Selected Alumni Profiles

Selected Alumni Profiles

MPA alumni comprise a dynamic and diverse network and are employed in a variety of different capacities in local, state, and federal government, nonprofit organizations, higher education and research institutes, and the military. Our alumni are happy to speak with prospective students so we encourage you to contact Sarah Dorner if you’d like to connect with alumni in your field of work.

 

Alexandra Stewart '13

Image of Alexandra (Ali) StewartCurrent position:  Executive Director
Organization: The New Teachers Retreat, LLC.

 

 

Can you tell us about the work you do?

As a public school teacher, I spend most of my days working with students in English class to make sure they have the skills to thrive as they grow.  For me, this is more than only reading and writing skills; I do my best to help my students confront what they want their impact on the world to be.  We have a weekly discussion about role models who have used communication to change the world for the better and discuss what impact they would like to have.  These discussions ground the work we are doing in class and reinforce the ways in which what they are learning matters.  These discussions, which ultimately revolve around the role of themselves as future citizens, is in part a response to my previous work in campaign politics and issue advocacy, as well as my experiences in the MPA program. 

Further, the skills I learned about how to grow my own impact through the MPA program led me to found an organization, the New Teachers Retreat, with other teachers in Boston and New Hampshire to help support teachers new to the profession.  I was able to pair my experiences from the Public Administration program with my education experiences to identify and address a need in the education landscape.  The New Teachers Retreat works with teachers in their first few years of teaching to support them through relationships with fellow mentor teachers who have been in the profession for five or more years.  The first years of teaching are notoriously difficult and there is a lack of professional development opportunities geared toward new teachers. By working with fellow educators, we can provide crucial support for younger teachers and keep them in the profession long term.

What initially piqued your interest in public service?

I’m not exactly sure, but my mother was a school social worker and through her I was exposed to the positive power that public services could provide in order to empower people.  By the time I was in high school I knew I was interested in doing work that was meaningful and that supported communities.  After college, this led me to work in political campaigns and with nonprofits on issue advocacy. I realized over time that education was an issue I was particularly passionate about, so in order to have a bigger impact, I moved into the classroom.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Working with people is the best part of this work.  Education is such a human field and the relationships that you build doing this work are by far the most rewarding.  We work with students every day who are facing challenges both in and out of the classroom.  Ultimately, my job isn’t to fill their heads with information, but to equip them with the skills and experiences that will support them in leading the lives they want.  This extends to working as a mentor for fellow teachers as well.  I find this work fascinating because the people involved make it so. 

What’s the greatest challenge for you?

This relates directly to the previous question.  Because this work is so interconnected with fellow humans, it is imperfect and unique to each individual.  We all come at challenges in different ways and bring with us previous experiences and expectations.  As such, while there are strategies that you can employ, there are no simple answers that work for everyone.  That’s a good thing in the long run, but it is a challenge as you work with new people.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

As a new organization, our biggest accomplishment so far was putting on our first Retreat this past year at Keene State College.  The first New Teachers Retreat was a great success and our participants left ready to take on the next year with new strategies and more energy.  Most important, 100% of our participants said that they felt they were leaving the program with a strong community of both mentors and fellow participants with which they can reach out to throughout the year.  As part of this, we were also finalists this year for Stay Work Play New Hampshire’s Rising Star Awards in the category of Leadership Development Program. 

Why did you choose the UNH MPA program?

When I started the program, I knew I wanted to make an impact that went beyond election day.  While elections matter, I wanted to spend my efforts on the everyday work that supports our communities.  I knew I wanted to stay in New Hampshire and that UNH was the best program in the state to really understand the processes here to make that goal possible. 

What did you enjoy most about the UNH MPA program?

I loved that so many of our classes drew strength from the students and their experiences.  I learned so much from my fellow classmates and their examples.  The relationships that I formed with them have lasted beyond the program and have been rich both professionally and personally.

Which courses were most helpful to your professional development?

The first two that come to mind are both classes taught by Terry Knowles – Nonprofit Management and Negotiations.  These courses used lots of real world examples as well while requiring students to apply theories into practice through simulations in class.  These courses have helped me in a number of ways in my career both in creating my own organization and working within larger systems.  The other course that was incredibly helpful was Statistics.  I am a pretty nervous person when it comes to numbers and math, but what I loved about this class is that it helped me break down that fear about statistics to really understand how to get those numbers to work for me.  By understanding the processes and practical applications, I left that class more confident than I thought would be possible. 

