Kelly Dumais, an MPA student and co-president of the first year MPA intern option class, graduated Cum Laude from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota in the spring of 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with an emphasis in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. While at Gustavus, Kelly earned the Ron and Rolf Christiansen Political Science Award for academic excellence and public service.
Currently, Kelly serves as the management intern at the City of Eudora, KS City Manager’s Office. She is leading Eudora’s effort to promote the Network Kansas E-Community and E-Accelerator programs to promote business resources for entrepreneurs in Douglas County. Other projects Kelly has worked on include: the City’s annual report, a weekly newsletter of community events and updates and the 1st Annual Great Kaw Adventure Race. Kelly also serves as a representative of the City on the local Chamber of Commerce board.
Kelly is mid-way through her second semester in the MPA program, and we caught up with her to see how things are going.
Q: How did you hear about the KU MPA program as a prospective student?
My decision to pursue an MPA degree came from the realization that I wanted to work in local government. I reached out to my undergraduate mentor and she recommended the KU program and connected me with an alumna from my undergraduate institution who had completed the KU MPA program. Once I started looking into the program, I knew that this was the place for me.
Q: What were the deciding factors in coming to the School?
I knew that I wanted to work in local government – that is my passion. So, I looked at programs that had a local government focus. Out of those schools, KU immediately stood out as something special. Not only did the School have top rankings among other local government MPA programs, but the structure of the intern option program really excited me. I wanted to do more than just theorize about what it was like working in local government – I wanted to do it. I loved how the KU intern option MPA program integrated coursework and work experience.
In my conversations with the alumna from my undergraduate institution, I got the sense that the School is more than just a place where students learn how to be administrators, but rather it is a place where students learn how to be good administrators. She expressed a passion for the ethic of public leadership and the power of good governance to make a difference in a community. That sentiment was echoed during my visit at KU during the Kansas City/County Management Conference in April where I saw that this is more than a School or program – this is a leadership community.
Q: What are your hopes for your time at KU?
I hope that I find mentors – people who will continue to inspire me and I can reach out to throughout my career, and I am hoping to gain skills that I can apply in my work and that help guide me through difficult decisions.
Q: What is something that you've studied that you've been immediately able to apply to life?
One of the first lessons that we learned in Professor O’Leary’s class was the constant tension between bureaucracy and democracy. The work of administrators is a balancing act between different values of governance. When I started my internship, we were preparing the city budget. The budget process, perhaps more than others, truly represents the struggle that local governments face to balance as many interests as possible with limited resources. The resources that the government allocates are very tangible, they come from real people from this community. This balancing act is done with care, and consideration, and intentionality in order to promote the will of the people, democracy, while also helping to ensure that the government is able to function as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Q: What is your favorite memory of being in the program so far?
My favorite day thus far was during Professor O’Leary’s class. We did an activity where small groups came up with solutions to problems. Specifically, we were coming up with solutions for how to address low voter turnout. The key to this activity was that there were no limits on what your solutions could be – you could do anything! You didn’t have to consider cost, the political climate, limits of the physical universe – anything was possible. Many of the solutions were ridiculous and wonderfully hilarious; I believe one involved an extensive use of mimes. Ultimately, though, the exercise taught us that problems that seem impossible still have solutions if we can think outside of the box. It was a day of dreaming that made me realize that as administrators, it is our job to figure out how to translate those dreams into realities. While we may not have feasible solutions yet, by thinking outside the box, we might be able to see a path that wasn’t there before or that we prematurely dismissed. Rethinking problems is a great way to illuminate solutions.
Q: What is something interesting that we should know about you?
I love playing music! I am a flute player and have been playing for 14 years.
Q: What would you tell a prospective student of this program?
This program is designed to prepare you for a career. It is education that is grounded in experience. The community here is passionate about your success and your development as an effective leader in the profession. It is a lot of work and also a lot of fun and it will be an experience you will look back on for the rest of your life.
Q: Of your previous work and life experiences, what do you think most prepared you for the School’s MPA program?
During my senior year at Gustavus Adolphus College, I served as co-chair for the 2014 Building Bridges Social Justice Conference. The conference is an entirely student-led event with more than 1,000 attendees every year. While the conference occurs in March, the committee spends the entire year engaging the campus in a year-long conversation about a social justice issue. We settled on environmental justice as the topic for our conference as we wanted to explore the ways in which different communities are connected together.
While there are many things that divide us, we all share the same Earth. The environment helps to put in perspective the fact that we are all in community when we look at the environmental systems that connect us. I am pursuing a Master of Public Administration to develop my skills and experiences to become a city manager and continue working on a variety of issues that not only serve a variety of people, but build community between them.
Q: Do you have an idea of what you would like to do with your public administration degree?
My passion is local service. I would love to work in a city, and I aspire to become a city manager.