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Online MPA graduates
The first graduating class of the online Master of Public Administration program

Graduates of the Voinovich School’s inaugural class of Online MPA students highlight program’s faculty, flexibility

Marilyn Icsman
March 5, 2019

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs recently celebrated the graduation of its first class of students in the online Master of Public Administration program at the end of the fall 2018 semester.

The online program, recently ranked among the top in the United States, allows working professionals across the country to advance their careers. The curriculum addresses the real-world challenges of public administration and offers concentrations in public management and nonprofit management.

A new cohort of 20 to 30 online students begins the program each semester, said Alexander Murray, director of online academic programs. The first cohort began the program in the spring 2017 and graduated Dec. 15, 2018.

The classes’ diversity in age, work experience and place of residence benefits students looking for connections both in Ohio and across the U.S., Murray said

“It gives you an opportunity to network with someone to live in California, or New York, or Virginia, and say, ‘What opportunities may be available for me out there?’” Murray said. “Those are connections that you don’t always get, say, if you’re only connected with people from Ohio.”

Students choose the online MPA program for its flexibility, which allows students to dedicate time to a career and family, Murray said.

 “We had a lot of students who came into the program and were already well established in their careers, whether they were in the public or private sector,” Murray said, “but we also had students who were trying to shift their careers.”

Once classes begin, students enjoy the professors’ willingness to help and collaborate with students, as well as the real-world experience they get from activities within the program, Murray noted.

“The broad range of experiences from our faculty members here, and being able to gain insights and ideas from the applied work we do here at the Voinovich School is definitely beneficial to those outside the borders of the campus and beyond the Ohio region, as well,” Murray said.

Cody Pettit, who graduated in the public management track, recently landed a job with the Ohio treasurer’s office after working for Rep. Bill Johnson during his time in the online MPA program.

“I knew I wanted to work, so it’s kind of hard to find schools nearby,” Pettit said. “If you’re going to school and you’re working, you want it to be in the town you live in or close to that. Anything over an hour drive is going to be challenging to work and stay in school, even for a master’s program.”

For Pettit, the Voinovich School’s online program provided the solution to his commuting issue, allowing him to work from home while continuing his career.

“What I really liked about it was the flexibility with my schedule,” Pettit said. “The fact that I was able to work ahead of time if I wanted to, or if I needed to wait until the last minute because of work, that was fine too. I also just like being able to read at my own pace.”

Pettit praised the program’s courses in public human resources management and public organization. He also noted that the best overall components of his education were the Voinovich School’s professors and range of classes.

“The professors were really responsive to questions,” Pettit said. “When you emailed them, they were really fast with getting back to you, and I really liked that the program had such a wide variety of different types of lessons and subjects regarding public administration.”

Karlescia Brookins, who was also in the first graduating class, had a similar experience with the online MPA program. Her concentration was in nonprofit management.

Brookins said she noticed early on that she struggled with standardized tests. The Voinovich School’s admissions process, which does not require the GRE test, helped her feel that the program would be a good fit.

“After seeing that the GRE was not a requirement, I jumped at the opportunity, because I felt like it would set me up to be a whole lot more successful than me trying to take the GRE three times and struggling to be competitive and get into a local school,” Brookins said.

Like Pettit, Brookins also appreciated the flexibility that comes with the online program.

“It was super, super convenient because I could log in any time within the week,” Brookins said. “I didn’t have any set days or times that I had to be on the computer or in Blackboard to do assignments. It worked around my schedule.”

Brookins’ favorite class was one she took with professor Dr. Judith Millesen.

“It was super interactive and you could tell that she took what she was teaching very seriously,” Brookins said. “She was very passionate about public administration and she made sure that we were fully engaged in the course.”

Brookins said she pursued an MPA as a means to boost her career.

“I recently accepted a position with a new nonprofit,” Brookins said. “It was more of a lateral move, but I have more of an opportunity to grow because they see that I have the MPA degree.”