UNC MPA Student Jennifer Taylor-Moneagudo Mora returns home to Virginia for a PWE with the Mayor’s office in the City of Richmond.

This post was written by current UNC MPA student Jennifer Taylor-Monteagudo Mora.

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Hello All!

My name is Jennifer Taylor-Monteagudo Mora. I am from Prince George, Virginia and graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009 with a Bachelors degree in Political Science with a concentration in Government and Public Affairs. Upon graduation I held many jobs due to the economic situation the country was in during that time.

UNC MPA student Jennifer Taylor-Monteagudo Mora



I ultimately found myself teaching in Houston, Texas where my passion to help communities on a local level flourished. In this position I taught elementary reading, writing, and social studies. After one year teaching it was brought to my attention that there was a high level of English language learners in our school that were not properly serviced because many teachers were unable to pass the certification exam for this specialty. I studied over the summer and passed that exam. This proved to be a turning point and where my educational expertise began to focus on immigrant communities and providing quality education to truly diverse communities while respecting and embracing cultural differences.

In this role I was able to represent my school district for large conferences on English Language Acquisition and began my path to educating educators on how to bridge the gaps for students that speak other languages. Fast forward five years and I returned to my home state of Virginia. In Virginia while still teaching I began to work with the English as a Second Language (ESL) department to reach out to parents and inform them on the United States educational system. This is where I began to flourish. I reignited my love for community outreach, combined with my love of education and learning. While my love to work with children and their families still exists, my passion for the community on a more wholistic level was not being completely fulfilled.

I decided to finally apply go back to school to obtain my masters degree. I knew I did not want to get a degree in education. I did not want to limit my community impact to a school or school district, I wanted to improve the community for everyone. I began my MPA at Chapel Hill in Fall 2020. This program was perfect for me, it allowed me to continue to work fulltime and still pursue my educational ambitions. The program has proven to be very interactive even on the virtual platform with amazing classmates and professors that keep that sense of a close community even when people are on different coasts.

I have been afforded this wonderful opportunity to participate in the City of Richmond Mayor’s Fellows Internship as my Professional Work Experience component of the MPA program. In this internship I am working with the City Treasurer on multiple tasks and a project. I am excited about this Professional Work Experience (PWE) as it is a great opportunity to learn new skills and build on the foundation that I have already developed in my career. My mentor is highly energetic and passionate about serving her constituents. I look forward to all of the knowledge she is able to give through this experience. The merging of working with elected officials, the public, and public servants is a perfect mixture of the reality of working in local government and I am excited to embrace the experience.

Student Ben Lasley reflects on equality, justice, and commradery through his experiences this summer

This post was written by current student Ben Lasley.


Hi Everyone!

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.

https://images.app.goo.gl/mGaVTsSAd71cnVGU8

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 student Delaney King discusses the projects she has underway at the NC Department of Environmental Quality

This post was written by current student Delaney King. 

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When the spring semester began, I started applying for a wide array of Professional Work Experience opportunities, including several suggested by the UNC MPA program. The program has a relationship with the Recycling and Materials Management Section (RMMS) at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and helped me apply for a position directly with the section. Although I did not know specifically what RMMS does, I was interested in working on environmental projects for DEQ. I tried to learn as much as I could about RMMS before my interview, but in the end, the most valuable resource was the staff themselves. I asked several questions about the job and work environment to the point where I felt like I was the one interviewing staff. Luckily, they were incredibly open, patient, and kind. In fact, a UNC MPA alumna who graduated two years before helped interview me and explained how I could use my MPA coursework in the position and offered me advice about my final year in the program. A few weeks later, I found out that I received a summer internship along with one of my classmates, Elise Traywick.

During the interview I learned I would help RMMS establish a food waste reduction program, and hearing that, I knew I would love this internship! Growing up in California, these topics were always a part of my life. My family started composting before I was born, and I was fortunate to go through a school system with access to a garden program and ecoliteracy classes. I immediately knew the internship was an amazing opportunity to create something from scratch and have a long-term impact on an issue I’m already interested in!

