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Inspiring Words of Future Public Servants

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Thomas Barth
August 17, 2018

One of the great rewards of being an MPA Director is the opportunity to review applications of new students who have chosen to pursue a career in public service. Each applicant is required to submit a “Statement of Purpose,” outlining why they are interested in an MPA degree and how it fits with their career plans. As academics and practitioners of public administration, it is worthwhile to take pause and reflect on their words — it provides a source of inspiration for us in a world that desperately needs professionals who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for all citizens; indeed, it reminds us of the difference between a job and a true vocation or calling to public service. The following is a sampling of the words of these students.

  • “Most importantly, I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and believe I can accomplish this through work in politics and government. My academic and career goals include a focus in urban management and policy. The housing crisis continues to grow exponentially across the country as well as right here in our backyard of Charlotte. I want to be a part of the solution by pursuing actions at the local, state or federal level that will lead to positive change benefiting the majority of citizens in our area.”
  • “In 1831, French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville travelled to the United States to study American democracy. He wrote “The strength of free peoples resides in the local community. Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within people’s reach.” I wish to pursue graduate studies to prepare myself for a career where I can be that change maker. I want to see our cities and towns grow, thrive, and adapt to future challenges through solid planning and policy practices.”
  • “For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to work that serves others or aims to better the lives of my fellow citizens. I will never forget my ninth grade civics class when I served as a defense attorney during a mock trial because of the rush I felt when defending the rights of another classmate. From that day on I became obsessed with the idea of having a career that was geared toward the service of others.”
  • “My professional career began with me teaching Geometry to children in Title 1 schools. It is a struggle to witness the hardships my students face and not be able to help them beyond the classroom. I want to create and work for organizations that level the playing field for my students.”
  • “As a youth receiving help from public agencies, I learned the importance of helping others. This lesson has stuck with me into adulthood; the pitfalls of stagnant environments that produce cycles of individuals who do not reach their fullest potential. As someone who has benefited from community enriching programs, it is one of my desires to make sure these programs and similar ones have the funding they need.”
  • “I often fantasize about the perfect job. I know I want to work towards the sustainable use of environmental resources and the preservation of the natural world. I want to work towards equality and an even distribution of these resources. I want to be a part of a team, a collective force all working towards the greater good. I want to love what I do and I want to make a difference in the world. I want to work in public service.”
  • “I desire to see more open conversation on disability in the Asian community. I desire to change the focus and language of disability, acknowledging the limitations but also emphasizing ability and potential. I desire to see policies enacted and enforced that mandate education for all children, regardless of their disability. I desire to create an environment where individuals with disabilities are encouraged to take risks.”
  • “The last five years, I have heard immigrant youth speak their stories of migration, survival, and efforts to understand their new home. Their potential is indescribable, and I hope my education will contribute to find new approaches to continuing to improve their lives. I am specifically interested in learning how public agencies and nonprofit organizations can collaboratively work to support immigrant communities.”
  • “My immediate future plans are to have a role in the Charlotte city council to gain valuable in-depth knowledge needed to implement plans that would benefit those in need. I wish to take this knowledge and awareness back to my rural hometown where the necessary resources for high poverty populations are unfortunately not available.”

Whether you are an academic preparing students in the classroom or a practitioner in a government or nonprofit agency mentoring new employees, we have no greater obligation than to keep these public service fires burning!

Author: Tom Barth is a Professor of Public Administration and Director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at UNC Charlotte. He teaches, conducts research, and consults in the areas of human resource management, strategic planning, leadership and ethics. [email protected]

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