Getting to know our new student blogger better – hi, again Stephen!

Q:  What has been the most surprising thing about being back in school? 

A: The most surprising thing back at school has been … me! After I finished my undergrad degree, I swore that was the last formal education program I would do. Now 6 years later, I realize I didn’t appreciate the things that higher education offers, such as open-minded discussions, a constant stream of new and exciting stimuli through movies, readings, and class discussions, and the spirit of potential that permeates campus. I recently attended my first on campus class at UNC (online student, hah) in August and I was surprised to realize I really missed that feeling of people and resources set aside just to learn and grow.  

Q: How has your perception about the MPA changed since starting? 

A: I chose the MPA@UNC program because I knew I needed a professional degree, and I wanted a program which would carry weight and respect in my area and field of study. I came into the program knowing this would be hard work, but that it would be a degree worth earning. Since Jan (when I started) I am just starting to learn all the other things UNC offers aside from the rigorous and respected curriculum; the opportunities. With the mentor program, the extracurricular discussion groups, and engaged faculty and staff, I truly am learning that this program is really shaping me and supporting me in my journey to become a better leader.  

Q: What has required the most adjustment since being back in school?  

A: The last time I was in school I worked a couple days a week at a coffee shop, and took a full course load on my days off. This time around I’m working Monday through Friday and taking classes in the evening, so that has been a shift in my scholastic experience. Giving up my personal time in the evenings and some weekend hours has certainly been an adjustment.  

Q: What classes are you enrolled in this Fall?  

A: This semester I’m taking PUBA 710 – Organizational Theory and PUBA 719 Public Administration Analysis and Evaluation 1. Organizational Theory has been interesting because I’ve been able to see how the social mindsets of generations have influenced theories about productivity and it’s giving me a sense of how contemporary generation’s values and mindsets may help me to create the type of work environments they prefer. Analysis and Evaluation has been heavy reading, but I’m really enjoying learning about the academic case study and research process in a formal process. Research has always been an implied skill with other classes, but discussing the process in a formal setting is helping me fill in the cracks for the habits I developed in my undergrad days.   

Q: Do you have a favorite moment of the program so far?  

A: My favorite moment so far, is a bit of a culmination moment. In April a few students put together a meeting with other MPA students interested in pursuing Arts related careers. I was able to attend the conversation, and I reached out to the three students who organized it to thank them for putting it together. In August I attended my first on campus class and when I walked into the room I saw so many students I knew already! There were classmates from the several classes I’ve taken online and even a couple of the student organizers from the Arts Conversation. It was a small thing, but it really solidified my feelings and experiences at UNC so far, and it was a nice way of realizing, this really is where I belong.