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Student Spotlight: Drew Vincent, MPA Student and Class Co-President

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Drew Vincent, an MPA intern option student and class co-president, graduated from Baylor University’s Honors Program with a B.A. in International Studies. Following graduation, Drew worked as Project Manager for the Waco Downtown Development Corporation, an Emergency Preparedness Planner with the Heart of Texas Council of Governments, and a volunteer firefighter and EMT-Basic with the City of Bellmead, TX Fire Department.

Drew is currently the Management Intern for the County Administrator of Douglas County, Kansas where he manages the County's E-Community and E-Accelerator programs. He is also actively involved in the renovation strategy for the County Fairgrounds and the management of the County's Energy Star portfolio, which helps set building energy usage benchmarks for greater sustainability. 

Now that Drew is in his second semester of the MPA program, we wanted to catch up with him to see what he’s up to.

Q: How did you hear about the KU MPA program as a prospective student?
After I completed my undergraduate degree, I knew I eventually wanted to return to school and achieve my master's. However, I was unsure what degree would be the best fit for me and I ended up working for two years in the economic development and emergency management fields. Both experiences made an impression and I ultimately decided that an MPA degree was the ideal choice for me.

As I looked at schools, KU's MPA program stood out as the strongest program by reputation and network. Whenever I asked around about degree programs, the KUCIMAT 'brand' always garnered positive reactions from those around me who had their MPA degrees. I found the University of Kansas to be synonymous with MPA, as it is mentioned in nearly every available resource for individuals looking into getting their degree in the public administration field.

Q: What were the deciding factors in coming to the School?
It came down to the network and relationship elements. After hearing back from the programs I applied to, I was stuck between committing to KU and another school. I decided to ask the other university for examples of their graduates working in city management positions and within a short time, they sent me a name. I did a little research and, yes, this individual was an assistant city manager. However, his boss was a KUCIMAT. Inadvertently, the other school led me to one of many KU graduates serving in leadership capacities across the U.S. 

Q: What are your hopes for your time at KU?
I have both academic and professional goals to achieve during my time here. Academically, I'm looking for a great foundation in important public administration concepts (including ethics), a solid understanding of how a public administrator should structure his or her thinking when dealing with policy, and learning how to use information in a way that can benefit my community. Professionally, getting to know the KUCIMAT network and gaining practical experience through my internship will help me apply my education as I move into the next stages of my career.

Q: What is something that you've studied that you've been immediately able to apply to life?
For me, Role, Context and Ethics in Public Administration was one of the most thought provoking classes I've taken so far. Every once in a while you take a course that really makes you pause and have one of those 'A-ha' moments. Professor O'Leary taught our class and I think we all took a lot out of the discussions and readings. One of our assignments was to create a personal ethics statement and the deeper I got into it, the more I realized how much thinking it through really matters.

Q: What is your favorite memory of being in the program so far?
One of our class assignments required us to explore KU's campus and the city to find examples of sustainable infrastructure. This included permeable pavement that allows water to reach the trees that keep parking lots cool and rain gardens that help clean water runoff from parking lots. I honestly never would have noticed these projects if we weren't required to find them, yet I enjoy their benefits. This assignment, in my mind, represented what it means to go into local government: helping your community in ways that may never be consciously noticed.

Q: What is something interesting that we should know about you?
I love the Americas (South, Central, North) and I've spent time in Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, and Bolivia. I originally wanted to go into the Foreign Service, working in the Western Hemisphere. 

Q: What would you tell a prospective student of this program?
A lot of programs that I looked into simply didn't have the focus on service that I wanted out of an MPA degree – a fact I found surprising. Many MPA programs are politically-focused and are set up using a framework that did not feel authentic. The professors, the cohort, and the KUCIMAT network all make KU’s MPA degree have a public service focus and every person in the program is engaged because serving others gives them a sense of purpose. I chose an MPA program because I like the people that get into this field; they go into public administration because the work they do can truly affect the community. When I talk with my classmates and graduates from the KU MPA program, their passion for this work is evident.

Another important benefit of this program is that we take classes alongside career professionals. Those students are in the MPA career option program, which can be pursued part-time. Being in class with local and state administrators, police and firefighters, educational experts, federal employees, even a Foreign Service Officer, adds immense practical value to the program.

Q: Of your previous work and life experiences, what do you think most prepared you for the School’s MPA program?
While an undergraduate student at Baylor, I was heavily involved in the university's Model Organization of American States program. This organization taught me the importance of clear and concise communication, finding common ground, and seeking practical, yet creative, policy options. Aside from my academic background, working in economic development and emergency management gave me a practical mindset that makes the MPA program’s course materials more relevant. When struggling with a theory, I can apply examples from work that makes grasping concepts much easier. I also volunteered as a firefighter; that experience gave me an appreciation for an "on the ground" perspective when talking about topics like infrastructure and policy creation (and how management decisions play out when they actually take effect). An idea may be great on paper, but it may not be the best option for those implementing it. 

Q: Do you have an idea of what you would like to do with your public administration degree?
My long-term career objective is to achieve a senior-level position within government management that allows me to impact my direct community. I enjoy the work experiences I've had on the city and county levels; these positions have given me the opportunity to be deeply involved in issues I care about while also exposing me to new project areas. The strength of the KU MPA program is its versatility in the professional environment.


Ruth DeWitt, Communications Manager
KU School of Public Affairs and Administration
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