The primary focus of my internship is to assist the new and wonderful Organics Recycling Specialist create resources for DEQ’s Use the Food NC initiative including informational documents, a social media toolkit, and website. We are also planning a stakeholder meeting for the fall to launch the campaign and receive feedback from passionate stakeholders about how DEQ can best help them reduce food waste. Simultaneously, I am visiting recycling sites across the state with staff to learn more about the field and maintain relationships with businesses, local governments, and non-profit organizations. If that isn’t enough, I am also providing additional support to staff on a variety of projects, like the Recycling Markets Directory, and taking over projects like the annual recycling program survey for colleges and universities. I love to stay busy!

Environmental policy and food waste will be tackled by Delaney King in her Professional Work Expereince at the Department of Enviornmental Quality

This post was written by current MPA student Delaney King.

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My name is Delaney King, and I am currently an MPA student an UNC Chapel Hill. Before enrolling in the MPA program, I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2020 with a major in Political Science, concentrating in American Politics and Environmental Policy, and a minor in History.


Work experiences in high school and college, like assisting my congressman with veteran and military casework, taught me well-intentioned policies often fail those they are meant to help because of red-tape, inefficient organizations, poor intergovernmental relations, etc. I began to realize that this was less an issue of the policies and more an issue of administration. This realization was underscored, bolded, italicized, and typed in ALL CAPS as I witnessed the disastrous effects poor administration can have on an entire country during the COVID-19 pandemic. My undergraduate studies primarily focused on public policy development and less about how to administer policy or how to avoid poor administration. Then, I graduated during the first stages of the pandemic, and suddenly, I had more questions but no longer a venue to ask them.


When deciding what I wanted to do next, I reflected that I enjoy learning about and working in policy development, but my work could be more impactful by insuring well thought out policies are equally well-implemented. *Cue the MPA program*


I recently completed my first year, and I am confident I already have a far better idea of how organizations can ensure efficient, effective, and equitable service delivery. I am excited to continue learning more next year, but in the meantime, I am gaining real world experience and applying what I learned during my Professional Work Experience (PWE). This summer I am working as a Research and Program Assistant for the Recycling and Materials Management Section at the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Specifically, I am helping create materials and organize a stakeholder meeting to expand DEQ’s food waste reduction efforts. I am beyond excited to work within my field of interest –environmental policy–, learn from individuals with years of experience, and speak with people and institutions who have the capacity to help make a difference.

UNC MPA Student Elisabeth Butler utilizes DEI theory in her summer work with RACE for Equity

This post was written by UNC MPA current student Elisabeth Butler.
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My name is Elisabeth Butler, I am from Charlotte, NC, and I studied environmental science at UNC Chapel Hill for undergrad. In undergrad, I gravitated toward urban planning, and I was particularly interested in transportation and sustainability. However, after taking a couple of planning classes, I wasn’t quite sure if it was the right fit for me. Later on, I learned more about local government, and I decided that the more general Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree better suited my interests than a Master of Urban Planning.



I still decided to work for a year because I wanted to have some time and space to think before I jumped right into graduate school. During the gap year, I discovered that an MPA degree was critical to my entry into local government and overall very helpful to getting a job in the public sector, so I decided to apply for graduate school. I ended up selecting the MPA program at UNC Chapel Hill because I was already familiar with the quality of education provided by the university, and I was impressed by the network of alumni and connections the program had in North Carolina. I am also particularly interested in community engagement, and the program had a variety of courses that would allow me to further explore this particular area of interest.

For my Professional Work Experience (PWE), I am working for a consulting company called RACE for Equity, LLC. The company’s name, RACE for Equity, stands for Results Achieved through Community Engagement for Equity. I decided to conduct my PWE with RACE for Equity because I would like to work in community engagement in the near future. I was also intrigued by the company’s focus on using an equity lens to approach community engagement. I am still fairly new to the world of community engagement, given that my background is in environmental science, so RACE for Equity seemed like a great way to gain experience in my field of interest.



