By Ivone Guillen
As a soon-to-be second-year student in the School of Public Affairs’ MPA program, I’d like to share my story in the hopes of answering any questions you may have about the program. Everyone has a unique journey, and I hope that through mine you gain some knowledge that will help inform you in your graduate degree decision process.
First, a little background about me. I have been working with nonprofits for over seven years and my experiences have greatly contributed to my interest in organization management. I currently work at Sojourners, striving to mobilize people of faith around the issue of immigration and encouraging them to urge their members of Congress to enact inclusive, humane and just immigration policy solutions. At Sojourners, I’ve had the opportunity to develop my skills in campaigns, advocacy, communications and coalition building.
I chose to pursue an MPA degree because I wanted to gain new insight that would complement my experience and further strengthen my ability to create strong and effective management systems that are designed to fuel an organization’s efforts. I chose AU because of its renowned MPA program, faculty and extensive network. The MPA department has been welcoming, approachable and genuinely dedicated to its students’ success.
Attaining a master’s is especially important to me because I am a first-generation immigrant and am paving the way for my family to follow in my footsteps of pursuing higher education. As a DREAMer, the issue of immigration has always been part of my lived reality. Resolving it has always been a goal of mine. That’s why I chose policy analysis as my concentration. Through the concentration, I’ve learned that culture plays an instrumental role in shaping organizational dynamics and management styles. Thus, culture must be extensively analyzed before engaging in change. I also learned that all I’d read about the outstanding faculty was true and then some. They are very accessible and always willing to help clarify questions regarding coursework. Outside of the classroom, they’ve extended their support by helping to facilitate personal connections within their network—not a common occurrence at many universities.
But the faculty isn’t the only thing that contributes to AU’s highly esteemed MPA. Another major feature is the wide-ranging set of opportunities they offer for students to enhance their careers. AU’s career center has exposed me to a diverse set of organizations, which in turn have allowed me to expand my understanding of the kinds of opportunities that exist, complimenting my background in the process.
With the robust course and career offerings, as well as the committed staff in mind, I truly believe the program is preparing me for success in the future. It offers practical and pragmatic solutions to some of the most challenging management questions organizations face today and, in turn, gives me skills that I’m applying to my current work—always with the end goal of being an effective manager.
I am truly grateful to AU’s faculty and SPA for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to pursue an MPA degree. Thanks to the flexibility of the program and its committed staff, I have been able to successfully finish my first year of graduate school. I look forward to completing the remainder of the program.
Want to learn more? Check out American University’s Masters of Public Administration today!