in class to your day-to-day work. Putting those theories to practice not only helps you learn more about them, it enables you to determine what works best for you.

Julia Murphy

Julia Murphy, UNC MPA Class of 2023

Hometown: Pittsfield, MA
Alma mater: Providence College
Degree: BA in Political Science, Minor in Public and Community Service Studies

What’s your current title, and what do you do?

I am a Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary at the United States Department of Commerce. I directly support the Deputy Secretary by overseeing his external engagements, supporting the day-to-day operations of the office, and advising on policy matters. As a political appointee in the Biden-Harris Administration, most of our work is centered around advancing and implementing the President’s priorities.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m only three months into my current job so I’m hoping to stay for a while! I was working in the Massachusetts State Legislature when I began the program, so making the leap to the federal government and working in the executive was a goal that I had for a while and I’m grateful I was able to achieve while obtaining my MPA.

Looking back on who you were at the start of the program to who you are now, how have you changed?

My time in the program has reaffirmed that I want to be in public service for as long as I can. Taking classes while getting real-world experience allowed me to develop a public administration lens that I use every day to think about challenges, potential solutions, and how to move the needle forward. My decisions are directly informed by the frameworks and practical applications that I encountered in my courses. My ability to communicate concisely and effectively has significantly improved, and taking a deep dive into my leadership abilities has given me tremendous confidence both personally and professionally.

What is one class, one project, one faculty member, one experience, one discussion, or some other aspect of our program that had an impact on you and proved to be meaningful in your professional life?

This is such a hard question because I have genuinely learned so much from every professor, class, and classmate I’ve had! I think back to Prof. Julie Bregman’s Institutions and Values course that I took in my first semester of the program where we talked about equity as a core and competing value of public administration. When talking about equity versus effectiveness, I remember having a lightbulb moment where I said something along the lines of, “If programs aren’t working for the people they are intended to serve equitably, are they effective at all?” From this point forward, equitable public administration has been top of mind for me and has driven my focus areas in the program and the way that I think about the world, and is something I hope I can continue to foster as a public service leader. Government is a powerful tool to help people, and I would push back on anyone who claims that you can’t have equity and efficiency at the same time. It may not be easy, but it is our job as leaders to find a way forward.

A brief quote or piece of advice for those considering the UNC MPA or a career in public service?

The answer to both is simple — do it! There are a lot of complex challenges that our world faces and we need bold, courageous, thoughtful, and visionary leaders to take those challenges on. The UNC MPA equips you with the tools to tackle those problems, and you learn from the best and brightest faculty and classmates. Public service is an honorable undertaking and allows you to make an impact on other people’s lives in a way that other professions don’t offer. The MPA program was one of the best choices I’ve made and I feel incredibly well-prepared for wherever my path may take me.

 

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