Introducing the PWE and our MPA Summer Bloggers!

It’s May! And it has been too long since I’ve posted, but we have been doing so much work to get our Class of 2019 graduated. We had a total of 41 MPA students graduate this May, and we are so proud of them. Most of them have jobs already, and they are solidly equipped with the education and skills needed to go out there and lead! Stay tuned for a later post on what some of them are up to.

Another thing that happens in May is the beginning of Professional Work Experience (commonly referred to as the PWE) for our current MPA students. It is similar to an internship except that this really is about leading and managing some sort of project. These PWE’s are higher level opportunities where you will actually be contributing more than answering phones or filing. And each May, we invite a few of our students who will be taking part in their PWE’s to blog about their experience.

Our PWE Coordinator (and UNC MPA grad), the wonderful Susan Austin completed a brief interview with me to give us a little frame of reference for the PWE and our Summer Bloggers. Read on, and follow the blogs which will be posted weekly. They’ll surely give you an idea for how MPA education is put to work.

Cara: What is your role, and how long have you been with the MPA program at UNC?
Susan: My title is Associate Director of Professional Work Experience (PWE) and Alumni Relations. Whew! One of my primary responsibilities is to work with all students on their required PWE. I started working with the MPA program in 2006 after joining the School of Government in 2001. I’m also an alumna – Class of ’97.

Cara: Can you talk about what the Professional Work Experience (PWE) is?
Susan: The PWE is an opportunity for our students to apply their classroom learning in a real-life setting, develop their competencies, and gain additional professional experience. The PWE is always one of the highlights of their time in the program.

Cara: How many MPA students are enrolled in a PWE this summer?
Susan: There are 23 students completing their PWE this summer. 13 with local governments, 4 in state agencies, 1 with the federal government, and 5 in nonprofit organizations. The ratio of students in different sectors varies with the interests of the students in each cohort.

Cara: Please introduce our student bloggers for this summer and what roles they’ll be taking on?
Susan: I’m excited about our summer bloggers! They are:
• Courtney Cooper-Lewter with the Chatham County, NC Manager’s Office
• Micayla Costa with the Urban Institute in Washington, DC
• Brian Farmer with the City of Salisbury, NC Manager’s Office
• Hallee Haygood with the City of Durham, NC Budget & Management Department
• Sydney Lawrence with the US EPA Office of Air Quality Planning Standards, Policy Analysis & Communications in Durham, NC
• Karson Nelson with the NC Department of Public Instruction Superintendent’s Office in Raleigh, NC

Cara: What do you hope our readers gain from our Student bloggers on their PWE experiences?
Susan: This is a great opportunity for readers to understand the scope of career opportunities an MPA degree opens up for our graduates. For those with an interest in public service, learning about the student experiences provides an inside look into the practical work that makes our communities better places to live.

Cara: Where will you be reading the blogs from this summer?
Susan: Ha! Well I read all of them all summer so that will vary. My favorite place will be at the lake.

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