RACE for Equity is a fairly small and completely remote company, so I have been spending a fair amount of time in Zoom meetings and corresponding with my teammates via email. The company’s unique selling point is that it specializes in Results-Based Accountability (RBA), a framework based on data-driven practices. In my mind, RBA attempts to combine systems thinking and performance measurement into one framework. I see the value of RBA, but I have yet to be convinced that this loosely described framework should be considered a best practice in the consulting world.

In addition to the RBA framework, RACE for Equity uses the Groundwater Approach as a foundational theory of practice. The groundwater metaphor is designed to help people internalize and gain awareness of the racially structured society we currently live in. I found the groundwater metaphor as a very helpful and easy to understand metaphor in terms of how racially created structures leads to inequities and injustices along racial divides. I see how the systems thinking component of the RBA framework connects to the groundwater metaphor, but I sometimes wonder if the RBA model is sufficient. I wonder, how do you know if you are truly transforming the groundwater?

So far, I have enjoyed my work at RACE for Equity. I have been assigned to four projects to work on this summer. The first project involves collecting documentation, the second project is about storytelling for maternal health equity, the third project involves expanding upon past training materials, and the fourth project is researching different workspace platforms for the company. I have started working on the first and fourth project and will begin working on the second and third project in June. The RACE for Equity members have been very friendly and welcoming, but the one drawback is that I do not particularly enjoy the completely remote aspect of the job. Overall, I think RACE for Equity is doing good work, and I look forward to learning more about the company as I continue this PWE throughout the rest of this summer.

Current student Ben Lasley – Interning this summer with the Environmental Protection Agency

This post was written by current student Ben Lasley.
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Hi there!

For those of you who may not know me, my name is Ben Lasley and I just finished my first year of the MPA Program. I am from Summerfield, N.C., and I graduated from UNC in 2019, majoring in Environmental Studies and Political Science. After graduation, I was a community organizer in Philadelphia and witnessed the strained relationship between neighborhoods, nonprofits, and governments. This struggle over food sovereignty and environmental justice prompted my return to UNC’s MPA program.

After a rigorous first year, I am excited to witness and implement classroom concepts, while also taking a breather from readings. And with that, it is now time for my professional work experience.



My job will be as a Policy Analysis and Communications Intern with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Office of Air Quality and Planning Standards (OAQPS) in the Research Triangle Park. I found this opportunity on USA Jobs, and the MPA program advertised it as well! I’ve long envisioned working on environmental policy at the federal level, and this pathways internship opens the door to participating in the regulatory process. Here are a few pictures of the campus!



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will be responsible for:

1) Program evaluation of teacher environmental education workshops
2) Communication and community outreach plans for proposed regulatory actions
3) Internal OAQPS newsletters highlighting intern experiences
4)Observing and briefing congressional hearings

My first week has been off to a great start. Upon arriving, my badge was already incorrect, but a new order would be delivered in two weeks. A photo of my desk can be seen below. Thus far I have spent my time learning the ins and the outs of the OAQPS division, as well as swimming through federal onboarding videos. My first project will be assisting community outreach on a proposed ethylene oxide rule.



And the rest of the week I have the opportunity to network across the EPA and explore the RTP campus (where I can have unlimited free coffee). Thanks for joining me, and I look forward to updating you more next week!

New Year, new you?

This post was written by current MPA student Stephen Thompson.

———————————————————————————————–After the excitement of the holidays has begun to dissipate, and the novelty of seeing my extended family has all but worn off, my attention is beginning to turn to the upcoming Spring Semester. If you’re in a similar situation, you know the exhaustion of doing all the things you never have time for, mixed with fatigue from baking, social engagements, cooking, pre-holiday shopping, family time, post-holiday sales, and more social engagements with the family. Now, we find ourselves ramping up for the new year [When does the vacationing start on Winter Vacation?]. The MPA program’s focus on Leadership and self-development has me thinking about the tradition of resolutions. If you’re feeling intimidated about coming up with a resolution for 2022 [“2020, Two” I’ve heard it called], I wanted to pass on some sage wisdom I’ve learned regarding self-improvement plans. Here are three tips for setting goals/resolutions for the new year.