How did your education in the UNH MPA program prepare you for your career?

The biggest thing I think the MPA program did to prepare me is help me realize that I’m ready for the challenges ahead.  Throughout the program, the relationships I created along with the skills I gained helped bit by bit to build confidence in the kind of leader I could be.  Throughout the years I spent in the program, I learned from the examples of others through case studies and assignments that helped me understand the various considerations that need to go into thoughtful decisions in the public sphere.  Each class contributed to an overall understanding of how the system works and how I can have a positive impact on it. 

What advice would your share with current UNH MPA students?

Ask lots of questions.  The professors are incredibly knowledgeable about their areas of expertise.  Use this as a chance to mine that knowledge.  Don’t be passive.  Also, ask questions of your classmates.  Learn about their backgrounds and interests and you may surprise yourself.

 

 

 

 

Donna Benton  '13

Image of Donna BentonCurrent position:  Assistant City Planner
Organization: City of Dover, NH

Testimonial:  “The MPA program offers a great mix of theory and practice.”

 

Can you tell me about the work you do?

I have a range of responsibilities from handling all plan review and staffing the Planning Board to special projects such as expanding the Dover trail systems, overseeing the Community Trail Advisory Committee, and redesigning City Hall office space. I’m on the Board of Directors for the Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST bus) and serve as a representative for Amtrak Downeaster. I’m also on the Executive Committee for New Hampshire Planners Association. 

What initially piqued your interest in public service?

I started off doing event planning but found that the work wasn’t rewarding enough for me, so I shifted my focus to the public sector. The work is much more rewarding and has allowed me to use my event planning skills along with an entirely new skill set I’ve acquired from working in the field and from the MPA program.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I love working with the public and answering their questions to assist with their needs. I also like seeing the tangible results of my efforts, such as driving by a new building for which I reviewed plans or helping a new business move to the City.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Funding can be limited so it’s often tough to provide the best service while ensuring it’s both efficient and effective.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I’m proud of the work I’m doing with the Community Trail group. We’re currently working on a $400,000 TAP grant to expand an old rail trail in order to enhance both alternative modes of transportation and recreational use.

Why did you choose the MPA program?

I was looking for a broad degree but something more specific to the public sector than an MBA.  As I learned more about the MPA, it seemed like a great fit. I was also drawn to the program for the paid Fellowship opportunity through the NH Municipal Association. I applied to the MPA program during my senior year at UNH and began my coursework that spring while finishing my Bachelor degree. I completed the NHMA Fellowship in Dover the first summer I was in the program and then in Newmarket the second summer after I graduated.

What did you enjoy most about the program?

I liked taking classes with working professionals. The program has a great mix of students and I found it helpful to learn from the professional experiences of my classmates, as well as the experiences of my professors.

Which course was most helpful to your professional development?

While many classes were helpful, The Art of Negotiation with Terry Knowles helped me connect with other students in the program. This gave me confidence and got me grounded in the program. I use the skills I learned in that class – such as framing conversations, interacting with different types of people, and using logic in responses – every day at work.

How did your education in the program prepare you for your career?

The MPA gave me both new skills and new experiences. I utilize lessons from all of my courses in the work I do each day. As I was fresh from my undergraduate studies, the Fellowship and my Capstone project gave me the kind of work experience that employers look for. I completed my Capstone with the City of Dover and they kept me on as an employee while I finished my Master’s. This helped lead to my first job as Assistant Planner for the Town of Merrimack, which I held for two years before returning to the City of Dover. I think my Master’s degree, coupled with the experience from my Fellowship and Capstone, helped position me as a desirable candidate for the planning jobs I secured after the program.

What lesson from the MPA program have you found particularly applicable to your work?

The discussions we had about efficiency versus effectiveness were very helpful and something I always keep in mind when planning projects. I’ve learned that it’s often more efficient in the long run to spend the appropriate amount of funding for a project from the start. Pre-planning expenditures is imperative in the budget process.

What advice would you share with current MPA students?

Try to take courses with all of the different professors. The MPA program offers a great mix of theory and practice; taking classes with full time faculty and seasoned practitioners is the best way to make the most of this. And be sure to build relationships with your fellow classmates because it’s always nice to see a familiar face or to call peers who have experience facing obstacles we all come across.

