Some of our students gathered in person for the annual Bureaucrat’s Ball.

Hi Everyone!

It is an exciting time in the UNC MPA program! This is the final week of classes, which means the second-year student are about to graduate and the first-year students will begin their Professional Work Experiences (PWEs) very soon. The last week of classes are always busy. All semester-long projects and papers are due while preparing for final exams, or in the case of second-year students, applying and interviewing for jobs. It is a lot to manage, and we have learned the value of resilience and persistence through the program.

If you have been keeping up with the blogs, you may be curious about the results of the Portfolio and final Oral Examinations. If you are a first-time MPA Matters blog reader, the Portfolio and Oral Examination are the thesis equivalents for the MPA program. The second-year students spent the semester distilling major lessons learned throughout the MPA program. The Portfolio was evaluated by a committee of three faculty members. The committee members provided feedback and granted the student the opportunity to defend their Portfolio in front of the committee. The defense portion is called the Oral Examination. For the residential students, all passed both stages, which means we are officially allowed to graduate with a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill!

Two years ago, when I first began the MPA program, I experienced tremendous imposter syndrome and questioned if I would be able to see the program through. The journey seemed tough, and I had not yet fully discovered the tenacity that existed within me. I know I experienced and overcame numerous challenges, both personally and academically, while pursuing this degree. I also know that through these challenges, I learned many lessons about myself and others. I learned that I am thankful for the support of many friends and loved ones. I learned that asking for help is acceptable and a sign of strength, as people want to help you succeed. I learned that failure is not inherently bad, but rather an opportunity for growth. Finally, I learned that even during stressful times we can do hard things and should celebrate each win!

During a typical year, the second-year students would be preparing to participate in a public celebration of a two-year win in the making. For the past two MPA cohorts, the graduation ceremony honoring all the hard work of both residential and online students alike has been interrupted by the pandemic. Last year around this time, my cohort was hopeful that the situation would be different by the time our graduation arrived. We were hopeful to share one last memory together in person as the MPA Class of 2021 before we headed into the workforce.

There is a sadness in knowing that the tradition of an in-person hooding and individual graduation ceremony has been interrupted once again. There is also hope and joy in knowing that everything we have experienced in the past year and a half has prepared us for this moment— and I do not just mean our expertise in operating Zoom. Rather, I am reflecting on our creative abilities and dedication to uplifting and celebrating each other with intentionality, even through all the challenges we have experienced. While a virtual graduation ceremony is not how we expected to conclude our experience, each MPA student has earned their time in the spotlight! I am looking forward to the opportunity to express how proud I am of each member of my cohort!

Stress Management for Students

Current MPA Student Clay Fleming on a coffee break/hike with pals from his cohort.

Hello again everyone! We are one month away from the end of the semester, which is always a busy and stressful time in the MPA program. The second-year students have submitted their final Portfolios and are preparing for their Oral Examinations while also applying for jobs. The first-year students are finalizing the research papers they have been working on all year while submitting group projects they have been managing throughout the semester.

All of these requirements can be overwhelming and stressful. For this reason, I decided to ask my peers about their stress management habits to see how they are prioritizing their wellbeing. Below are their responses:

I’ve found having a morning routine helpful in managing stress. I like to take a few minutes in the morning (without my phone) to think, set intentions, and just exist before jumping into the chaos of the day. When I wake up on time I also like to start the day with a quick yoga practice. If I have extra time I will scroll through social media. Then, I make a cup of tea to enjoy during the beginning of work or class.
-Valencia Wagner, (2nd year)

I like to take long walks next to the Potomac River and C&O Canal! On days I can’t get out for a walk, I at least try to sit on the porch with some coffee or kombucha and enjoy the sunshine for a bit. Being outside always helps with my stress levels. That and napping!
-Mira Singhal (2nd year)

Working out, playing basketball, reading, trying to get outside as much as possible.
-Sam Ingalls (1st year)

