SJ Harris is a second-year MPA student at the Martin School. In this post, she shares her passions and her journey to and through the Martin School.
What's your background?
My background is in Arts Administration with minors in Art History and English. I have always been passionate about the arts and really enjoyed learning about the nonprofit sector in my undergraduate program. During my undergraduate studies, I was involved in various social organizations that also highly valued philanthropy work. I interned with the Lexington Philharmonic orchestra, worked on a project with UK Arts in Healthcare, was involved in many service projects with my social organizations, and ultimately knew that I wanted to make an impact on my community with my career.
When doing some research on graduate programs, the Martin School's website said, "Make a difference with your degree!" I'm very much hoping to do just that. The Martin School has shaped me in fundamental ways, providing me with the necessary tools and skills for a successful career in public service. I have found that the knowledge I have gained at the Martin School is directly transferable to the work that I have completed at the Council of State Governments, the Kentucky League of Cities, in my leadership of the Association of Fundraising Professionals collegiate chapter, and at the law firm I worked at throughout grad school.
In my time at the Martin School I have found my niche in health policy, though I also remain passionate about the nonprofit sector and community and economic development. I currently am a Health Policy & Research Fellow at the Council of State Governments. In this role, I conduct research and prepare research briefs and newsletters for CSG's publications, Capitol Ideas, and for the weekly listserv email to members. Thus far, I have had the opportunity to attend a Medicaid Policy Academy in Washington D.C. and learn from highly respected individuals in the health policy field, along with legislators from many of our states and have written pieces about prescription drug costs, healthcare reform, and state employee wellness programs. I have also written grant reports to CSG's sponsors.
This past summer I completed an internship with the Community Consulting Services department at the Kentucky League of Cities where I assisted in the creation of strategic plans for Kentucky's cities and was able to meet many of our cities' leaders. I found this work to be very valuable and look forward to completing a legal internship with KLC this spring that will involve creating a city ordinance resource manual for city leaders to use. I will also be assisting the Community Consulting Services department with a special analytical project for a client.
I look forward to completing my capstone project this year which will be an implementation study of Kentucky's SB192, more widely referred to as the Heroin Bill, that was passed in March of 2015.
What's your passion? What do you want to be when you "grow up"?
My main passion in life is service. I care deeply for people and I just want to help. That might be through simply being a good friend, being a helpful coworker, writing policies that make a difference, producing publications that might influence legislation, or giving a voice to issues I am passionate about.
When I "grow up," I want to be known someone who is reliable and helpful. I want to be able to say that I did something-- that I contributed in meaningful ways to make things better for people, wherever that may be and on whichever scale that might be.
I'd really like to travel and conduct research. I'm also considering pursuing a doctoral degree. I'd like to work as a health policy research analyst and really contribute to the conversation at an arms length with decision makers. Maybe one day I could even be a decision maker, who knows!
Which class(es) have been your favorites?
All of the classes! All of them! (My professors are reading this, right?)
But truly, every class I've taken has been interesting and valuable in some way. From Analysis to Z-stats in econometrics, we've covered it. I've learned how to prepare memos, analyze policies and data, use STATA, interpret economic decision making, promote organizational change, and I've also learned the ins and outs of strategic planning.
Not only are the Martin School faculty exceptionally well versed in policy, but they are also expert teachers and leaders who take special interest in their students' development. The Martin School really has such a strong community and I am very grateful to be a part of it.
What have you found most compelling or interesting about your study here?
My favorite thing about my study at the Martin School is the amount of practical knowledge we obtain. All of the skills I have learned in class have directly transferred into my work at CSG, KLC, in AFP, and at the law firm. It's really rewarding to see that what you're working so hard on in the classroom really does make a difference in the "real world." I'll miss grad school, I've had a ball!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Anywhere in the world? Oh boy. If I could live anywhere in the world I would live in Lexington, Kentucky! I love my home state. That being said, I am certainly entertaining the idea of living in Washington, D.C. or going abroad. I might just spin the globe and go wherever my finger lands!