My journey to an MPA…

Welcome & welcome back! 

I am back with the MPA Matters blog! Since the start of the new academic year, I have taken on a new role as the Admissions Research Assistant. I am beyond excited to help recruit the best and the brightest to our MPA program! To kick off my new role, I figured that I would share a little bit about my MPA journey…


My name is Courtney Cooper-Lewter. I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. For my undergraduate degree, I attended the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Now that I am here at UNC-Chapel Hill, it is safe to say that I have attended both “Carolinas.” In undergrad, I pursued a double major in Spanish and International Studies. Back then, I always thought that I would work in foreign affairs. I was always interested in facilitating conversations about cultural differences and improving global political relationships. It wasn’t until later that I realized that this type of work could actually happen right at home in local government. 

I began my professional career working with the Latinx community here in North Carolina as a case manager for unaccompanied children. This work did not incorporate much of foreign affairs, but it did expose me to different avenues of social work. After a little over a year of working as a case manager, I decided I wanted to pursue a Masters of Social Work degree to gain some leverage for upward mobility. As I applied to MSW programs, I realized that I loved working directly with the community members. I also realized that I did not want to become a licensed clinical therapist. When I envisioned my future, I imagined promoting systems-level change by analyzing policy from an equity lens and improving minority connectedness to institutions of political power. 

That is when I discovered the dual-degree program with Public Administration! It compiled many of the things I loved into a complimenting degree field; I got leadership, government, and policy. The MPA program has taught me foundational principles and values of public administrators, how to navigate local government, and how to frame issues to elected officials. It has also provided me with the skills to lead and facilitate groups, implement and evaluate programs, and how to view issues and solutions from differing perspectives. 

Now, I am in my second year of the MPA program and third year of graduate school. I will graduate with a Masters of Social Work and a Masters of Public Administration in May 2020. I am excited to close out my last academic year by working in UNC MPA Admissions supporting future leaders! In the future, I hope to continue working in local government to improve equity and inclusion across jurisdictions.


I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about me! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about dual-degrees with Social Work or MPA student life. I would love to chat!

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