One of the biggest ways I have managed stress is to make running a daily habit. Carolina North Forest is a wonderful space in Chapel Hill with fabulous trails, which I have made great use of. Running has helped me be intentional about a stepping away from my computer, sticking to schedule, and taking a much-needed break. I also find when I run I am hydrating more, eating healthier, and sleeping better- all aspects that I can neglect when I don’t properly manage my stress. Even if running isn’t your thing, getting outside and moving your body for just 30 minutes a day can make a big impact. Do it- I know you can!
-Laura Robinson (2nd year)

I’ve found that doing things that allow me to tap into my creativity has been really helpful in managing stress — especially things where I’m working with my hands and can be away from screens. I’ve been making polymer clay earrings, and it’s been a really wonderful way to unplug and do something just for myself.
-Kathryn Paquet (2nd year)

Taking a lot of walks, listening to true crime and comedy podcasts, and trying new recipes.
-Maggie Bailey (3rd year, dual-degree student)

New fun podcasts, different shows, trying new recipes, changing up my music tastes!
-Hallee Haygood (3rd year, dual-degree student)

My stress management mainly revolves around taking my dog for long walks and taking her to the dog park. For me, it just makes me stop thinking about my stress and bringing my attention to the present. Other than that, I am a believer in Netflixing. When I am stressed, I like to watch shows that will make me laugh and are not too serious or intense. Just lighthearted content. When I am extremely stressed I combine Netflix with intense cleaning and organizing (even if it is 11 at night).

When I get stressed out I will do whatever assignment is stressing me out! Putting it off just makes me more stressed.
-Chrisy Hayden (1st year)

Morning meditation and yoga; Weekend hikes in Pisgah National Forest
-Macie Rouse (1st year)

I prioritize social and personal time doing things I enjoy, giving me a brief escape and mental reset. If I’m having a really bad day and have a lot of work but am really stressed, I’ll take two hours to go on a walk and facetime a friend, because nothing productive comes from an anxiety ridden mind.

Definitely through exercise and what I like to refer to as “depression baking” which is what I do when I feel like things are too out of my control and I need to narrow my focus
-Mallory Verez (1st year)

Working out and yoga!
-Ansley Birchmore (1st year)

Identifying stress management strategies and activities is a crucial step to prioritizing wellbeing during overwhelming situations. I am very proud of my peers for knowing how they can best manage stress so they can regain their focus. It appears that some form of exercise and enjoying the outdoors is a common thread amongst my cohorts. My practice is very much the same.

Going on bike rides and long walks with my partner has helped me disconnect from my phone, email, and schoolwork to give me some time to be present. I also enjoy calling a friend and catching up on life so I can maintain some of my social needs. Additionally, sometimes I just need one lazy day where I binge watch a tv show, have a movie marathon, or play board games all day to really give myself some time away from what is causing the undue stress.

I hope everyone who reads this is considering ways to manage stress. Hopefully, you already have some strategies that you currently practice when you are in troubling times. If not, I hope this blog provided some motivation and ideas for various ways to prioritize your wellbeing.

A Year of a Pandemic

Hello Everyone!

I hope you are all doing well! This time last year was a weird time for my cohort and many other students. We had just received an update from the University that our Spring Break was being extended by a week so faculty members could transition to teaching online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Looking back on the transition, I remember it was challenging for everyone in my cohort. We were confused by all the changes, as we switched to an online platform most of us had never used before. We were scared because of the pandemic and the constant sorrow surrounding the news updates as cases and deaths began to rise. A lot of us were lonely because we lived by ourselves near campus and our families weren’t always nearby. Our only interactions with others occurred through Zoom.

We are officially a year into online learning, and we have not shared a physical space with my cohort since last March. I miss the conversations we shared during lunch where we connected on more personal levels. I miss cracking jokes with my peers between— and maybe also during— classes as this always made our time more interesting. I also miss the ease of support that comes with interacting with your friends every day.

I know our experience isn’t exactly unique. Many other individuals experienced similar feelings during this uncertain time. One thing I am very proud of is how well my cohort adjusted. While our enthusiasm was affected by the pandemic, we were able to seek new ways to support each other. We held virtual happy-hours and movie and game nights to ensure we could all interact outside of a Zoom class.

