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OHIO's MPA program serves individuals with developmental disabilities

Those aspiring to champion the rights and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities via continuing education need not look beyond Ohio University’s MPA program offered in both a weekend Executive program in Central Ohio and a 100% Online program.

Ohio University's MPA Program: uniquely positioned for those pursuing advocacy and service

How does the Ohio University's Master of Public Administration (MPA) do this? According to MPA Director Dr. Jason Jolley, the program equips graduates with knowledge-based skills in public policy, finance, management, and, above all, strategic leadership in the public and non-profit sectors.

“MPA students working in the field of developmental disabilities delve into specific policy areas while developing a broad skillset in management, budgeting, and leadership to advance their careers. It's a unique balance of enhancing specific knowledge and gaining broader management skills,” said Dr. Jolley.

As a father of daughters with developmental disabilities, Dr. Jolley is committed to building a stronger system to serve those with developmental disabilities. He serves as the Vice President of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the Vice Chair of the Arc of Ohio, and the Treasurer of the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities.

“Not all individuals with developmental disabilities can advocate for themselves, and we need to build a more resilient and empathetic system to support these individuals,” said Dr. Jolley.  “Public servants face complex challenges balancing the concerns of family members and government policies while keeping the best interests of individuals front and center. I can’t think of a better place to learn these skills than our MPA program.”

Kevin Davis: Embracing a calling in developmental disabilities public service

Headshot of Dr. Kevin Davis

Growing up, Kevin Davis, Ed.D., witnessed firsthand the disparaging treatment his uncle Tony, who lived with a developmental disability, often endured. In his own words, these experiences were "horrific." Driven by compassion and a desire for broader impact, Davis aspired to give individuals with developmental disabilities opportunities to live fulfilling lives.

“I started working professionally in college as a direct care staff. I knew that if I ever wanted to impact more people on a larger scale, I would have to further my education,” said Dr. Davis. “I looked around quite a bit and chose the MPA program at OHIO. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Dr. Davis, a three-time alumnus of Ohio University having earned an MPA, M.Ed., and Ed.D. from Ohio University, currently serves as the Superintendent for the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, a position that was helped by his MPA training.

Davis appreciated how the MPA program’s instructors discussed issues such as public budgeting, working with stakeholders, strategic planning, management, and working with unions in a practical way helped him become an effective leader.

“I think one of the biggest ways the MPA program impacted me was through the recognition of the importance of creating and measuring public value as a leader in the field of developmental disabilities. You have to take intentional steps to create public value and then you have to learn how to measure this value.”

Davis also appreciated how the coursework emphasized the importance of being strategic in managing agencies.

“Strategic planning is critical to working with the magnitude of diverse stakeholders in the developmental disabilities field.  With the practical examples we implemented and discussed in the MPA program, I felt very well prepared to lead diverse groups of stakeholders through the strategic planning process,” said Davis.  

“Many times, throughout my career I have been grateful for the learning experiences I had in the MPA program,” he added.  As a superintendent, Davis has had the opportunity to work on a couple of state-wide committees that are helping to shape the future of the developmental disabilities’ world in the state of Ohio.  

“One was the state-wide hardship group, which dealt with what happens if a County Board becomes unsustainable and can’t financially meet its obligations,” said Davis. “Another one is the re-design workgroup of our current waiver program across the state.  We are working on possible changes that can directly impact the lives of thousands of people with disabilities across the state.”

Davis also shares his knowledge as an instructor teaching MPA graduate courses at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service.

“Now, as someone who teaches in the MPA program, I have the great honor of being able to share my experiences, both positive and negative, with students to help them understand how important, challenging, and rewarding it is to be a leader in the field of developmental disabilities.”

Jeff Allen: Facing challenges and achieving goals

Jeff Allen Headshot Cropped

When Jeff Allen's brother Joe suffered a traumatic brain injury, providing extensive care became a significant aspect of Allen's life—a pivotal experience that would greatly influence his future.

“I had learned a lot helping care for Joe and seeing others with many needs like his.

With over a decade of experience serving as Director of Fiscal Operations for the Pike County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Allen sought to expand his leadership skills for potential superintendent roles. With encouragement from Board leadership, Allen decided it was the right time to pursue his MPA from Ohio University. 

“After I graduated with my MPA degree in 2019, I was ready to become a Superintendent,” said Allen.  

Regrettably, in August 2020, Pike County Board Superintendent Dr. Roger Kemper passed away unexpectedly. Having completed his MPA, Allen assumed the position of Acting Superintendent. The Board's decision to officially appoint him in November of that year was straightforward, given his qualifications.

Allen’s attributes his MPA training with preparing him to handle the required daily preparations and public speaking.

“Getting up in front of the MPA class presenting, being prepared and delivering my message continues on with doing the same things here at the Board with the staff and the Board presentations,” said Allen.

Allen also attributes his MPA training to helping him overcome some of the biggest challenges he faces as superintendent.

“One of the biggest challenges as superintendent is to evaluate our program and staff on a daily and yearly basis. Part of my MPA training focused on being an effective evaluator of a program and how this should be done. I find myself going back and reviewing my MPA material in this area, as well as other areas, all the time,” said Allen.

“Kevin and Jeff are just two of our many exemplary alumni working in the field of developmental disabilities in Ohio and across the country” said Dr. Jolley. “My hope is that anyone currently working or desiring to work in the field of developmental disabilities considers our program.”

Building opportunities: Ohio University Partners with Ohio Association of County Boards

Dr. Jason Jolley speaking
MPA Director Dr. Jason Jolley

The Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities (OACB) recently partnered with Ohio University to extend the OHIO Online Incentive Scholarship to all 88 county boards of developmental disabilities members and staff. The scholarship offers a 15% discount on eligible online graduate programs and a 10% discount on online undergraduate programs.

Jolley noted, “The OACB partnership launched this summer. As a result of the partnership, several employees of county boards of developmental disabilities have applied and been accepted to our Executive and Online MPA programs. We are grateful to OACB’s partnership in extending this benefit to its members.”

Ready to elevate your career in public service? Learn more about the Ohio University MPA program and unlock new opportunities for impactful leadership. 

June 27, 2024
Staff reports