MPA Alumni Spotlights
Assistant Director, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s New Student and Family Programs Office
“One of the most beneficial things that I have gained through my graduate career is the art of being resourceful. The MPA program teaches individuals time and time again that developing partnerships with other organizations or departments can significantly make your organization more efficient and effective. While working in higher education, I have seen this to be true.”
Executive Director, Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency
“No matter your age, no matter your family composition, you can find time to improve your employment goals through education – UTC’s MPA program is the perfect opportunity.”
Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations, Vanderbilt University, 2021
Executive Director, Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)
On the value of the UTC MPA program: "I owe a debt of gratitude to the MPA program for teaching me the analytical and leadership skills needed to be successful in my public service career. I'm also very thankful for the awesome classmates that I met during the program, many of whom are now lifelong friends."
Advice to current students: "'Chart your own course.' I worked in local governments for almost twenty years. However, I realized that education was my passion; I love learning! Several of my colleagues wanted me to pursue a City Manager position, but I knew my calling was different. I sought the Doctor of Education degree because I wanted to help prepare the next generation of public service professionals."
Liturgy and Music Program Coordinator, Christ Church Episcopal, Greenville, SC
“UTC’s MPA program is an excellent mix of students with different interest areas. The program allowed me to concentrate on the arts as my specific interest, but I heard from and learned from professors and students studying higher education, public health, environmental policy, and local governments. Not only did this make me a better student, it has made me a better professional – one who has connections in different fields and realizes that best practices may be found outside my field.”
Marketing and Communications, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Federal Highway Administration
Advice to current MPA students: “Choose a career in this field because you care about people and improving their quality of life. A career in Public Administration is public service. You must be committed to serving honorably and give your best all the time. Never limit your potential to make an impact. The graduate program helped me understand the commitment that comes with working in the area of Public Administration. You must be dedicated to improving the quality of life for those you serve in this field.”
Intervention Manager, Community Solutions
"The MPA program was a foundational piece of my professional development. The program gave me an extremely well-rounded education of nonprofit and governmental operations. With the tools I gained through my time at UTC, I was able to move into a career that I feel deeply passionate about, and quickly be in a position to contribute heavily to the field, which I feel extremely grateful for. I never felt like I was working towards a degree, but instead felt like I was being supported in strengthening the skills I needed to have the highest impact possible through my profession."
President, Chambliss Center for Children
Advice to current MPA students: "Don’t just trudge through, learn all that you can! You never know when you will need to use some of the knowledge or skills that you learned in those classes. It has definitely been useful for me in my non-profit career."
Assistant Vice President, University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
Advice to current MPA students: “Pursuing public service as a career is challenging, invigorating, occasionally frustrating, often satisfying and absolutely worth the investment of your energy and talent. Enjoy your journey!”
Reginald F. Smith II
Executive Director, The Bethlehem Center
Advice to current MPA students: “Take advantage of all of your professors insights and knowledge while taking advantage of everything the program has to offer. Fully engaging with professors, peers and the program will be beneficial to you not only during your time in the program but beyond as well.”
Sherry Marlow Ormsby
Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research, UTK, 2017
Executive Director, University of Tennessee Chattanooga; Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Institutional Research
Advice to current MPA students: “First, do not shy away from opportunities outside your comfort zone. I’ve found, for me, these are areas with the most growth and unexpected enjoyment. Secondly, find a balance between work, school, and personal life. While graduate school can be difficult, your support system is the foundation of your success. Spending time with family and friends provides an opportunity for down time allowing you to rest and recharge. Good luck!”
Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration, Walden University, 2013
Associate Director, Purdue Agile Strategy Lab, Purdue University
On the value of the MPA degree: "I would not be where I am in my career if it was not for my UTC MPA degree. It helped open so many doors, each one leading to new opportunities." Advice to current MPA students: "The knowledge and insights you are gaining in this program will equip you with exactly what you need to make meaningful change that will impact the lives of real people."
Nikki Poarch Ringenberg
Senior Director of Membership and Grants, Nashville Academy of Medicine
Advice to current MPA students: “It’s worth it!”
“The most beneficial thing I learned in graduate school has been how to work with a diverse group of people to complete a project. Most of my classes included a group assignment of some sort, but two classes my last semester really taught me several valuable lessons about working with a larger group to complete a project. A close second is definitely how to use software to the fullest to work smarter and evaluate data.”
Chief Development Officer, Boys and Girls Clubs of Chattanooga
“Choosing a career in the public sector is the most rewarding way one can contribute to society and earn a living. The MPA Program at UTC gave me the skills and connections needed to effectively lead in the multifaceted environment of nonprofits.”
Grants Specialist, City of Chattanooga
“The most beneficial thing from my graduate career was first-hand accounts about working in the public sector from my professors who were either prior or active public servants. Their real-life stories and advice shed a brighter light on the lessons I learned from my textbooks; what they taught me was a valuable addition to a normal education.”
Financial Performance Manager, Tennessee Division of TennCare
Advice to current students: "The best thing you can do is prepare yourself to inform the decision-making process as much as possible. Using the tools this MPA program provides you will help you become a more informative and engaging contributor to the decisions that public organizations make." ... and ... "Excel skills are highly marketable—just FYI."
Business Development Officer, Dickson County, Tennessee
Advises current students to make the most of the rich networks of government and nonprofit agencies available in Chattanooga. "Those resources will help you while in the MPA program and your post-program career."
Program Associate for the Nonprofit Sector, Great Minds
Advice for current students: "Maximize your efficiency by using assignments to address real-world problems in your job or internship when you can. Try to target all of your research-based projects on a single topical area that you want to demonstrate expertise in."
On the distinctive strengths of the UTC MPA program: "I loved, and feel that I greatly benefitted from, the small size of the program. I knew many of my classmates well, and we were therefore better able to support and learn from one another."
Relationship Manager, United Way of Greater Chattanooga
Advice to current students: "Go all in. Take those interests--your passions--and run with it. The community is waiting on you."