One time, we all decided to surprise Dr. Maureen Berner during her class by wearing hats. Each of us entered the Zoom session wearing a hat that was either silly or brought us the most joy. It was our attempt to continue making class fun for everyone, including Dr. Berner. She even surprised us with a silly hat as well.

Additionally, we were all still seeking and confirming Professional Work Experiences during this time while maintaining the heavy academic lift associated with the first-year spring semester. Our motivation for school was tested. Yet, we persisted. Now, we have been online for a year and it has become part of our typical routine. We persevered through the challenges and learned from our experiences and we are better for it.

I feel very fortunate to have made such tremendous and supportive friends through this program. These individuals are strong, compassionate, intelligent, and hardworking. They face challenges with poise, creativity, tenacity. Each individual is going to be an excellent public service leader.

Job Search

Hi Everyone,

Is it just me or has February felt like the longest month of the year so far? Anyway, in this blog post, I want to share some insight into what students are experiencing in the MPA program right now. For the majority of us— first and second years alike— we are engaging in the fun and challenging process of job searching.

Right now, the first-year students are dedicating a substantial amount of their time to securing a Professional Work Experience (PWE). For those who are unfamiliar, a PWE is the program’s equivalent to an internship. It is a practical component of the program, where students work as full-time public administrators for a summer. Some PWE opportunities even accept students to continue working for the following year.

Searching for a PWE is an exciting and nerve-racking time for students. They are interviewing almost every week for a position but will eventually land a job that presents a new learning opportunity. One first-year student mentioned, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to apply the skills I’ve gained from my first year in the program toward my PWE.” It is interesting to see the knowledge we accumulate throughout the year playout in real time while working. Anything from actionable feedback to analyzing the organization from Bolman and Deal’s four frames can and will make an appearance.

However, since interviewing is challenging, my advice for current and future students attempting to secure a PWE is to trust the process and know your worth. Rejections will happen and they can hurt. It is okay to feel sad about a rejection. However, it is unacceptable to let that rejection define you and keep you from pursuing opportunities that excite you and help you grow! You are valid, valued, and will land a PWE that will provide many educational opportunities!

As for the second-year students, we are still working to complete our Portfolios and many of us have been applying to jobs regularly. Many of us have felt challenged in this process, especially with COVID 19 impacts. However, the challenges have not overpowered our excitement to showcase our knowledge and skillsets both in interviews and when we accept the job of our dreams.

We are also taking the time to celebrate our friends for their successes in the job search. We are very proud of Shakera Vaughan for landing a job with the Housing and Community Department in the Town of Chapel Hill, working as the Community Connections Coordinator. Additionally, a few members in my cohort have been accepted as finalists for ICMA’s Local Government Management Fellowship, which is a thrilling way for these individuals to start their local government career. As a collective, the second-year cohort is very proud of these successes and we look forward to many more. I hope to continue sharing more success stories in the near future.

My Final Semester


Back to work with my first peer portfolio review meeting of the semester.

Hello everyone!

Welcome back to my first blog post after an extended—and much needed—winter break. I used this break to rest, relax, and create a solid separation between school, since I know this spring semester will be busy. To ensure I was creating this separation, I enjoyed a lot of time doing things that are not related to school.

One of my favorite hobbies is watching movies, and this break provided plenty of time to enjoy some new and old favorites. I am a massive Harry Potter fan, so a winter break without a HP movie marathon is not a break at all. Additionally, I watched 16 Marvel movies in one week because my partner had never seen any of them. I grew up watching the Marvel movies in theaters as they were released, so this was a wonderful walk with nostalgia. A new movie that I found particularly fascinating was Disney’s Soul. The movie was a refreshing reminder to reflect and pursue your passion and purpose.

Additionally, I finally had time to read a few books for pleasure—once again, not related to school. Over the break, the first book I finished was Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol. This book provided excellent strategies to think creatively and problem solve to ensure success in your work. Another novel I completed was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which delivered a thought-provoking and philosophical outlook on life and the choices we make. The last book I finished was Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. The stories from her life are absolutely thrilling and engaging and offer a new perspective on the importance of education. I highly recommend all three.

