Student Spotlight: Elizabeth Dailey

In this short webinar, our Enrollment Advisor, Pauline Courchene, speaks with current student, Elizabeth Dailey about the MPA program and how it has helped her in her professional goals.

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Pauline: Welcome to the University of San Francisco’s student spotlight webinar for the online master of public administration program. Our agenda today will begin with some brief introductions followed by a question and answer session with one of our current students. I will then do a quick program overview followed by the next steps to apply. My name is Pauline Courchene. I have been an enrollment advisor for more than ten years and an advisor for the University of San Francisco for just over a year. My background is in education. I have a bachelor’s in business and a master’s in educational technology. If you have any questions about our online program, feel free to call me, schedule an appointment, or email me. Our guest panelist today is Elizabeth Daily.

Elizabeth earned her bachelor’s in secondary education in 2002 from the University of Rhode Island. Her work experience includes AmeriCorps Vista and a stint as a US Army victim advocate. Elizabeth currently holds a leadership position for the Family Advocacy Program at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state. Elizabeth is a current student in the online MPA Program and is in the final year of her course. Thank you for joining us today, Elizabeth and thank you for agreeing to take part in our webinar today. Are you ready to answer some questions about the online MPA Program?

Elizabeth: Definitely.

Pauline: Good. Thank you. So first of all, how much time do you devote to your coursework each week?

Elizabeth: So each week is a little bit different. Usually I spend roughly around two to three hours a night reading during the week to prepare for larger discussion postings or papers that are due. So on average, between the readings and online discussion and any assignments it’s usually about 10 to 12 hours a week.

Pauline: Wow, you’re doing well. I have to say I advise the students 15 to 20 hours. Does it ever take you that long or do you find that it’s a sort of a personal thing? Like if you can do some courses quickly and some slower?

Elizabeth: Yeah, definitely. It just depends on what the assignments are. Right now, what I’m kind of seeing is it’s taking me a little over 12 but if it’s a semester where there are two courses at the same time, it definitely can take me up to 20.

Pauline: Right, absolutely. Absolutely and in that semester, that was just one semester, right, where you did two courses at a time?

Elizabeth: There were three semesters where I did two courses at a time.

Pauline: Okay, over the summer months and then __?

Elizabeth: Yes, there was the summer of the — summer of 2016. Or those were back to back. I’m sorry. I can’t remember. I know the fall of last year, the second block of fall semester last year was two and also this past summer there were two.

Pauline: Excellent. Thank you, thank you for explaining that. That’s good. And how did you find the online learning platform, the canvas? How easy was that to use?

Elizabeth: I actually enjoyed it. It was kind of amusing coming from getting my undergrad degree back in 2002 where online was just kind of coming into fruition and knowing a lot of my contemporaries and a lot of my colleagues who were continuing on with their education and doing most of their stuff online even when they were attending school. So getting back into that technology piece for me was — there was a learning curve just because it wasn’t something I was very familiar with but I picked it up very easily. It was very easy to use and to navigate through.

Pauline: Excellent. Thank you. And how do you manage to balance taking the MPA courses along with your professional and your personal life?

Elizabeth: So I really had to prioritize. Getting my MPA was incredibly important to me so there’s definitely some personal life things that definitely had to take a little bit of a backseat. I’ve kind of been holding off on taking any major vacations but it definitely was getting some priority in place to make sure I got my MPA done on time for myself. I was also lucky that my supervisor saw the benefit of me extending my education and working through my MPA because it is something that does relate very closely to my job. So they have been very understanding with me taking time when I don’t have work responsibilities to actually do some of the work for school.

Pauline: That’s really fortunate, isn’t it? Excellent.

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah, I lucked out. Yeah.

Pauline: Now, do you have any favorite parts of the curriculum, maybe some courses that you’ve enjoyed the most or were more relevant to you?

Elizabeth: Sure. Yeah, so the managing of public communications was so relevant to what I do. I work pretty much extensively within the Army community. We have ongoing campaigns that we are responsible for as the year goes on. I work within family advocacy so it’s domestic violence awareness month, child abuse awareness month and we’re always interacting with the public. So I felt that that class was very, very beneficial. I learned so many skills that I can relate directly to what I do day to day. Also, the human resource management. Being in the position where I have, over the years, had oversight of employees I never had a human resource management class or instruction. So it definitely opened my eyes to things that I need to know, especially if I progress in my career.

