Executive MPA alumna draws upon Voinovich School education to craft Ohio policy and legislation

Daniel Kington
June 26, 2018

Wilson, EricaErica Wilson, a 2014 graduate of Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Executive Master of Public Administration program, continues to use her education to tackle issues ranging from human trafficking to the opioid crisis, veterans’ affairs, consumer-protection and more as the director of policy and legislation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Wilson has always been interested in public service and government, and pursued as many avenues for advocacy as possible during her undergraduate education, including securing a summer internship with U.S. Congressman Jim DeMint in Washington, D.C. She found this experience valuable, but also realized that she wanted to work closer to home and sought jobs back home in Ohio.

She then worked briefly at the Muskingum County Commissioner’s Office, providing her insight into local level government. Wilson built upon this experience during her nine years as a legislative aide with the Ohio House of Representatives, where she responded to constituent communications, monitored pending legislation, assisted in the drafting and passing of legislation and contributed to committee work. During her time at the Ohio House, Wilson worked under Representatives Ron Young, Danny Bubp and Lynn Wachtmann.

“I gained valuable experience working at the Ohio House,” Wilson said. “I particularly enjoyed working with Danny Bubp, because he was a new representative, coming in and learning the ropes. It was neat to start fresh with him. We got to work on many different issues, especially military veterans’ issues and criminal justice issues.”

While Wilson enjoyed working at the Ohio House, she realized it did not offer much job security.

“My job was dependent upon elections, so I could have found myself looking for a new job every two to four years,” Wilson said. “I wanted to make myself more marketable.”

Wilson decided that the best way to achieve that end would be to pursue an advanced degree in public administration.

“Because my schedule had been so crazy at the Ohio House, I knew I was going to have to do an executive program or an online program, and what I liked about the Voinovich School’s Executive MPA is that it had a little bit of both,” Wilson said. “I’m more of a traditional student; I like going to class and meeting and learning with like-minded people.”

The Voinovich School’s Executive MPA combines residency-based education, through monthly, in-person seminars, with online education. This unique balance proved well suited to Wilson’s professional and academic needs.

During her time in the program, Wilson appreciated the ability to focus on strategic thinking, program evaluation, writing and research. Wilson also enjoyed the program’s cohort-based model.

“My cohort included folks in different walks of life, of all different ages, but we were all professionals with day jobs who made the Executive MPA program a priority, investing in the program despite our busy schedules in order to better our lives,” Wilson said. “There was this great sense of comradery.”

Even prior to completing her degree, the Executive MPA program helped Wilson to advance her career. She had started work as a legislative liaison for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office around the same time that she enrolled in the MPA program, and when a leadership position opened up with the organization, as the director of policy and legislation, Wilson’s ongoing Voinovich School education helped set her apart from other applicants. 

“I really think it’s because I was getting my master’s and working on it that I was able to get promoted to the position that I’m in now,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s day-to-day workload varies greatly, but it often entails attending hearings at the Statehouse, researching the given issue and working with stakeholders to fine-tune legislation. The Office takes up legislation either after having been approached by a representative in the House or the Senate or on its own initiative, securing sponsors in the legislature.

“When we take a bill over to the legislature, we’ve done our homework,” Wilson said. “We’ve talked to interested parties and we’ve tried to address as many concerns as possible before we introduce it, to try to help the legislative sponsor with the workload.”

What Wilson enjoys most about the position is the wide variety of issues on which she works.

“When I took the position, I didn’t know how many issues the work would touch on,” Wilson said. “I’ve worked on over 25 Attorney General-sponsored bills with the General Assembly, focused on everything from human trafficking to foster care, e-cigarettes, veterans’ issues, consumer-protection issues and more. I get to learn about something new every day, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Wilson said she has seen the bills she has worked on make a concrete impact in the lives of people in the State of Ohio, specifically citing the Office’s work to combat the opioid crisis by shutting down pill mills and otherwise preventing opiates from entering into circulation. Regardless of the issue, however, Wilson finds herself continuing to draw upon her education at the Voinovich School.

“I can still remember one class where the instructor used post-it notes to walk us through how to lay out our thoughts and end goals, and how to identify steps to reach those goals. I still have the layout they shared with us on the board behind my desk, and every time I work on a bill I create a new spreadsheet, using that model,” Wilson said. “The critical thinking skills I learned at the Voinovich School are skills I use all the time.”