Many roads lead students to a master’s program at the School of Public Affairs. And in turn, the program helps them pave the way –- and sometimes blaze new trails -- to new destinations in their careers.
Over half of SPA grads put their MPAs or MPPs to work in public service after graduation; another 26% and 21% of these degree alumni take jobs in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, respectively. This range of opportunities makes the MPA and MPP leading credentials for ambitious and thoughtful managers and leaders, as well as policy experts.
These degrees also attract students with a diversity of experiences and interests.
Take Erica Herrmann, SPA/MPP '11, who taught English in Cambodia as a Peace Corps volunteer before pursuing a master’s degree in public policy. While the Peace Corps is often a gateway to a career in international development, Herrmann’s experiences with Cambodia’s broken educational system made her want to better understand policy and to how change it for the better.
One year after her graduation from AU, Herrmann is putting policy in action at the Peace Corps’ D.C. headquarters. While her primary duty as program specialist is to help reintegrate returned volunteers, Herrmann has been instrumental in shaping the organization’s forthcoming sexual assault policy.
This policy initiative stems from the 2011 Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act, signed into law after the murder of a 24-year- old volunteer in Benin exposed the agency’s lack of policies protecting whistleblowers and victims of sexual and physical abuse. Drawing from her experiences SPA’s practicum course, Herrmann researched sexual assault policy at various universities, nonprofits and federal agencies and distilled their best practices into a concise policy memo.
“It’s one thing to be able to spew out policy generalities and another to take that knowledge and apply it effectively. That’s what makes SPA stand out. I apply the experience I gained in the classroom everyday here,” said Herrmann.
Lane Teller, SPA/MPA '11, a financial analyst with the Federal Reserve System, used his MPA to move between sectors. An investment banker before coming to SPA, Teller wanted to parlay his private sector experience into government via the MPA’s applied politics concentration. An array of concentrations, tracks within the MPA and MPP programs, grow students’ expertise in areas like nonprofit management, social policy, and public financial management.
The MPA program helped Teller bolster his impressive background in finance with strong management skills. Teller leveraged his program with internships to test the professional waters, namely at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. “Both internships gave me exposure to government service while leveraging my background in financial policy,” said the analyst.
SPA classes also exposed the student to the world of legislative advocacy, which he combined with public administration courses to help him make the transition. Classes like Legal Basis of Public Administration, Education and the American Political System, Taxation, and State and Local Management “all gave me a better understanding of specific policy areas as well as an appreciation for the complexity at each layer of government,” Teller said.
In his second year, Teller published a paper on tax policy in The Public Purpose, an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal showcasing the work of the school’s graduate students.
“SPA’s support for student-led efforts like The Public Purpose is another selling point for the program,” he concluded. “I left the program with greatly enhanced writing and research skills as a result of opportunities like this.”
Patrick Lucey, SPA/MPP '11, came to the MPP program wanting to learn the nuts and bolts of policymaking, from budgeting to program analysis. While at SPA, he completed research fellowships at Free Press and the Federal Communications Commission that ignited a passion in internet policy.
After a post-graduation stint at a firm that advises local governments and public sector clients on broadband infrastructure issues, Lucey joined a think tank called the New America Foundation, where he researches and writes on topics related to broadband deployment policies to “keep the internet a free and open platform,” he said.
Like Herrmann and Teller, Lucey regularly uses the tools he honed in his graduate program, from organizational analysis to program evaluation.
"When evaluating the success or failure of a digital literacy program, it’s important to make sure you use the right metrics,” said Lucey. “That’s something I learned at SPA and use almost on a daily basis.”