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Students at Work: Hazard Mitigation Grants Program

November 15 Sunday 12:00 AM

The University of Kentucky's Hazard Mitigation Grants Program Office (UK-HMGP) has two main functions. It administers pre- and post-disaster grant funding, and coordinates local hazard mitigation planning activity and writes the Commonwealth's hazard mitigation plan. UK-HMGP, then, works in conjunction with Kentucky Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to carry out this work. UK-HMGP is housed within the Martin School which has a contractual relationship with Kentucky Emergency Management to conduct project development, project management, and planning activities.

Two Martin School graduate students work as research assistants at UK-HMGP. Sam, a first-year MPP student, works to review hazard mitigation plans, and Maddy, a second-year MPA student, helps manage awarded grants and reviews payment requests. Both students also complete benefit-cost analyses for potential projects.

Through this program, the students gain valuable experience in public administration and the federal grants process. Given UK-HMGP's closeness with Kentucky Emergency Management, students also experience state-level and local-level government firsthand.

Update from the Field: Student Attends Bond Credit Analysis Conference, Day 2

November 14 Saturday 12:00 AM

Lauren Kesselring, a second-year MPA student specializing in Public Financial Management, provides an update on the second day of the conference she is attending.

On the first day of Dr. Toma’s public economics class last spring she told us that we would look at the world differently after her class. After the two day introduction to municipal analysis conference I am already looking at the world differently. As I was on my way to the airport on a suspension bridge looking over a port seeing planes taking off and landing and they first thing I thought was that all of these are funded through different municipal bond offerings. Public finance touches every aspect of our daily lives, and if it is done well, the general public is generally unaware.

On the second day of the conference, I heard about what happens when public financing goes wrong. We started off the morning with pensions and how public pensions became so underfunded. I learned that when analysts look at pensions, they use a constant discount rate to compare across municipalities. We talked about chapter nine bankruptcies and all the work that happens behind the scenes between the government, banks, and investors to try to prevent bankruptcies. Hopefully state and government officials are getting a better grasp of pensions so there will not be an influx of chapter nine bankruptcies in the future.

Update from the Field: Student Attends Bond Credit Analysis Conference

November 13 Friday 12:00 AM

Lauren Kesselring, a second-year MPA student specializing in Public Financial Management, provides an update on the conference she is attending.

Thanks to the Martin School I have been able to travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend the National Federation of Municipal Analysts’ Introduction to Municipal Bond Credit Analysis conference. Today was the first day of the two day conference and I heard lectures from municipal analysts from Moody’s, S&P, Fitch, US Bank, Eaton, and Assured. The topics ranged from General Government Debt Utilities, to Healthcare, Transportation, and High Education.

Hearing from the analysts how they evaluate municipal debt complemented what I learned in public financial management and fiscal/ budget policy as well as what I have learned at my Fellowship with the Lexington’s Finance Department. It was exciting to have the classroom knowledge of what ratios to focus on when managing a public agency be confirmed by the top credit ratings.

I had the opportunity to attend the speakers dinner and sit with Bhala Mehendale from US Bank and Mary Francoeur from Assured Guaranty. Mary was one of the credit analysts for the YUM Center Bond issuance, and she is an expert in transportation bond issues. Bhala focuses on electric utility bonds and he is a huge House of Cards fan.

I am excited for the second day of the conference to hear about Pensions and distressed credits.

The Martin School Goes to Washington

November 11 Wednesday 12:00 AM

Our annual field trip to Washington DC was a success! Thirteen students and two faculty members met with public servants, including a few alumni. Our trip kicked off with practitioner panels, including the NGA, CSG, American Red Cross, CBO, and SSA. We traveled to the Department of Education to discuss their work with innovation in education, and finished the day with a visit to Representative Barr's office and an alumni dinner. Our trip concluded with visits to the State Department, GAO, and with US AID. And of course, no trip to DC would be complete without a guided tour of the Capitol building!

We gleaned so much from our sessions with practitioners in the field. Their passion and commitment were inspiring! Some of our takeaways:

  1. Relationships matter.
  2. Some of the most important personal qualities for success include adaptability, positive attitude, and a sense of humor.
  3. Communication, communication, communication! We should hone our writing and speaking skills.
  4. Dr. Hackbart is right-- budgeting makes the world go round.