 

 

Mike Pelletier  '15

Image of Mike PelletierCurrent position: Deputy Director
Organization: Human Resources for NH National Guard

Testimonial:  “Earning your MPA is a real positive for you and your organization. You’re guaranteed to bring back skills you didn’t have before the program.”

 

Can you tell me about the work you do?

Our HR department administers to the NH National Guard’s 400 federal civilian employees and 350 full time active military service members. We work everything from analyzing the structure of the organization to filling human capital requirements to complete the organization’s mission. We support employees in both the Army and Air National Guard throughout their entire employment cycle. I assist the Director of HR and our staff of 15 personnel.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

It’s great to see new personnel come into the organization and watch them develop, mature, be promoted and become successful in their careers.

What is the biggest challenge for you?

As we’re a federal employer, we are challenged with many laws, rules, and policies that govern our administrative efforts. Over the years, these guidelines have grown in size and complexity. This can sometimes make it challenging to do both the right thing and the legal thing in transacting our business.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

In the seven years that I’ve been with the National Guard, I’ve helped to reorganize and revitalize our internal policy regulation. This reorganization made our policies easier to understand and made the organization more efficient.

What initially piqued your interest in public service?

I worked in the private sector for 22 years. In 2009, the National Guard was hiring individuals to support their growing operations. This seemed like a great opportunity to use my outside perspective from the private sector to have a positive influence on the public sector. I knew it was going to be a challenge because the public sector operates so differently from the private sector. The incentives are different and the goals and objectives are practically opposites. I enjoy the National Guard’s team emphasis and focus on common goals.

Why did you choose the MPA program?

NH National Guardsmen can attend state schools for free in the State of NH, so there was a big economic incentive for me to get my second Master’s degree. I had my MBA but felt I needed additional education to better understand the public sector. I chose the MPA knowing it would give me greater insight into public (and nonprofit) sector organizations. It also gave me an opportunity to learn about technological advances and capabilities that didn’t exist years ago when I was getting my MBA.

What did you enjoy most about the MPA program?

I enjoyed interacting with my classmates of all ages and from both the public and nonprofit sectors. Through group exercises, I learned about their professional experiences and how their organizations contribute to society. Given that I’m at the federal level, I especially enjoyed learning about local and state levels. This networking has continued even after the program.

How did your education in the MPA program prepare you for your career?

It gave me the background of public service and an understanding of its various components. Each course I took helped me to better understand my profession. I learned the value of leaving my comfort zone and networking with individuals outside my main area of study or profession.

Which course was particularly helpful to your professional development?

Dan Bromberg’s Foundations and Theories of Public Administration class was great. I learned how federal administration developed and how key figures like Weber and Wilson created the foundation of what we experience today. It’s important to know where we came from and how we got to where we are today. Understanding this path helps us chart a course in the future that is more efficient and provides better government for the people we serve.

What lesson from the MPA program have you found most valuable to your job?

I learned that the term bureaucracy, which often has negative connotations, actually has some positive attributes. Bureaucracy allows you to analyze an issue and apply a set of standards based on rules and regulations to come to a successful and efficient resolution. You’re not just winging it. Knowing this, I can now explain to our employees the reasons we administer in a certain way. Though a process may seem complex or lengthy, it’s based on a desire to come to the most efficient and fair resolution, which makes everyone better off.

What advice would you share with current MPA students?

Stick with it. It can be hard and takes time away from family, and friends but the feeling of satisfaction once you’ve earned your degree is euphoric. Earning your MPA is a real positive for you and your organization. You’re guaranteed to bring back skills you didn’t have before the program.

 

 

Jeremy Dupuis '15

Image of Jeremy DupuisCurrent position: Team Lead
Organization: State of NH Financial Data Reporting

Testimonial:  “The MPA doesn’t just effect the person who receives it, but everybody they touch.”

 

Can you tell us about the work you do?

I work for the State of NH supporting the technical part of the State’s financial system.  I manage the activities of a small software development team that supports all financial, budget, payroll and human resources programs for the State of NH.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most noble of work is that in the service of others. The team I work with supports the needs of our community and every dollar we save goes to providing services to those who need them. Because of this, I feel as though we accomplish something good every day.

