This post was written by current student Rachel Werz.
My name is Rachel Werz and I’m a North Carolinian, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and most recently a new mom! I’m in my third year of the online format of the MPA program. After getting my undergraduate degree in International Studies from UNC-Charlotte in 2009, I left the country to backpack through Southeast Asia. After 5 months of backpacking, I got a job teaching English in South Korea, and loved it so much I stayed for about 6 years. I then took my teaching skills to the U.S. Peace Corps, where I served as a teacher trainer in Indonesia. It was there that I found my passion for public service and sustainable development. I also met someone who became my mentor and introduced me to the field of public administration, suggesting it would be a good fit for me. She was right!
I applied for the UNC MPA program with my sights set on work at the federal level, in diplomacy or international development. However, as I’m sure has happened to many before me, the incredible MPA faculty’s expertise on local and state government has shifted my interests. As I enter my third and final year in the program, I am most interested in economic and community development. Through some of my volunteer work in Durham, I have gained experience in community development at the grassroots level. So, when looking for a PWE, I wanted to work for an organization that could offer professional experience in the same field. I reached out to Jamie McCall, a UNC MPA Alum, and the VP of Economic Development Policy at Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF). CSBDF provides financial and technical assistance, as well as policy research to small business owners in underserved communities across the state.
I’m now a research fellow for the Western Women’s Business Center (WWBC), which is a project of Carolina Small Business Development Fund. My first month has flown by! The research I am working on aims to identify gaps in the services provided by us and partner organizations to ensure we are meeting the needs of small business owners in Western North Carolina. Our goal is to strengthen the relationship that we have with small business owners and partner organizations by identifying our strengths and areas that need improvement. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the friendliness of everyone at CSBDF and working on the research project with a small team of fellow interns from UNC. I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead as I learn and grow in this internship!
This post was written by current student Jennifer Taylor-Monteagudo.
As a City of Richmond Mayor’s Fellow, I have had the opportunity to learn the how many of the UNC MPA courses correlate in a government entity. My internship in the Treasurer’s Office, an elected official, has enhanced my connection to various stakeholders. The unique opportunity has allowed me to work with city residents on the phone, in person, and via social media platforms. The ability to work with elected officials, residents, and city public servants has made knowledge of the organizational structure and effective communication key skills to successfully working with stakeholders at multiple levels within the city.
During the internship I have been afforded the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and efforts by the Treasurer’s Office including the Office of Financial Empowerment and Financial Wellness Wednesday. I have also had exposure to internal processes and how various departments interact to provide select services to residents of Richmond. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests process was of particular interest as governments in general are not known for efficient use of time and these requests are time sensitive. Understanding how the departments work together to obtain requested documents and remain in compliance with the required timeframe for a response has been a valuable lesson on developing and maintaining positive work relationships.
The primary focus of my internship is on assisting with the Office of Financial Empowerment through the Office of the City Treasurer. The Office of Financial Empowerment has a mission to “inspire, encourage, and pursue the high possibilities of potential in others through elimination of financial barriers by “Making Options and Resources Easily Accessible” for all. The office does this by incorporating financial coaching services, providing and promoting financial literacy throughout the city, and partnering with City Agencies to improve service to city residents facing poverty and COVID-19 related financial distress. This aspect of my internship has provided me with exposure on the intricacies of developing an idea to an action within the confines of the government. Aligning the needs of the community with the resources allocated to the department. I have been fortunate to see the partnering of multiple departments that have shared interests in the financial status of residents, combine their separate resources to make a larger impact to better the community.
I was able to contribute towards the creation of financial tools that assist residents in learning to create and execute a budget. In addition I am able to create graphics that are aesthetically appealing to the public but also provide information and resources on how to become more financially empowered. These graphics are posted on social media regularly allowing an element of creativity while maintaining a consciousness of targeted audience. I was also able to use my teaching background to support the brainstorming on how to present and teach financial literacy to city residents. This opportunity allowed for my expertise to bring value and make the development thoughtful to the variety of adult learning styles within the city of Richmond.
So far in this internship experience as a City of Richmond Mayor’s Fellow, I have learned the importance of leadership and how it impacts outcomes for city employees and residents. As I progress through this fellowship, relationships has been a reoccurring theme. The building and development of strong relationships with all City Of Richmond stakeholders has been integral in the success of programs across multiple departments. Understanding the organizational structure and respecting that structure is important in acknowledging and building relationships and getting things accomplished. I am excited to continue to acquire knowledge and connections between the UNC MPA program and the reality of local public service.
This post was written by current student Ben Lasley.
