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Voinovich School student shares applied learning experience in the MPA program

Daniel KingtonApril 1, 2016

Many Voinovich School students are attracted to the School due to its focus on applied research, and second year Master of Public Administration (MPA) student, Maggie Clark, was no exception. However, Clark’s experience at the School was certainly exceptional, leading her in directions and affording her opportunities that she would not have anticipated.

Maggie Clark earned her undergraduate degree at Ohio University in communication studies with a focus on political communications in 2014. Clark was initially unsure of what to do next, but was interested in finding a master of public administration program to continue her education. She looked into programs across the country. However, after shifting her focus to opportunities here in Athens, she discovered that the right program had been under her nose all along.

“I read a little bit more about the Voinovich School through the Ohio University website, and I really liked the applied learning element,” Clark said. “I thought the program would be a really interesting way to learn more about government while also getting that applied learning experience.”

During her first year at the School, Clark served as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs executive on Graduate Student Senate and began work with the Voinovich School’s Planning, Education, Evaluation and Research (PEER) Team, focusing on data analysis.

“It was really great to be a first-year student learning more about public management and administration and also serve on the Student Senate at the same time,” Clark said. “I enjoyed being able to connect with students outside of the Voinovich School and talk to them about different issues on campus, as well as things that intersect with our work at the Voinovich School.”

After Clark’s senate term concluded and her first year drew to a close, she began work with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) in Washington, D.C. through the Jeffery A. Finkle Ohio University Economic Development Internship . The internship offers undergraduate and graduate students affiliated with the Voinovich School the opportunity to intern at the IEDC and gain practical, hands-on experience in local economic development issues and trends.

“I was a little bit nervous about it at first because I didn’t really have a strong background in economic development,” Clark said. “I’d been more in the communication and management side of the MPA program.”

However, Clark said, she learned quickly. With resources from the Voinovich School, she was able to gain a fairly good understanding of economic development before beginning her internship, but the learning opportunities on the job were ultimately most valuable. 

“Taking advantage of all the knowledge resources the IEDC has was a really amazing part of it,” Clark said.

Since returning to Athens, Clark has continued her work with data analysis and program evaluation on the PEER team. She has spent a large part of this year working on an evaluation of an Ohio initiative called Law and Leadership, a four-year program seeking to inspire and prepare students, particularly those from urban public schools, for careers in law.

Clark is helping to evaluate the population that the program serves as well as what students are taking away from the program, assessing whether students have become more interested in careers in law and if they have improved their skills in writing, speaking and professionalism.

“I really enjoyed working on the data side of these projects, and it’s interesting to see the stories that data can tell us about these learning experiences for high schoolers,” Clark said.

Pursuing her interest in data, Clark is currently working on a project with three of her peers as an independent study in data visualization.

“We have gathered 200 years of data regarding economic and educational trends in Appalachia, and we are creating maps to show the changes in these variables over time. Our hope is to show how data can be used to tell powerful stories about a region,” Clark said.

The project also hopes to shed light on the ways in which public administrators can use free and open-source software to create data visualizations for their administrative work.

Clark has applied her learning experience at the Voinovich School to her current internship with the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), which helps with economic development in Appalachian Ohio. Clark is involved in multiple projects at APEG that allow her to use her skills in data and information gathering and analysis, and she is involved in initiatives that connect local partners. In addition to developing her data analysis skills, Clark said her experiences at the Voinovich School have allowed her to network with many leaders in the region and develop an understanding of Appalachia, all of which have proved helpful in her work with APEG.

Natalie Wilson, research associate at the Voinovich School, has been a valuable mentor for Clark during her time at the Voinovich School.

“She has so much knowledge,” Clark said. “She’s not only able to tell me why we’re doing certain things but she also provides me with resources that I can look at if I want a deeper understanding. I think that really demonstrates applied learning through the Voinovich School in its best form.”

Wilson also spoke positively of Clark and her work.

“Maggie has come a long way in her ability to visualize data, work with different software and produce data summaries that are useful to a variety of audiences,” Wilson said. “Maggie has asked me a number of data-related questions about projects she is involved in outside of her GA, so I’m confident she is applying what she has learned at the Voinovich School.”

After graduating in spring 2016, Clark plans to continue her exploration of public sector communications and economic development.

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