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Executive MPA alumna helps Ohioans achieve their dreams through credit unions

Daniel Kington
June 12, 2018

Leite, EmilyEmily Leite, 2012 graduate of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Executive Master of Public Administration program, combined the administrative skillset she learned with her legislative expertise to take her career in a new direction and make a broader impact at the Ohio Credit Union League.

Leite developed an interest in helping people through service at a young age, but she did not intend to pursue a career in either legislature or administration. Instead, she planned to pursue law. However, when Leite completed her undergraduate degree at Capital University, the country was in the midst of financial crisis and job opportunities in the legal field were becoming scarce. Unsure what to do next, Leite secured a position with the Ohio House of Representatives as a legislative aide, working on a variety of state policy and funding issues. The position unexpectedly shifted the trajectory of Leite’s career.

“I quickly saw that law school wasn’t, in fact, the right fit for me,” Leite said. “I realized that I actually wanted to pursue a career in public administration, in order to work with an organization or state agency that impacts public policy for the benefit of constituents in the State of Ohio.”

Leite looked into a variety of MPA programs but needed something flexible, as she intended to continue working full time. Her desire for a more flexible option led her to consider the Voinovich School’s Executive MPA, which combines residency-based and online education.

“The flexibility was excellent, in that I could work full time and still succeed in my classes,” Leite said. “But I also wanted practical experience, because I wanted to be a practitioner and not simply an academic. The courses at the Voinovich School are all about hands-on experience, and the instructors at the program are practitioners in their fields, so I went down for orientation, at which point I fell in love with the campus, the school, the program, the professors I met and all the different classmates in my cohort. I knew that I had made the right decision.”

In the Executive MPA program, Leite focused on maximizing state government efficiency, and she enjoyed the opportunity to network with and learn from the other professionals in her cohort, whose experiences ranged from work with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to work with Logan County Children’s Services.  

“I got to hear from others in my cohort about different aspects of public sector work as well as the value they were trying to create and the problems they were trying to solve,” Leite said. “It was a good way to connect with like-minded folks.”

The program provided Leite the tools to advance her career. After graduating, Leite left the Ohio House and worked briefly for her hometown, managing the local parks and recreation department – work which required her to utilize her performance management and budgeting education. However, Leite said she wanted to “do something bigger,” so, after another stint at the Ohio Statehouse, she applied to a position with the Ohio Credit Union League that would allow her to more thoroughly integrate her educational and professional experiences.

In her first position with the League, the state trade association for Ohio’s not-for-profit credit unions, Leite operated in both a political legislative capacity. She was tasked with advocating for the organization at the Statehouse and in Congress and managing a political fundraising operation and a grassroots network.

The fusion of Leite’s legislative and political experience has only grown as she has continued to work with the organization. In January 2018, Leite accepted a position as the organization’s vice president of government affairs, taking on organizational and strategic responsibilities. In her new role, Leite feels as though she’s making more of an impact than ever before.

“I am a conduit to the success of credit unions in the State of Ohio, and that feels really good, especially when I am able to help change a law or policy that makes it easier for a credit union to help someone in need,” Leite said. “I believe that Americans can achieve their dreams through credit unions, because they are here to help people: to make sure that their money is safe and continues to grow at a higher rate. Credit unions do amazing things every day for the every-day person, and that’s why I love coming to work every day of the week.”

Leite said that she probably would not have received her position at the Ohio Credit Union League if it were not for her MPA degree.

“Part of the reason they hired me is that they thought a master’s degree would be very helpful from a critical thinking, analytical and communications standpoint,” Leite said. “Then, when I applied for the vice president opening, I used my experience at the Voinovich School to heighten myself as a candidate who had more in-depth experience in looking at organizational management.”

Her time at the Voinovich School not only helped Leite to advance her career, however; it continues to help her do her job better, and make even more of a difference.

“My class in human resources management has helped me to be more cognizant as a manager of several employees and as leader in the organization,” Leite said. “Meanwhile, my financial management class has helped me better interpret the organization’s financial situation and make better decisions for our balance sheet; my writing course has made me better able to communicate with legislators, executives and congressional leaders in the written format; and my political leadership class opened my eyes to the need to make fact- and research-based decisions.”

Leite emphasized that her time at the School contributed greatly to her professional success and her ability to serve constituents.

“The Voinovich School has something very special and unique in terms of course offerings and faculty and professional staff,” Leite said. “It was so important for me to have that hands-on, personalized learning experience.”