1. You don’t have to

Many people feel pressured to pursue “progress,” in the new year. There can be existential pressure to “be a better you,” or change your life or habits when the calendar strikes one each January. For some folks this is an energizing feeling, which motivates them to start reading for pleasure again or dust off that exercise machine, but for others this feeling can be anxiety or depression inducing. If you are in the latter camp, it is perfectly OK to abstain from reform. If you like your life, as is—that’s a gift all by itself! Or perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by work or school [For example, my research project is due at the end of this semester], and all you can do is just keep on keeping on, that’s ok, too. Resolutions are for you, and for you alone, so if you won’t enjoy the challenge, you’re allowed to say “no, thank you” to New Year’s resolutions.

2. You don’t need to submit your resolution for approval

Often times people feel their resolutions need to be big enough to qualify as a New Year’s Resolution. There can be pressure to make a big change like losing a lot of weight or kicking a stubborn habit [any nail biters out there?], but resolutions are not a go big or don’t bother getting off the couch kind of thing. They’re about motivating you to make a change that will improve your life. That change can be as small as walking for 10 minutes on your lunch break or giving up one of your Saturdays to do an activity you’ve been putting off for a while. If you’re one of those people that worries your resolution is “too small” or “doesn’t count” let me, be the first to assure you there is not a self-improvement primary election in which you need to qualify in order to get on the ballet for betterment. It’s a democracy of one, and your vote is the only one that matters.

3. Resolutions are non-binary

Somethings are yes or no, to be or not to be like McDonald’s breakfast [10:30 sharp BTW] or binary code however most things, including New Year’s Resolutions are not. I often hear friends say “oh, I’ll never be able to do it, so why try?” or “I slipped up on Wednesday, so I guess I failed.” Resolutions are not check boxes on a form. It is not either do or do not [Sorry Yoda], trying still counts! The process of setting a New Year’s Resolution is all about the resolve. If you want to quit drinking soda with your lunch, but you’ve had a really stressful day and you could use a pick-me-up, its ok that you “cheated” today. Resolve doesn’t mean, “Opps—now I failed. It means “Opps—I slipped, but I’m getting back on the path.” In case you haven’t heard it enough: We’re in the middle of a pandemic, cut yourself some slack! The only real failed resolutions are the ones which you abandon. Additionally, its ok to take a break on your resolution if your schedule won’t accommodate five gym visits this week, or if you’re going over to a friend’s house and you know they are serving pizza for dinner—as long as you come back to the plan. Just make sure you and hit the play button again, after your pause your resolution, and it most certainly still counts!

As we head into a new year its important to take stock of ourselves and our lives. It is important to evaluate what’s working and what needs a little work, but what’s working needs just as much attention as what’s not. New Years Resolutions are a great tool to help you build the life you want to have, but it’s important to pick the best tool for the job, and you certainly need to calibrate the tool to the task. So, whether you opt into new year’s resolutions or opt out this time around; Happy Winter Break and have a happy New Year!

Student Spotlight: Mallory Verez

This post was written by current MPA student Stephen Thompson.

Current student Stephen Thompson interviews current student Mallory Verez


In my last post I started to explore one of the unique things about MPA students; that we’re all so diverse, but with some very strong through lines. Continuing down the rabbit hole, I had the pleasure of talking with 2nd year, dual degree (MPA and Law) student Mallory Verez. I’ll have to get around talking with another MPA@UNCer (online student) one of these days, but this week I was thrilled to talk to Mallory about why she chose the MPA program, how public administration fits into a law degree (or the other way around), and how to get past the devil that lurks in the details.  

Mallory is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but completed her undergrade degree at High Point University in December of 2017. After graduation she returned to the Steel City, eager for some real-world experience, which she found in a service year position with Public Allies where she was placed in an afterschool program focused on youth development. Mallory had finished her undergrad degree knowing that she wanted to continue her studies with the eventual goal of working in neighborhood legal services, but her experiences in the afterschool programs widened her perspective and inspired her to look for a public administration program, as well. Much like Valerie Sauer (see my previous blog post), Mallory began to see the siloed systems of public service worked more as barriers than channels for underserved demographics. After her year was up, she decided to look for a dual degree program.  