Pauline: That’s excellent. Yes, human resources part I think is relevant for everybody isn’t it? Whichever role that they’re in.

Elizabeth: Yes.

Pauline: Sure.

Elizabeth: Yes, definitely.

Pauline: So have your professors, have they required you to log into classes that specify times?

Elizabeth: There’s been deadlines to postings and also when responses to online discussion were due by. I have yet to have a professor who said that I had to be on at a certain time for a class discussion or anything of that nature but there’s definitely very upfront and clear deadlines for online discussions and then when those responses should be made by.

Pauline: So generally how many times a week would you recommend that a student would log into the program?

Elizabeth: For myself, just because I like to stay on top of things, I’m usually logged in pretty much every day. I know that with the discussions I like to kind of respond if there’s a posting to my — to what I’ve initially posted, the discussion piece or someone has a question about what I posted. I like to be able to respond to them as quickly as possible but I think to be successful, a minimum of four to five times a week at the very minimum.

Pauline: Good. And I know you do interact with the other students as part of the discussion group. Have you had any other interactions with the current students in the program?

Elizabeth: Yeah, so we have — in a couple of the courses we’ve had outside phone calls or we’ve had conference calls to work on projects together. We did a — it was a share point, kind of working off a shared document. We used Google share, the share document a lot. I’ve also been in touch specifically with those students who are about to graduate with me, questions about classes. I’ve been in touch with them kind of over the past two years.

Also, this past summer connected with two students who were about half a semester behind me. So they’ll kind of reach out to me if they have questions on something, about what my experience has been in the class. So there’s been — even if it’s not course related there has been connections with other classmates to kind of help each other along.

Pauline: That’s good. Typically, when you’re doing group work how many students are in a group with you?

Elizabeth: So typically, what my experience has been, I’ve always had — I think the largest group was four but that was myself and three others. But usually it’s been pretty much myself and two other students. So there’s usually about three of us in the classes that I’ve had group work in.

Pauline: And do you group work generally once a semester or more than that?

Elizabeth: It really depends. This past summer it was — I had one group that I worked very extensively with in the technologies — emerging technologies for public administrators. That one, it was through the whole semester that I worked with two other students on a final project. So yeah, it’s usually about once a semester that you’re in a team.

Pauline: And do you have much contact with student support? Have you had any help from Aniya in student support during the program?

Elizabeth: I’ve definitely reached out to Aniya when it was time to register for the next semester of classes, just to make sure I was on track. What I should be registering for, making sure that all of my information and everything was put in correctly for applying for graduation. So I’ve always reached out to her if I had questions but specifically on registering for the next semester is when I’ve had the most contact with her.

Pauline: Right, the preparations, yes, for each semester. And the instructors themselves, how have your interactions been with them? Are they responsive to questions generally?

Elizabeth: Generally, yes. There’s definitely some instructors who are very, very, very involved and very responsive that you have an answer probably within less than 24 hours. I know last semester there was a professor who had some personal kind of — I’m not sure what the bigger story was or what the actual circumstances were but she had some personal situation going on and that semester it was kind of hard to get in touch with her and grading was kind of delayed a little bit. But that was kind of an anomaly and I think it was kind of outside anybody’s control but other than that, professors have always been very responsive.

Pauline: Good. Good to know. And are you expecting any different job outcomes from taking this course?

Elizabeth: So actually, about three ago the — my position for the program manager within my organization — it’s a program manager position that’s at every Army installation. Historically, it was someone who could apply for that position had to have a social work — a master’s degree in social work and be a licensed clinical social worker. But about three years ago they changed the requirements and so now they include having a master’s in public administration as one of the degrees that they do look for promotion to a program manager within my field. So it actually — once the position opens, it will actually give me the ability to apply for it where before I would not have been considered.

Pauline: So definitely, it’s become a job requirement really.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s definitely — even within the military there’s a lot of positions that historically have been just one. They’ve only looked for one, specific degree where now they are opening up and I’m seeing more and more looking for a master’s in public administration.

