UNH Employees Develop Themselves to Develop Others
Getting a graduate degree is a challenge under any circumstance, let alone while working full time. Students enrolled in the Carsey School of Public Policy’s Master in Community Development (MCD) degree program, however, almost all fit that bill. For Parker LaRock '15, ‘20G and Jessica Amato ‘19G, that meant completing their degrees—and capstone projects—while also working for UNH. Both LaRock and Amato came to the MCD program from elsewhere at the university, drawn to its reputation, emphasis on applied public service, and the flexible nature of the program that allows full time workers to complete a graduate degree in less than two years (two weeks each summer on campus and the rest online). The opportunity for them to work on passion-driven projects bringing positive changes to people’s lives while using their UNH tuition benefits was also a major draw.
LaRock’s project focused on mental health in the student population at UNH. His experience as a social worker let him see firsthand “the effects of severe mental health struggles and how they show up in a variety of ways,” says LaRock.
Amato knew that she wanted her capstone to focus on recreation opportunities for youth with disabilities and enrolled in the MCD program specifically to learn about international community development work within the field of therapeutic recreation.
“I was fortunate to get connected with a foundation in Zimbabwe the same week I was set to determine my project,” says Amato.
Though both students have a passion for community development, their geographic focuses could hardly have been farther apart, with LaRock’s project focused on helping UNH’s Psychological and Counseling Services (PACS) collaborate better with Residential Life while Amato helped build capacity in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, for youth with disabilities to have more opportunities for sport and play. The versatility of a community development degree is that communities that can benefit from development exist in our backyards and around the globe!
What have they taken away from their projects?
“I can be successful in international development work!” says Amato. “I have learned how to fundraise, write grants, create and manage a budget, and how to navigate cultural differences within a work environment with success.”
For LaRock, successfully completing the MCD program has given him the confidence to continue his work. “If you told me 5 years ago that I would be making a positive impact on UNH and implementing change that would last, I wouldn’t have believed it…this program really does help empower you to make real positive change,” says LaRock.
If you told me 5 years ago that I would be making a positive impact on UNH and implementing change that would last, I wouldn’t have believed it…this program really does help empower you to make real positive change.
Fortunately for UNH and the world, there is a surplus of talent right here at the university, and the Carsey School’s MCD program is ready to do what it takes to help aspiring community leaders gain the tools to make a meaningful difference in the world.
Moving forward, LaRock plans to continue working in higher education and Amato intends to continue to bring sports, recreation, and play opportunities to youth with disabilities around the world. Their capstones may signify the end of their program but are just the start of a lifetime of community development work to come.
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