Looking for a dual master’s programs in public administration and law certainly narrowed the pool of schools, but after some research Mallory found herself enrolled in UNC. She acknowledged that her aunt used to work for UNC when Mallory was growing up, so she had some familiarity with the area and the school from family visits. But, as any grad student will tell you, after finding the program and getting accepted, the real work begins. Mallory and I commiserated over the loss of our once delightfully open evening schedules, now filled with readings, papers, and classes. Still, in that conversation I found another common thread with her and Valerie, as Mallory talked about the community of the MPA program and dedication of the School of Government faculty.  

Mallory is a full time, on campus student, so her program is divided into four years; a year of the MPA program, two years of the Law program, and the final year with a mixture of MPA and Law classes. In the fall of 2020, amidst a global pandemic, Mallory moved to Chapel Hill and started as a first year MPA student. She relayed the general air of uncertainty which permeated the campus that first semester, but more than that she felt an overwhelming sense of community and understanding which her professors extended to her and her fellow cohort members. “Dr. Berner’s willingness to talk to me about,” she paused, “anything!” and be “someone who was in my corner the whole time,” was really a lifeline. Mallory confessed that she was glad she started with the MPA program, because the Law cohort is much larger, and there are more students to contend with for professor attention.   

Last summer Mallory completed her Professional Work Experience (a requirement and rite of passage for us MPA students), at the Triangle J Council of Government, as the housing intern, where she “did lots of legal research,” as she put it. Research heavy as it was, the experience also introduced her to the wide range of nonprofits in the Triangle Area. She’s even planning on sticking around the area after she graduates to gain more experience at the myriad of interesting and distinctive nonprofits in our area.  

As our conversation drew to an end, I asked Mallory if she had any advice for prospective MPA students (as I am wont to do), and she had some sage advice: “Know why you want to be doing [the program]. It is so easy to get lost in the complexities. Don’t let [all the details] pull you [away] from what you want to do.” I have to say, if I had to distill down the message of the MPA program into one sentence, that about hits the nail on the head. Know why you want to be doing what you’re doing. As I wrap up my 3rd semester in the program, through the details of the course work, and field specific knowledge I’m gaining, I’m starting to see this greater message. The complexities of public administration (of which there are many!) can easily become tree after tree, after tree, which prevents us public servants from seeing the greater forest of our efforts, however I think I’m starting to learn how to navigate this jungle of policy. And with that piece of wisdom from Mallory, I’ll sign off for this week. Remember to keep it all in focus, and drink plenty of water—after all, finals are coming up!  

A PWE in a University Finance and Budgeting Department

Current MPA student Wayne Banks Jr. is from High Point, North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he received a BS in Business Administration and a BA in Political science. He’s had prior experience working for both for-profit & nonprofit organizations.  Recently, he participated as a PAFR Fellow with the Town of Apex to create its first Popular Annual Financial Report for the Government Financial Officers Association. His journey has now taken him to his Professional Work Experience that he’s sharing through this blog post.

This post was written by Wayne Banks Jr. 


Greetings to all! My name is Wayne Banks Jr. and I am currently a 2nd year online student in the MPA program. The PWE experience can introduce students to opportunities and a practical understanding of the career interests of an individual. For myself, I am interested in the Community Economic Development and Finance & Budgeting career fields that can be a part of Public Administration responsibilities. By way of networking opportunities, I was invited to an interview and received an offer for my PWE as a Budget & Research Analyst at the Finance & Budget Division of UNC Chapel Hill. This opportunity has provided me with a practical experience to the financial responsibilities of a public higher education institution. I am almost half-way through this PWE experience and can tell you that our work in this division is important and exciting.

My position allows me to assist professional staff with responsibilities that relate to financial decision making and delegation of funds to different schools and organizations on campus. Legislative decisions that are made by the North Carolina General Assembly directly affecting how the university leadership can better serve students, local citizens, businesses, and other parties or organizations that benefit from UNC’s services. Also, I would want to confirm that the lessons you learn in class truly will align with the PWE experience that you make. I’ve already seen connections from our courses in Public Finance, Law, Organizational Theory, and Communications in my PWE.