This week marks my 7th week at EPA, and the official mid-point of our PWE. In the past seven weeks, I have worked on upcoming proposals for the oil and gas industry, convened with leaders on wood stove testing methods, and assisted in communication and outreach plans for Ethylene Oxide. In addition to regulatory action, I am conducting a program evaluation for OAQPS’ air quality teacher workshop. These projects and other responsibilities have taught me the incredibly important work our public agencies commit to, to protect human health and the environment.
These PWE responsibilities, as well as informational interviews across the agency, have highlighted different possibilities in being focused in one topic area, or assist in interagency coordination. I have appreciated the ability to witness different aspects and assist in various projects covering air quality.
In addition to working at the EPA, it has been inspiring to witness the agency’s dedication to Pride Month awareness and action. The pride flag was raised for the first time at the agency’s headquarters in D.C, and I’ve been able to attend multiple LGBTQIA+ history and health meetings that have highlighted the intersectional fight for justice in our country. Our administrator, Michael Regan, has been emphatic in the agency’s support and advocacy for their employees and all LGBTQIA+ Americans. Yesterday, I was able to sit in an agency-wide meeting with a white house LGBTQIA+ liaison and learn about their efforts to protect LGBTQIA+ rights, especially in the wake of the Dobbs opinion.
EPA Headquarters in D.C. | Photo by Francis Chung/E&E News
One of the greatest parts of the MPA program has been finding comradery in fellow classmates. This past weekend Valerie Sauer, Danielle Badaki, and I visited Andrea Parra-DeLeon in D.C, where she is a pathways intern with the Department of Transportation. It was wonderful to catch up with friends and explore our nation’s capital.
We also saw the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Emancipation Proclamation. It was awe inspiring to bear witness to these historical documents. While we have come a long way over the last two hundred and forty-six years, we still have tremendous work to be done for justice and equity for all people in this country. Those documents and our current state of affairs reminds us that it is ever more pertinent to commit to public service and collectively face our nation’s challenges, to ensure and enshrine our rights to privacy and other enumerated rights.
Current UNC MPA student Elisabeth Butler writes about her summer work experience with Race for Equity. You can read her first blog post here.
While conducting my Professional Work Experience (PWE) at RACE for Equity, I was recently introduced to a tool developed by RACE for Equity called the Community Engagement Continuum (CEC). The CEC outlines a process for engaging community members in an equitable manner. The CEC focuses on engagement from a racially aware vantage point, and it incorporates aspects of Results-Based Accountability (RBA) and the Groundwater Approach into its methodology. My task in relation to the CEC is to take the lengthy 44-page document explaining the CEC and boil it down to two pages. The two pages will serve as a more easily understandable and accessible handout for clients or partners who are interested in learning about the CEC.
I find the CEC interesting because I feel that it is trying to shed light on a question a lot of organizations are currently grappling with. How do you engage community members in an equitable manner? For decades, experts and those with resources and power have dictated the course and flow of development, but now there are many who have decided including those who are impacted but such decisions have knowledge and perspectives that should be included in the decision-making process. This idea of giving community members a voice seems easy in theory, but it has proved to be challenging to put into practice. One of my supervisors even noted that most clients who are interested in the CEC are only in the initial stages of the process, few organizations actually are or have made it to the later stages. Even though community engagement is easier in theory than practice, I look forward to seeing how organizations overcome current challenges in creating sustainable and equitable community engagement processes.
In addition to discussing the CEC, I also wanted to bring up my experience of working for a completely remote company. Before I accepted the PWE position with RACE for Equity, I thought a completely remote job was ideal. A remote job would allow you to work from any location and is more flexible in work hours in comparison to a typical 9-to-5 job. This is not a critique of RACE for Equity, but, instead, my own realization that in the future I would prefer an in-person or hybrid job. I enjoy the flexibility offered by RACE for Equity in terms of work hours and location, but I feel a completely remote experience hinders some of the comradery and bonding that occurs in in-person jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy working from the comforts of my home, but it would be nice to see my coworkers in-person now and then. It would be nice to know you at least have the opportunity to stop by your coworker’s office or cubicle to socialize or bug then about an email you had sent earlier in the week. As I search for a job in the future, I will keep this realization of mine in mind.
Overall, I have enjoyed my experience with RACE for Equity so far. RACE for Equity has been very mindful about giving me enough work to meet the MPA hour requirement, and I have been introduced to new concepts that I have found interesting. This PWE experience has zoomed by, but I look forward to finishing up my PWE over the next couple of weeks and taking what I have learned from this experience to future jobs.