Alumni spotlights

The public and nonprofit sectors of the greater Chattanooga region are led in no small part by UTC MPA alumni, and many more alumni serve in public service careers around the globe. The alumni spotlighted below give a sense of the diverse public service careers launched by the UTC MPA program. 


Katie HarbisonKatie Harbison

MPA, 2007

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."


Chuck Shoopman

Chuck Shoopman

MPA, 2007

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 Smith

Reginald F. Smith II

MPA, 2012

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.”


Sarah MarczynskiSarah Marczynski

MPA, 2013

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.”


Trinette Ballard

Trinette Ballard

MPA, 2007

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.”


Nancy Sutherland

Nancy Sutherland

MPA, 2009

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.”


Sherry OrmsbySherry Marlow Ormsby

MPA, 2006

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!”


Scott HutchesonScott Hutcheson

MPA, 1995

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."


John BrockJohn Brock

MPA, 2017

Program Manager, Office of Public Transportation, Tennessee Department of Transportation

Advice to current MPA students: "The best advice that I could give to current and prospective MPA students would be to find an area of particular interest, and to really dig in and cultivate a knowledge base in that field or sub-discipline. In one sense, the Graduate Program for Public Administration is inherently a specialized field; but it is also rather broad in another sense. Determining what that area of interest is, and whether or not it will be beneficial to you and your career moving forward is an equally important thing to ask yourself. Your professors should be able to help you with that. I would implore you to think about this question early and often while in the MPA program.

"It is also important to sit back and take stock of the progress you’ve made both personally and professionally from time to time. All too often, it can be far too easy to get swept up in the day-to-day grind and stress that comes with it; and fail to sit back, take stock, and appreciate the strides and successes you’ve made to get to this point. Progress is not usually made in big leaps, but in small steps, day by day. Graduate school can be very stressful, and these brief moments of introspection can be very beneficial at times. Just getting to the point of being enrolled and taking classes in graduate school is no easy feat, and you should be proud of yourself at each point along the way.

"As with most things in life, it’s what you make of it. The MPA program is no different. If you put the work in, I am a firm believer that it will pay dividends now and for the rest of your life."


Nikki Ringenberg

Nikki Poarch Ringenberg

MPA, 2009

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.”


Donyel ScruggsDonyel Johnson

MPA, 2015

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.”


Chelsea SadlerChelsea Sadler

MPA, 2017

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.”


Brett ElderBrett Elder

 MPA, 2016

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."


Bradley Bell

Bradley Bell

MPA, 2017

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.”


Some more of our alumni ...

  • Adam Cava, Senior Vice President, Envision Physician Services
  • Adrienne Teague, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, George Mason University
  • Alex Wilson, Business Development Officer, Dickson County Government
  • Alissa Miller, Director of Volunteer Services and Special Events at Salvation Army
  • Andrew Horton, Senior Associate Athletics Director, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • April Counts, Human Resources Manager, Edscha
  • Ashley Baker, Integrated Specialist, Unum
  • Bently Thomas, Director of Planning and Inspections, Bradley County, Tennessee
  • Brianne Lalor, Chief Development Officer, Northside Neighborhood House
  • Candace Walsh, Instructor and Director, Nonprofit Leadership Collaborative of the Mid South, University of Memphis
  • Carla Sewell, Director, Vicitm Support Services, Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults
  • Carrie Sherbesman, Director, New Student and Family Programs, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Chris Acuff, Assistant Professor of Public Administration; formerly Statistical Research Analyst, Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Chuck Shoopman, Assistant Vice President, University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
  • Cody Roney, ‎Executive Director, Southeastern Climbers Coalition
  • Dawn Brock, Director, Health System Services, Bryan Health
  • Denise Cook, Supervisor, Hamilton County Juvenile Court
  • Elizabeth Tallman, Education Director, United Way of Greater Chattanooga
  • Evan Gross, LMS System Administrator, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Holly Odell, Community Outreach Coordinator, Lookout Mountain Conservancy
  • Jafar Ware, City Planner, City of Murfreesboro
  • Jamia Stokes, Director of Student Services, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Jamie Bergmann, Vice President for Grants and Advocacy, United Way of Greater Chattanooga
  • Jean-Marie Lawrence, Emergency Management Planner, Safety and Risk Management, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Jenny Park, Tennessee State Director, The Trust for Public Land; former Strategic Capital Planner, City of Chattanooga
  • Karen McGrath LeFan, Provider Outreach and Education Consultant, Cahaba Government Benefits Administrators 
  • Landon O'Neal, Budget Officer, City of Smyrna, Georgia
  • Lauren Bonds, Development Manager, ALS Association
  • Laurie Melnik, Executive Director, Southeast Center for Education in the Arts
  • Lesley Scearce, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Chattanooga 
  • Mackenzie Kelly, Community Engagement Coordinator, Lookout Mountain Conservancy
  • Marc Holcomb, Assistant Director, Center for Career and Leadership Development, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Margaret Norris, Executive Director, Municipal Technical Advisory Service, University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service
  • Mark Harvey, Executive Director, Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee
  • Michael Miller, Web Development Assistant, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Mike Covington, Bio-Statistical Research Scientist, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
  • Nancy Sutherland, Assistant Executive Director, Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency
  • Nicole Brown, Academic Advisor and Adjunct Faculty, Department of Communication, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Nikki Ringenberg, Senior Director of Membership and Grants, Nashville Academy of Medicine
  • Patrick Long, Vice President of Strategy and Engagement, United Way of Greater Chattanooga
  • Reginald Smith, Executive director, Bethlehem Center
  • Rob Suttles, Research Manager, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Robert Varnell, Assistant Strategic Planner for Urban Development, City of Collegedale
  • Scott Hutcheson, Ph.D. in Public Policy; Associate Director, Agile Strategy Lab, Purdue University
  • Shannon Colbert, Digital Content Strategist, Tennessee Aquarium
  • Sherry Marlow Ormsby, Director of Measurement and Evaluation, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Institutional Research, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Steve Everett, Executive Director, Martin Boyd Christian Home
  • Tommi Paris, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion, Southern Company Gas
  • Tonia Martin, Director of Strategic Management Technology, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Yancy Freeman, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Zach Atchley, Assistant Director, Mark Making

Are you a graduate of the UTC MPA program?  Have we lost track of you?  Send your updated information to and help us show off the accomplishments of our alumni.