“Be the next generation of leaders, to change the world.”- William LaRose
What did you study in college and did you know what you were going to do with that degree when you graduated?
I am currently one semester away from graduating with my Masters in Public Administration from Cornell’s Institute for Public Affairs. Since the very beginning of this experience, my goal has always been to gain the tools, skills, and education needed to continue to serve as a public sector leader. With all of the challenges currently facing our world, whether the accelerating pace of climate change, the tragic epidemic of sexual violence in America or wrestling with our country’s standing in the world as a great power, there is no shortage of issues to tackle. I can think of no better idea than taking the skills I’ve learned here and returning to my home state of Massachusetts to help in any way I can.
What kind of life experiences are most useful for someone starting out in this field? (if you can find a military experience, even better)
In my opinion, the types of experiences that are useful in a Public Administration program stem from the classic fields of public service: the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and the military. I think these candidates, particularly military personnel and veterans, have a maturity, discipline, and overall leadership ability that was shaped by their service. Having come of age in some incredibly diverse and complex environments around the world, these perspectives are invaluable in a classroom setting. I have continuously seen these types of students flourish on campus and couldn’t think of a more perfect fit for an MPA program.
What is the best professional advice you have ever gotten?
The best professional advice I ever received was less of traditional advice and more of a call to action. In his final lecture to our Organization Design class, Dr. Cabrera reminded me and my colleagues that by the very nature of sitting in the classroom we were sitting in, we were some of the most fortunate people in the world. “Everyone here was born on third base,” he said, “While there are some people who aren’t even in the stadium parking lot.” He drove home the philosophy that “To whom much is given much is required.”
This wasn’t said to make everyone feel proud or accomplished; it was a stark reminder for us to do something with this opportunity. He charged us with using this tremendous education for good, to be the next generation of leaders, to change the world. And this is the exact advice I would reiterate to my brothers and sisters coming from the military. Use your GI Bill, educate yourself, and be the wave of leadership and change this country needs. Do not wait. You belong at schools like Cornell, so apply.
If you would- please share a brief story about a low time during your educational journey when you had to dig deep to keep going. Maybe you had a challenging professor or were in over your head.
The most challenging period for me came when I was fresh off of active duty and starting grad school. I hadn’t been in an academic environment in several years and was still very much in an Army frame of mind. I felt like I didn’t belong on campus at all and was very daunted looking at the class schedule I had just enrolled in. I think this experience is very important to talk about because I’m positive most, if not all veterans, feel varying degrees of this same imposter syndrome. However, it is even more important to understand these feelings are fleeting. Your same military background is the very thing that will help you overcome these challenges. If you’re reading this feeling those same doubts, know that your own work ethic, predisposition for action, and discipline will set you on the path to academic success. I promise you that. Just give it time, set goals, and execute.
If you could go back and do college all over again, but based on the wisdom you have now, what advice would you give yourself?
My advice: It is, in fact, possible to get good grades, have a hobby, workout every day, and get enough sleep. Don’t listen to anyone telling you otherwise. This just takes a degree of planning and self-discipline on the front end. So I would implore everyone to make a schedule on day one of school and stick to it. This structure will provide you strength, peace of mind, and an outlet as the semester rolls on, and the collective chaos around you picks up.
Describe your experience with Service to School and what you have gained by volunteering with our organization.
For the past two years I have been an Undergraduate Ambassador with Service to School, providing application prep and mentorship to my fellow veterans applying to college. It has been absolutely amazing to help the next generation of leaders get into top quality programs and pursue their educational dreams, sometimes at universities they previously saw as unattainable. This is one of the best veteran non-profits out there and I will continue to do this as long as they’ll have me.
In your opinion, what are some of the financial advantages of veterans studying at CIPA?
Simply put, you will not find a better bargain for an MPA. Given Cornell’s unique status as a land grant institution, CIPA is able to offer one of the best deals for an MPA degree not only in the Ivy League, but across the country. Utilizing my own GI Bill benefits in conjunction with the Yellow Ribbon Program, I have not paid a single dime for my education. With this financial burden removed, I was able to focus my efforts on honing the skills I need to become an informed and effective public sector leader. Any veteran would be doing themselves a disservice by overlooking this program.
What advice do you have for ambitious veterans that want to maximize their educational benefits?
Dual degree programs. In addition to taking outstanding courses like Non-Profit Finance, Consulting for Government Organizations, and Organizational Design, CIPA offers several dual degree programs to complement your Public Administration degree. Whether tailoring your studies with an MBA from the renowned SC Johnson Graduate School of Management or with a J.D. at Cornell’s top ranked Law School, there are several outstanding options tailored for ambitious veterans that allow you to maximize your educational experience.
Any certificate options that you would recommend?
Hands down one of the best experiences I’ve had at CIPA has been through my participation in the Systems Thinking, Modelling, and Leadership certificate program. Studying with the renowned Drs. Derek and Laura Cabrera, pioneers within the realm of Systems Thinking, I’ve gained an entirely new perspective through which to analyze, design, and implement public policy. This certificate is perfectly tailored for veterans – with the Cabrera’s possessing a unique understanding of our skills and perspectives from their established relationship with West Point’s Systems Engineering Department. Applying these skills in the real world, our inaugural certificate trip will attend Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands this spring, where we will research the systemic environmental, political, and socioeconomic challenges facing the islands. These frameworks have given me an exceptional toolkit with which to tackle the wicked problems that continue to face our country in the 21st century.
How supportive has the veterans community at Cornell been?
Throughout the course of American history, Cornell University has continuously supported and contributed to the rich legacy of the United States military. From the trenches of France in World War 1 to the valleys of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, Cornell has tirelessly trained and educated generations of distinguished military leaders. Even more important, it has welcomed back these returning warriors with open arms, providing them with the tools and advanced education they need to continue to serve their country as civilians. In my opinion, you won’t will find a more welcoming community for veterans. Whether meeting with our Provost one on one to discuss pressing issues facing our community, having weekly chats with undergrad veterans across campus, or being actively welcomed by my peers and colleagues, this university and its veteran friendly atmosphere has been an instrumental part of my growth.