UNC MPA graduates share how the strength of their degrees help solve public service issues

The UNC Master of Public Administration program aims to help mold the next generation of public service talent—for North Carolina and beyond—that can address the multifaceted issues public officials are expected to contend with in the coming years. 

 

As UNC MPA graduates continue to navigate the changing challenges of public service, three recent UNC MPA graduates share below how their degrees helped them overcome obstacles and discover creative solutions to issues that inundate the public sector. 

 

Scott Powell (’24) 

After graduating from the UNC MPA program this spring, Powell returned to work for Wake County—where he serves as a budget and management analyst. In his role, Powell manages department budgets in his portfolio and advises the county to make informed financial choices. 

From his time in the program, Powell said he gained the academic and practical knowledge to successfully effect collaborative change for the county. 

“I’m more pragmatic now than I was two years ago,” he said. “With the help of experience—much of which is a direct result of UNC’s MPA program—I find myself to be more curious and willing to figure out how to actually get big things done in a community that reflect shared values.” 

Now that he has graduated from UNC MPA, Powell aims to continue to leverage the knowledge he learned in the program to improve the outcomes of his public service—both at work and at home. 

“I will continue to learn and grow as much as I can with Wake County. I also plan to become more civically engaged in Durham, where I live.” 

Giving advice to prospective and incoming students to the program, Powell reiterated the importance of creating far-reaching and diverse relationships—both in the program and out. He sees the opportunity to build strong bonds across the UNC campus as a unique advantage of the program.  

“Invest in the friendships and community you make during this chapter of life. Some of those will come from the built-in community of your cohort, which can be an awesome experience, but they may also come from somewhere else on campus,” he said. “Among many other things, it’s what sets this program apart.” 

 

 

Charles Rocci (’24) 

Charles Rocci currently serves as the planning administrator for the Town of Pine Knoll Shores. In his role, he administers town, state, and federal requirements for land use planning and economic development in the town. He additionally works with community stakeholders to develop long-term strategic plans and comprehensive land use plans to drive the decision-making process for future town policies and programs.   

 

As Rocci works to secure a bright future for Pine Knoll Shores, he often finds himself relying on the organizational proficiency he gained from his UNC MPA degree to make both immediate and long-term decisions that are in the best interest of its residents. 

 

“I use my MPA degree to improve processes for the Town to better serve its residents and support its employees,” he said. “In the long term, I would like to use my degree to promote sustainable and equitable development practices in the Coastal North Carolina region, whether that be at the state or local government level.” 

 

In the program, Rocci said he found a renewed appreciation for public service. One specific discussion in class, he said, helped him discover a shared perspective and admiration for public officials among his academic peers. 

 

“I recall the personal mission in vision discussion in the Public Service Leadership course as a very impactful moment for me in the MPA program,” he said. “Along with being able to reflect on my life experience and motivations, which brought me down this path, I was also able to see the unique experiences and motivations of my classmates, which created a similar drive in them. I came out of that discussion with a greater appreciation for those who choose a career in public service and an optimistic perspective for the future of the field.”  

 

 

Jennifer Taylor-Monteagudo Mora (’24) 

 

 Jennifer Taylor-Moneagudo Mora began the UNC MPA program in fall 2020, completing coursework virtually while working full time. As she completed her public administration studies, she found a newfound appreciation for public service and decided to make a significant career change—moving from working in education to local government.  

 

It was a choice that paid off. Taylor-Moneagudo Mora now works as a budget and policy analyst for the City of Richmond, VA. In this position, she works with a team to create the annual fiscal plan for the city. In addition, she analyzes proposed state legislation and determine if and how much said legislation will have a fiscal impact on the city. 

 

After completing the program this past spring, Taylor-Moneagudo Mora plans to continue in her current role, but to use the skills and theory she learned in at UNC MPA to eventually rise in the local government field into a management position. 

 

With real world experience working in local government management under her belt, Taylor-Moneagudo Mora knows the problems governments encounter are not simple to solve—but still feels prepared to address them. She credits her UNC MPA degree with preparing her to tackle complex public sector challenges. 

 

“I have become comfortable with the fact there may not be an easy solution and there is likely someone with deeper knowledge on a topic at hand,” she said. “I have learned to embrace discomfort because it helps me to grow personally and professionally.” 

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