What exactly is an MPA? An Alum’s Reflection on Choosing to Pursue a Graduate Degree

IsaacsonBy Lynn Isaacson, COO/Adoption Supervisor, Open Door Adoption Services

I found myself asking this question as I researched options for a master’s degree that would be useful in my career area: What is an MPA (Master of Public Administration)?

When looking at returning to school for an advanced degree, graduate or otherwise, there are so many options out there that it can become confusing, and making the determination as to whether or not a specific degree will be beneficial to you can be overwhelming.

I started this journey approximately 7 years ago and felt quite out of touch with the educational community. My career had been squarely placed within the social work community, but I felt at odds with a master’s degree in social work since I felt that it would be of very little benefit. If I took the leap to make a commitment to completing a master’s degree, it should be more than just letters after my name; it should have some impact on expanding what I felt compelled to do with my life, and it should also expand on my area of expertise.

Upon research and discussion with the EMU MPA Director, I concluded that this could be the very degree I was looking for that could fit this strange compilation of requirements. Of particular interest was the connection to my career path in nonprofit management and the program’s ability to allow specialization within this area.

I must confess I did fuss over the Political Science classes, of which there were many, and I cannot say that I am currently utilizing all of that information in my current professional position. However, looking back, I can identify that these classes were woven together to produce a well-balanced program that really helped to solidify an area of specialization I had been moving towards long before returning to school. Getting back into the educational community stimulated some of those ideas that had been somewhat stifled by the day-to-day routine of work. It allowed me to once again think long and hard about my purpose and what exactly was I willing to do to fulfill this.

Since completing my MPA with a concentration in Nonprofit Management in 2014, I have been very busy with a new nonprofit adoption agency, of which I am a co-founder.  This agency envelops many of those ideas that had become dormant with day-to-day living and gives me the opportunity to continue giving back to those in the larger community. I am unsure if I would have had the desire to push forward if I had not completed this degree. I am also unsure that I would have had a greater understanding of some of the finer points of nonprofit management that have proved to be invaluable throughout the past 2 years.

Within the MPA program, there is a flexibility to create the specialization you could be in need of in the professional career setting. We live in such a competitive work environment, and the savvy student must consider not only if the degree is something they are interested in but also if the work community is interested in it. Graduate degrees are a time-consuming and expensive proposition, and in the end those letters must be willing to work as hard for you as you worked for them.

Lynn Isaacson is a Nonprofit Entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the field of Social Work. She currently runs an adoption agency that she co-founded and teaches college classes in Human Service and Nonprofit Management. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Social Work from Eastern Michigan University in 1996 and returned to complete her Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management in 2014 from Eastern Michigan University.

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