What’s the greatest challenge for you?

The structural deficit in the budget and the downward pressure to minimize government by downsizing is a challenge. Programs are underfunded and this puts pressure on public employees to make cuts for the people of NH. 

What is one of your biggest professional accomplishments?

In 2012 there were a large number of legislative budget changes. The estimated implementation time for the change was 10,000 hours. I invented a software package that performed most of the changes, saving about 8,000 hours of work in exchange for about 120 hours of my time. Since then, the software package has been expanded and reused. My team and I do stuff like this consistently in an effort to make processes more efficient and support the public. We strive to do what we’re told is impossible.

I’m also proud of my transition from software developer to project manager, mentor, and team lead. Moving into a management role was risky but has been a good move. I’ve been promoted several times and am in a role that combines my technical experience with my desire to manage a team. I get to develop great products for the State and help employees grow and advance!

What initially piqued your interest in public service?

I worked in the private sector for many years and took a job in government after the 2001 dotcom crash.  I didn’t know I wanted to work for government and didn’t come to it for noble reasons – it was hard to get a job after the crash. I took a 50% pay cut when I started working for the State. I discovered I liked working for government and being a part of a union. Having the protections and the bargaining power afforded by the union made the job that much better.  Additionally, I came to the realization that I liked working for our community.  I go to work every day and make our world a better place by helping people.

Why did you choose the MPA program?

Though I’d already moved up in my career with my government, I knew I wanted a higher degree. I felt that having an MPA would open doors to higher levels in my career.  Since I was committed to my career with government, the MPA was a better fit for me than an MBA. I chose UNH over Harvard because UNH was local and provided better networking opportunities since it was in state.

What did you enjoy most about the program?

I liked the intimacy of the program. Courses centered on discussions with professors and classmates. I enjoyed this sharing process and learned from the experiences of my peers. I was constantly impressed by the number of different ideas that came from reading the same article.

Which courses were most helpful to your professional development?

There are two classes that stand out. I enjoyed Dan Bromberg’s Statistics course the most. It taught me how to write and understand research papers which has been helpful to me since I do a lot of work around policies. I also enjoyed Kevin Clougherty’s Financial Management and Budgeting class. It’s directly related to the work I do so I was able to apply many of the lessons to my day-to-day work.

How did your education in the MPA program prepare you for your career?

I’ve dedicated my life to government and know that the higher up I get, the more I need to understand things like budgeting, finance, and management. The technical knowledge and management skills I gained from the program have enabled me to succeed and given me an edge over people who don’t have the degree. I have more people working under me now and use the human resource management skills I acquired from the program to help me be a better manager. The MPA gave me the management skills to keep workers motivated and get the best out of everyone – even more challenging employees.

How did the faculty influence you and the way you approach your work?

Kevin Clougherty was inspirational! He taught me not to settle for meeting expectations, but to strive to give an extra effort and surpass expectations. I learned the value of going that extra mile and not just giving what was asked of me.

What advice would you share with current MPA students?

Get the MPA degree as young as possible because it opens career doors and helps you achieve more in the public or nonprofit sector. The MPA enables you to help others. I would tell students to enjoy, have fun and help as many people as you can.

 

Career Outcomes

  • Senior Assistant Director of Admissions, UNH School of Law
  • Assistant Superintendent, Stafford County Department of Corrections
  • Coastal Program Administrator, NH Department of Environmental Services
  • Sergeant and Bomb Squad Commander, NH State Police
  • Director of Communications, NH Charitable Foundation
  • Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Public Affairs Manager, University of New Hampshire
  • Chief Executive Officer, Primex
  • Director of Policy and Planning, NH Community Development Finance Authority
  • Director of Community Affairs, Riverbend Community Mental Health
  • Division Director, NH Lottery Commission
  • Business Retention Specialist, State of NH Division of Economic Development
  • Vice President Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships, Scholastic Inc.
  • Congresswoman, United States Government
  • Director of Redevelopment, City of Concord
  • Business Development/Project Management Officer, Capital Region Development Council
  • County Manager, York County of Maine
  • Director of Entrepreneurship, NH Business Finances Authority
  • Founder and Executive Director, New Teachers Retreat
  • Triskelion Consulting, Consultant
  • City Manager, City of Dover
  • Town Manager, Town of Litchfield