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First class of MPA graduates at Friday's commencement ceremony

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MPA students earn first degree from Voinovich School

On-campus and executive students to graduate Friday

On Friday, a group of 25 students will be the first ever to receive a degree from Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. They will all be granted master's degrees in public administration.

Director of the Voinovich School, Mark Weinberg, said the staff is proud of the students in both the on campus and executive programs, who comprise the school's first graduating class.

“From an institutional perspective, the MPA program allows us to increasingly combine classroom learning with real-world problem solving, a hallmark of the Voinovich School,” Weinberg said.

Eleven of the Voinovich graduates completed their degree on OHIO’s Athens campus. The other 14 did so through the school’s Executive MPA program, which meets in Athens one full weekend out of every month.

The executive program was established with working professionals, such as Karen Collins, in mind. As a mother and full-time research and grant writer/editor for the Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education (CORE) at Ohio University, Collins said the program worked well with her busy schedule.

“The structure of the program…makes it really doable for a working full-time [professional]. I couldn’t take time off to go to school, and to drag a master’s program out for three or four years was not my speed,” Collins said.

Collins, who earned her undergraduate degree in biology at OHIO, has worked in local nonprofits for the past 17 years, including four years with Planned Parenthood of Southeast Ohio and 17 years at the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD). Her experience led to her interest in the MPA program, designed for students with knowledge of the field.

“The curriculum is really broad. You get a sampling of all different types of issues that you can come up with while working in government and nonprofits,” Collins said.

The cohort of 14 executive students has been together since fall 2009. Through the use of internet and social media, they reached out to one another to coordinate assignments and projects – the same coursework that the on-campus students complete.

Along with coursework, on-campus students spend their first year completing a practicum.

Soon-to-be graduate Jonathan Olivito was able to work with three different groups: the Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville, the Park Board of Cambridge and the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet).

Olivito had previously worked with the Voinovich School while studying history and Spanish during his undergraduate years at Ohio University. He was named a Voinovich Scholar during his junior year, working with the Government Development Group to engage with local government entities.

Olivito said his experience as a scholar for the school peaked his interest in public policy issues. He applied for the MPA program and began as a graduate assistant in fall 2009, following the completion of his undergraduate degree.

“The Voinovich School, in particular, and my opportunities there really provided me with a springboard into my interest in public policy," said Olivito, whose post-graduation plans may include law school at Ohio State this August.

“There are a lot of staff members and faculty members working at the Voinovich School that are involved in just a plethora of different things,” he continued. “Depending on how involved you want to get, you can really dive in.”


History of the Voinovich School:

1981: The Ohio University Board of Trustees created the original organization, the Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development (ILGARD). Mark Weinberg was the founder and has served as Director since inception.

1985: The Rural Universities Program (RUP) was created by the Ohio General Assembly. This program and the metropolitan companion, the Urban Universities Program, served as the major statewide public service programs of the Ohio Board of Regents.

1995: The Ohio University Board of Trustees created an umbrella center called the Center for Public and Environmental Affairs (CEPA) to house ILGARD and the Environmental Studies Program.

1998: The George V. Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs was established on December 11th when the Ohio Board of Trustees voted to rename and expand the existing academic center including an Executive Leadership program and entrepreneurship program.

2001: Governor Taft, the Ohio Board of Regents, and the Ohio General Assembly recognized the opportunity to use Ohio University to implement a new strategy, the Appalachian New Economy Partnership (ANEP), to strengthen the region’s growth and competitiveness in the current and emerging knowledge-based economy.

The George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs was established on April 20th and became the first multidisciplinary school at Ohio University, focusing on applied research, leadership development, and applications learning across colleges.

For more history, click here.