While I really enjoyed my break and all of the free time that came with it, I’m glad to get back to work and continue learning. This semester is especially exciting, since it is my last one and I will be graduating in May! (I know you are all cheering with excitement and wishing me an enthusiastic “congratulations,” so thank you!) All of the classes I have enrolled in this semester offer new skillsets that I have been wanting to develop, which really excites me and motivates me to finish strong.

The last semester also brings the inevitable portfolio and oral exam. Much like Harry and friends and the Avengers, my cohort and I are facing our final battles in the MPA program. We have quickly realized the immensity of the work involved in defeating this monstrous final assessment. It is a massive undertaking. However, as I have been reflecting on the material from my classes, it is amazing and refreshing to see how much I, and my peers, have learned. I want to be clear, though; the process is not a pleasurable flight on a Nimbus 2000 above the Hogwarts grounds. Nevertheless, the outcome will be worth the struggle when I can finally begin working as a full-time public administrator!

Throughout the remainder of my time writing blog posts, I am excited to keep you updated on the portfolio process as well as other happenings within the MPA program. I hope you continue to follow along.

MPA Immersion 2020 – Diversity and Inclusion in Public Administration


2020 MPA Immersion (held virtually)


Over the weekend, online and residential UNC MPA students came together virtually to spend two days together learning how to navigate diverse perspectives as public administrators. School of Government and MPA Program faculty member, Professor Leisha DeHart-Davis, delivered a crucial lecture on diversity, equity, and inclusion for those who participated.

The course began with each person reading a novel that was written from a perspective different than their own. I chose to read Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson, as I wanted to learn more about the experience of a black man in the United States. Dyson is an academic, activist, and a minister. Hearing his perspective on whiteness and how it continually impacts people of color is an treasured educational opportunity.

Before reading the book, we were asked to write a short summary of what we thought the novel was going to be about, including values and beliefs of the author. Once we finished, we were asked to revisit our initial assumptions to see if they aligned. This assignment gave us our first opportunity to listen to and empathize with a person who has experienced the world in a differently than ourselves. Reflecting on the differences and similarities set us up well for the two full days of class.

The first day focused on understanding and recognizing implicit biases, so each of us can continually dismantle them as we progress through our life and careers. Much of the conversation stemmed from theories of recognizing implicit bias and practical approaches to addressing them in ourselves and organizations. We also discussed the consequences of when biases go undressed and the impact it can have on our work in the public sector and the people we serve.

On the second day, the class took a deep dive into discussing individual identities. An important aspect of this conversation centered around understanding the hurtful impact of making assumptions based on peoples’ identities. Additionally, when a person is speaking from their specific identity and others do not listen or invalidate their experience, this can create a more challenging atmosphere for success.

Through this class, I learned the importance of taking the time to analyze oneself to discern the impact one can have on the wellbeing of others. As an individual pursuing a career within the public sector, carrying the lessons from this class is crucial to ensuring that I am serving people equitably. I have a responsibility to understand that everyone experiences the world a little differently and that is okay. I must ensure that I am doing my part as a public servant to promote inclusion in all spaces and remain empathetic to the needs of others.

During the final reflection as a class, many people praised the class content and suggested that it be regularly offered as part of the curriculum. As current and future public administrators, we are called to ensure equity in our work and inclusion to help those who need the services provided by public servants. Professor DeHart-Davis’s course was a clear demonstration of why equity is a core value of Public Administration.

A Salute to a Legacy of Public Administration

This weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling to our nation’s capital city for a few days. While in Washington D.C., I toured the monuments honoring historical figures and events and gazed at the many important buildings that offer space for decision-makers.


The most impactful moment of the trip was paying my respects to the former Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her casket was on display for public viewing on the steps of the Supreme Court building. The line to walk up the steps for a closer viewing weaved back and forth along First Street for a few blocks.


Across the street from the Supreme Court building, many individuals left flowers, gifts, notes, and signs expressing their gratitude for her legacy and the difference she made in their life. While the emotions of the environment still had an element of sorrow, reading the notes and experiencing the incredible outpour of love left me with hope.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life to public service. She was motivated by her passion of fighting and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable. In our MPA classes, we discuss the power of public service motivation. RBG’s life and legacy is a testament to that power.


