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Executive MPA alumna works behind the scenes to advance public safety in Ohio

Daniel Kington
June 13, 2018

Public administration isn’t just about running for office. In fact, the work of many public administrators is behind the scenes and, when done well, is scarcely noticed. Beverly Cooper, a 2013 graduate of the Executive Master of Public Administration program at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, enjoys her work in public administration precisely for that reason.

Cooper first developed an interest in public administration when she worked, early on in her career, at a public technical college.

“I liked serving the greater good and helping other people,” Cooper said.

It was this desire, paired with a love of school and learning, that interested Cooper in a master’s degree in public administration as early as the ‘90s. At the time, Cooper worked in economic development and became connected to Ohio University’s Institute for Local Government Administration and Rural Development, which later became the Voinovich School. Cooper visited Ohio University and considered enrolling in the institute’s affiliated MPA program, but was unable to do so at the time due to practical concerns, including her full-time job.

However, nearly two decades later, the Executive MPA program at the Voinovich School made it possible for Cooper to advance her public administration education.

“I never ruled out a degree in public administration,” Cooper said. “The timing just worked out, and I was in a better place financially than I was before, so I attended an information meeting and then decided to attend.”

The Executive MPA program is tailored to the needs of working professionals, combining residency-based and online education. Cooper was consequently able to remain employed full-time, and the flexibility of the curriculum meant that she could complete her studies while maintaining a work/life balance.

Entering the program, Cooper expected to focus primarily on nonprofit organizations and intended to use her degree to pursue work in the nonprofit sector. However, while Cooper enjoyed her classes on non-profit organization and said she would still consider work in the nonprofit sector in the future, during her time at the School, Cooper most enjoyed her performance measurement, policy analysis and public budgeting courses.

“Those were new fields for me, and they were some of my hardest classes,” Cooper said. “Maybe that’s why I enjoyed them more, because they challenged me.”

Cooper appreciated the ability to integrate her educational and professional experiences through the Executive MPA program. For instance, in Cooper’s time with the Ohio Development Services Agency, she worked with the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and brought related projects into her classes in order to use the resources of Ohio University to better contribute to the public good. Cooper was also able to immediately apply the skills she learned in the program to her work. For example, during a project measuring returns on investment with the Local Government Innovation Fund, Cooper relied heavily upon her performance measurement course.

However, Cooper has never employed her MPA education more than she does now, in her work as the business operations coordinator with the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s division of emergency medical services. The division certifies fire fighters and emergency medical providers and provides ambulance licensing and services. In her role with the division, Cooper coordinates Ohio’s administrative code review process, forms management and records retention.

“Some of the qualities that they were looking for when they wrote my job description had to do with researching data, writing, editing, dealing with many variables and determining a course of action for the department,” Cooper said. “I think each of those skills the Voinovich School either helped me to develop, hone or see that I had.”

In addition to drawing upon the skills she learned at the Voinovich School, it was the interest Cooper developed in the challenges of budgeting, policy and performance measurement that led her to apply for her current position in the first place.

“I probably would have never applied to something called ‘business operations coordinator’ if I hadn’t been to the Voinovich School and discovered that there were things outside of what I had normally worked on up until that point that I could do and that would appeal to me,” Cooper said.

Just as she enjoyed the set of challenges inherent in budgeting and performance measurement at the Voinovich School, Cooper enjoys the challenges she currently faces at work.

“I have to work within the structures of the government, follow the revised code and the rules set by the legislature, work with a wide number of stakeholders and adhere to deadlines,” Cooper said. “It’s a lot like solving a recurring puzzle.”

What keeps Cooper in her position, however, is both the people she works with and the thing that initially drew her to public administration in the first place: a desire to help others.

“I’ve always liked supporting roles, where I’m kind of in background,” Cooper said. “For the most part, I work behind the scenes, but I’m working on things that are ultimately extremely important, and that most people don’t even know are going on.”