I appreciated that SPEA Connect offers professionals like me the opportunity to obtain course credit for their work experience.
Why did you choose the SPEA Connect MPA program?
I started graduate school at a different university after college but completed only one semester before pursuing a work opportunity. I've wanted to return to graduate school since that time but haven't wanted to pause my career. That's why I was excited to find an online program like SPEA Connect. In addition, I appreciated that SPEA Connect offers professionals like me the opportunity to obtain course credit for their work experience.
I wanted to obtain an MPA to acquire specific quantitative analysis skills; gain a more theoretical understanding of how government agencies and organizations should operate; and learn how to evaluate the financial and programmatic performance of the agencies I care about, such as the EPA.
Did you have any concerns about enrolling in an online program?
I work at a computer most of the day, so I worried that it would be difficult to return to a computer at home after leaving the office. I was right! I've learned that the most efficient way for me to complete my homework is to stay at the office late and power through the material. I also worried that it would be difficult to learn certain topics in an online environment, such as statistics. And it certainly was challenging! I had to learn to be a little more self-reliant in mastering the material while also reaching out to classmates for help when I got stuck.
What has been your best experience as a SPEA Connect student?
I like it when the coursework connects with my professional work and vice versa. For example, my professor recently assigned the class some readings on strategic planning in public and non-profit organizations. The coursework helped inform my own thinking for how to develop a strategic plan for my team in 2018 and how to ensure everyone is bought in to the vision. At the same time, I feel I have a lot to offer my classmates in the online discussions.
Do faculty help you feel like part of a larger community?
SPEA faculty members have an active interest in public affairs and continue to pursue academic research on their topics of choice. That means they are plugged in with some of the top minds thinking about how to tackle the country's most urgent social problems. They are willing to engage with their student - you just have to ask. One of my professors took particular interest in some of my work for his class and connected me with a few of his colleagues in Washington, DC. I then had the opportunity to present this work at a regional conference.