Welcome to our new ‘On-campus’ Class of 2022

1st year orientation
Our 1st year residential students gather for a socially distanced orientation.

Hi again,

With the beginning of a new academic year comes new experiences and people. This is particularly true for the MPA program’s first-year ‘residential’ students (residential being in quotation marks due to the ongoing pandemic which is keeping us from being truly in-person), which is why I wanted to take some time to introduce you to this cohort.

The incoming class is one of the largest and most diverse that the residential program has welcomed in years, with 28 students joining UNC’s MPA network exemplifying various academic backgrounds and career interests. The cohort is representing 18 different undergraduate institutions including, UNC-Asheville, N.C. State University, Vanderbilt, Clemson, University of Kansas, and others. To accompany these undergraduate institutions, these individuals are bringing a wide variety of academic backgrounds to the classroom with undergraduate degrees in Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Sport and Entertainment Management, Civil Engineering, Physics, Philosophy, and more.

While there is a large number of students joining the program from various undergraduate universities, another interesting characteristic of this class is that it contains our largest number of graduates from UNC-Chapel Hill. We have 9 students who are continuing their time as a Tar Heel in this cohort. Among the nine, 3 students are pursuing the Environmental dual degree that UNC offers. In looking at North Carolina as a whole, there are 12 additional students continuing their education within the program after receiving their undergraduate degree from an in-state institution.

Along with the rich amount of in-state representation in this cohort, there is significant number of students welcomed to the program from outside of North Carolina. Roughly a third of this cohort consists of out-of-state students. These individuals are bringing their passions from states such as Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

While this semester looks a little different due to COVID-19, we are so proud of how well the first-year students are transitioning into this virtual learning environment. With most of the students averaging over three years of professional experience already, the passion and motivation for public service is tangible among this cohort. We are very happy to have these students providing insight from their experiences to make this program more enriching.

On behalf of the MPA Class of 2021, I would like to officially welcome each student of the first-year cohort to Carolina MPA. We are looking forward to providing support and getting to know each of you as we continue this year together! Remember that you have a purpose for being in this program, so let your values and passions guide you and you will make an impact!

A New Student Blogger!

Hi everyone!

My name is Clay Fleming and I am a second-year student in the residential MPA program here at the UNC School of Government. As we continue these blogs, I hope to provide a closer look at the student experience within the program, as well as offer some insight into the incredible work others with a MPA degree are accomplishing in their communities. In my first blog, I am going to share a little about myself and the path I took to arrive here at UNC.


My journey to the MPA program was different but not too out of the ordinary. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree at Appalachian State University, I was heavily involved in a community service organization called Appalachian & the Community Together (ACT). In this organization, I helped provide community volunteer opportunities to students at Appalachian State as well as lead service trips to different communities across the country. Through my involvement, I began to realize I have a passion for serving communities.


This realization was made even clearer during my senior year, when I had the opportunity to lead a community service trip to San Francisco. The group I was leading worked with three non-profits in the Bay Area, all of which discussed working with local government to create ordinances that were mutually beneficial for the non-profit and San Francisco residents. Through witnessing the direct impact these partnerships had on the community, I realized I wanted this to be my career. The next day, I found UNC’s MPA website, read about the program’s focus on both non-profits and local government and I was sold!


Once I started the residential program last fall, I began to see all of the different avenues this degree could take me. Prior to starting the MPA degree, I never gave much thought to working in local government as a career, as I was set on working for a non-profit. However, with local government being the strong point of the program, my interests were ignited. Over the summer, I had my first authentic exposure to life working in a municipality through my Professional Work Experience (PWE) with the Town of Holly Springs. While interning there, it was incredible to see the inner workings of the government body to support residents, especially during COVID-19.


Ultimately with my MPA degree, I hope to create positive social change in the world that includes an emphasis on social equity. Whether my career leads me to local government or the non-profit sphere, I want to continue my passion for strengthening communities and serving people. I am very thankful for the opportunity to pursue this career and the support this program offers to me and my peers. I look forward to regularly updating you on various topics and happenings within public administration.