Nice to Meet You!

Hello! My name is Josh Rosenstein and I am a second year MPA student at the UNC School of Government. I’m excited to share my student experience with you, as well as to explore all the cool and amazing things that people are doing out in the real world with an MPA degree. In my first blog, I’m going to tell you a little about myself and how I got here.

I took a strange and interesting path into this degree program. I studied Cultural Anthropology and History at the University of Georgia. While in Athens, I was very involved in the music scene and volunteered as an organizer around higher education and immigration issues. After graduating, I moved to western North Carolina and worked for a nonprofit, resident school with an environmental focus. I was a dorm parent, outdoor leader, and taught music and history. During the summers, I ran teen leadership programs at summer camps in western North Carolina and the Bay Area of California. I then decided to focus on my creative ambitions in music and comedy while working as hotel front-desk agent and a door-to-door fundraiser for an environmental non-profit in Asheville. I also toured with some friends in Australia as a stand-up comedian and when I got back, eventually settled in Chapel Hill looking for something new.

I quickly found myself hosting a local open mic at a place called Zog’s on Henderson Street. I fell in love with running the show, creating a space for talented people to get a chance to hone their skills. The bar’s owner, Mandey Brown, is an artist and was serving on the Town’s Cultural Arts Commission (you may have seen her in local media recently for turning her business into an impromptu Hurricane Florence Supply Donation Center). The Commission was recruiting new members and she encouraged me to apply.

Above are photos of me with a recent public art project at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

I joined the Commission in 2015, and got so much out of the work. I deeply enjoyed learning about the inner-workings of local government. While working on the Cultural Arts Master Plan, something clicked (what many MPA professors would refer to technically as an “a-ha moment”). I realized we were doing the same thing on the Commission as with open mic: helping create spaces for artists to engage with their communities. I starting talking to folks about careers in public art and realized I could do this for a living, not just as a hobby or a volunteer. I knew I wanted to work in a local or state government arts office or a non-profit. I knew I needed to know more about things like public and non-profit budgeting, human resources, program evaluation, and leadership and management skills.

With all that in my head, I went to an Open House for the MPA program and knew it was right for me. Everyone in my cohort has his or her own interesting journey taken to be here. Some of us want to run non-profits. Some want to be city managers or budget analysts. Others want to work for the federal government or in international policy. What binds all of us together is a desire to serve the public. Beyond that, we are in the program to gain technical skills and master the competencies required to serve the public well. We want to be folks who change organizations for the better and help fulfill the noble mission to make people’s lives better.