The staff who work with me, and three other interns are welcoming and provide you with very helpful insight on the finance work that the organization is managing on a day-to-day basis. Their support provides me as well as the other interns with important knowledge on how the roles of each department in the division can affect the overall operations of the university. UNC is basically like a little city and this work experience can be applied to job occupations that are related to public finance responsibilities at a Local Government.

After graduation, I am interested in either working for a local government in their budget or economic development department or working for a nonprofit (for-profit) organization that focuses on real estate development and community revitalization efforts. For concluding remarks, I would encourage individuals to be open-minded to learn new things about themselves through their PWE and other opportunities in the MPA Program. Thank you for making time to read my blog post.

A Professional Work Experience in a Nonprofit Supporting Economic Development

Current MPA student Francesco Tassi writes about his Professional Work Experience this summer.  Francesco is a current student in the oncampus format of the MPA at UNC.  He is originally from Florence, Italy and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. Francesco’s main interest is supporting public organizations that promote the development of distressed regions and workers.


This post was written by Francesco Tassi.

I first heard of my PWE, the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), from Dr. Dabson, a Research Fellow at the School of Government, and in Prof. Morgan’s elective Managing Economic Development. Having researched economic development strategies of North Carolina regional councils for our MPA Research Methods class, I actually ran into CREC’s consulting work for regional councils early on in my MPA. CREC is a nonprofit based in Washington D.C. that develops data products, conferences, policy academies, and consults for states and federal agencies on economic and workforce development. As I write this blog post, I find myself in D.C. about to embark on a new project with CREC to assist the U.S. Economic Development Administration in aligning the state and regional economic development strategies of several states—a far (but related) cry from my MPA research. This summer I helped develop an economic empowerment index to improve the economic mobility of frontline workers in Colorado, modeled the economic impact of Department of Defense (DoD) spending in Louisiana, updated CREC’s state business incentives database for fifteen states (including North Carolina), interviewed Appalachian Regional Commission grantees on best practices for recovery-to-work ecosystems, drafted a weekly newsletter for an association of federal statistical agencies, helped plan and run a federal data conference sponsored by Facebook, and mapped DoD appropriations to strengthen the pipeline between university research and military applications in Texas.
Asides from vastly increasing my knowledge of labor market data (a highlight was informing a successful collaboration on data with Brookings) and related software (IMPLAN, Tableau), CREC’s projects exposed me intimately to a fundamental question every practitioner in the public sector must face—how do we best use and communicate data to inform public organizations? Whether it’s the baseline year for military retiree spending I chose to input into a complex software to inform Louisiana’s legislature, or demographic industry variables debated with colleagues for Colorado’s index—what I cherished was that every decision had input and process. Despite working for a nonprofit, I realized that bureaucratic process, or feedback loops and reviews with clients and colleagues regarding data use and inclusion, is the backbone of all that is good and useful. For both my Texas and Colorado projects I pushed for certain data that took more time to collect. Despite possibly making me the ‘annoying’ intern, I believe this led to slightly more accurate tools for the public sector—which brings me joy.

I’m thankful for Prof. Szypszak teaching us Nexis-Lexis; it came in handy for updating statutes on states’ business incentives. It’s also easy for an MPA student to underestimate their first-year communications class. But when you’re building a 40-variable index for 64 counties and county commissioners, state-level workforce development and higher education departments, as well as industry sector partnerships across Colorado, you fully appreciate that everything needs to be simplified and communicate stories to be useful, despite being complex at its core. Seeing that the work I am helping to create is impacting public agencies, and at the forefront of innovatively tackling economic development challenges across the U.S., is immensely rewarding. Experiencing our nation’s capital despite the lingering presence of COVID-19 has also been a blessing. Commuting every day on the metro is a highlight, something I never thought possible in the age of remote work. I enjoyed my PWE so much that I will continue working with CREC part-time going into my second year as an MPA-MCRP dual degree candidate. I look forward to dive deeper into labor market data, continuously learning from (and deeply thankful for) dedicated colleagues and supervisors at CREC—two of which happen to be Tarheels. Even in D.C. you can’t be too far from UNC!