Pauline: What’s kept you motivated to stay in the program and finish? I know often when you’re taking a program you can have a course, maybe that wasn’t as much fun or how did you keep yourself motivated?

Elizabeth: So I think I hit my what am I doing point this time last year when I was about half way through. I was doing the two classes at the same time and what really motivated me is just — I put off getting my master’s degree for a bit, graduating with my undergrad in ’02 and just that’s something that I’ve always wanted for myself.

So I think it’s just keeping that focus and knowing how much time and effort I’m putting into it but how much it will benefit me at the end. And also my family has been very, very supportive. I’m the only one in my family who has an undergrad degree and so now I will be the next step of the only one on my side of the family that actually goes on and has even a higher degree.

Pauline: That’s wonderful. Congratulations on that. You’re going to be a hard act to follow in your family then.

Elizabeth: Thank you. You’ve got to be a doctor next, right?

Pauline: Yes. Yes, we all have to have new goals. And the nice thing about a degree is that it’s something that’s more valuable the sooner you finish it, right?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Pauline: It can help you. So are you planning on attending graduation?

Elizabeth: I am. Actually, going back to the fact that I am the only one on my family that has that level of degree, my mother and my parents are planning on flying out from North Carolina and then my mother in law and my husband. My mother in law lives in Oregon so she’s going to come down. My husband’s originally from San Francisco so obviously we’ll be there and then my brother’s coming up from LA and I have a cousin in San Francisco. So it’s actually going to turn into a mini family reunion but they are pretty excited so they’re all coming out. So yeah, we will be there.

Pauline: Wonderful. It’s going to be a party weekend then, right?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Pauline: Do you have any finally — this is actually my last question for you. Do you have any advice or tips for success for our future students?

Elizabeth: I think that biggest things is don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially from your classmates. That was the one thing going into it is being so far removed from school and starting over again. It’s kind of like am I doing this right? I don’t sound as smart as everybody else but you really do find a lot of support and connection with those who are going through it with you. So don’t be afraid to ask them. Don’t be afraid to kind of just shoot an email or message somebody and say, “Hey, what do you think about this?”

And don’t be afraid to ask instructors. They’re really amazing professors who are involved with the program and they’re really willing to help you as long as they know what it is that you’re struggling with or that you need clarification on. And give really good feedback on your students, the teaching evaluation stuff because it does help in the long run what would work better for you and the future classmates that are going to go through this.

Pauline: Excellent. Those are some really good tips and particularly the one about communication because I know a lot of people come into the program and they don’t feel that confident or they’ve been out of school for a while so that should be a really good tip. If you have a question, probably everyone else has the same question, right?

Elizabeth: Yeah, there’s definitely times where it’s stuff that you aren’t familiar with just because public administration is such a large field. There’s definitely times where I felt more confident in things that I know my classmates didn’t and then there was times where I really needed help. Budgeting is not my forte but it’s definitely something that’s helpful but there was a lot of great classmates who had that experience before.

Pauline: It is nice that there’s such a wide variety of students in the program, isn’t it? That you are able to help each other.

Elizabeth: Yes, definitely.

Pauline: Well, Elizabeth thank you for joining us today and for all the wonderful information that you’ve supplied to our potential students. Right now, I’m going to go on and talk about the actual format of the program, some basic facts. Basically, we are 100 percent online and the courses is asynchronous. So we don’t have any set long in times, as Elizabeth mentioned. The University of San Francisco is a private, not for profit Jesuit school. We are regionally accredited and NASPAA accredited. That’s the Network of School for Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

We have three enrollment periods throughout the year. Spring, summer, and fall. The degree can be completed in two years or six semesters and there are a total of 39 credit hours. Most semesters you take two courses, one course at a time for eight weeks each and then there’s a capstone project at the end of the program. The next step is to contact your enrollment advisor and ask any questions that you may have, talk about the qualifications for the program and also discuss the next start dates that would be available to you. The online application is straight forward. It’s paperless. You attach unofficial transcripts, a professional resume, and add the email addresses of two recommenders to the application.

Finally, you would need to write a statement of purpose and attach it to the application. We have several deadlines throughout the year but an early application will bring you an early decision. Thank you again for taking the time to watch this webinar. Thank you again, Elizabeth for all the excellent information. Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions. Enjoy your day.

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