Checking in on the Network

The last two weeks of work have given me an opportunity to step off campus and go out to different areas of the country to see the Carolina MPA in action.  I visited Atlanta and D.C. for Happy Hour Hubs where we invite our alumni out for an evening together to network with each other and tell us about what they’re doing.  And let me tell you, I know alumni networking occurs because I see or hear about it happening every day in NC with our ‘locals’ but to see it happening for real in two other major cities in the United States was really special. 

I left feeling humbled by the work of our alumni, the positivity with which they reflect on the education they received at UNC, and amazement at the applicability of the MPA degree to a variety of positions and fields.  The following is a recap of the things I heard, and saw at these events:

  • The strength of the on-campus cohort model, it is apparent people aren’t just classmates, they are friends. They attend each other’s weddings, talk on a continual basis, have fun, and help each other in their careers.  There are stories that go well beyond their 2 years in school.
  • They know us by name and feel connected to the program. I talked to many people who refer to their former professors by name because they are colleagues now.  They cared to ask about current student demographics, initiatives we are taking toward diversity and future growth.
  • They are passionate about leadership and about what they learned in the program. I talked to one alum who mentioned he recently moved into the private sector working as a project manager for a software company.  On his first day, he was told he was hired because of his understanding of leadership.  They had never hired someone with a MPA before, but our alum knew he was right for the role when they asked about leadership – because MPAers truly understand that the bottom line is not always about saving a dollar or making money. It is also about effectively implementing the right team to achieve goals that include making money.
  • The opportunities are boundless. I spoke to an entrepreneur who started her own Environmental Consulting company, an elected official in the State of Georgia General Assembly, someone working for the IRS, and someone who works for the federal government auditing health care and mental health programs that have direct implications on the opioid crisis.
  • I saw exchanges of business cards and plans for having lunch to discuss a potential career move. I heard questions about how to do their job better, conversations of real life issues with advice offering, and felt a real camaraderie among people at the event.

I left feeling even more inspired and proud to be a part of the Carolina MPA family.  Not them though, they already knew it.  I could see they left more certain and more charged than before to go out there and do it well.