The first time Peter Melan heard about Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, he was just making small talk.
It was 2018 and Melan, a city councilman from Easton, Pennsylvania, was chatting with Athens Mayor Steve Patterson while both were attending a conference at Ohio State University.
“We were talking, and I asked him what college is in Athens, Ohio, and he said Ohio University,” Melan said.
Patterson mentioned Ohio University’s Voinovich School and its well-known Master of Public Administration program.
“And I thought to myself, I’m not really grad school material,” Melan said. “Because my grades in school were terrible.”
Nevertheless, when he went back home to Pennsylvania, Melan looked up the Voinovich School.
“What really caught my eye was that there was no GMAT [Graduate Management Admission Test] requirement,” he said with a laugh. “So I thought, ‘Oh well, I’ll apply.’”
Melan was accepted into the online MPA program in August 2018 and transferred to the Executive MPA program the following spring; he will graduate this summer.
The Executive MPA program is designed to accommodate working professionals like Melan. Candidates can earn their degrees in two years through a combination of online work and 20 Saturday classes at Ohio University’s Dublin Campus in Central Ohio.
While Melan admits to being a “middle-of-the-road C-student” as an undergraduate, he is proud of his performance in the MPA program.
“When I started, I really didn’t know how well I was going to do,” he said. “In my first class, I got an A- and I thought, ‘OK, this is fine.’ And I just kept excelling and getting better grades [from then on].”
While enrolled in the program, Melan successfully ran for a second four-year term on Easton’s city council, where he sits on the administration committee.
“The material I’ve been learning through these classes has given me a step up as an elected official,” he said. “There’s a one-to-one correlation between the academics and what I’m doing on city council. It’s a really good fit for me.”
Melan said his classes at the Voinovich School have particularly helped him prepare for speaking engagements: More of his proposals to speak at conferences and events have been accepted since enrolling in the program.
“I’ve become more academic in my presentations,” he said. “Now I can really research and bring a more theoretical perspective with less of my own opinions.”
Among his accepted proposals is a presentation at the American Society for Public Administration’s 2020 conference in April. His topic is, “The Theory Behind Your Unengaged Employee.”
“When you join the public sector it means job security, but there are more reasons why people are just not engaged,” Melan said. “They could be more personal in nature. If that person is not really filling their need at home, how can you expect them to come into work being on top of their game?”
With his master’s degree almost complete, Melan is planning his next step: He’s applying to public administration doctoral programs.
“I never thought I would be going to get my doctorate,” he said. “Going to the Voinovich School has given me the confidence that I needed to apply.”