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Data Scientist by Day, Podcast Host by Night

April 16 Sunday 09:13 PM

While many of our graduates go on to careers in government, Robert Kahne (MPP ‘11) illustrates that the calling to serve the public good takes many forms. Robert lives and works in Louisville as a data scientist for Edumedics, which helps client organizations to lower healthcare costs through disease management. “I analyze health care claims to identify people who would benefit from disease management programs, and then analyze clinical information to gauge whether our program participants’ health is improving,” Robert explains.

Robert loves the opportunity to work with data on a day-to-day basis, especially in a way that helps others. Statistical analysis is a core component of the Martin School curriculum, alongside public policy. Robert is passionate about both. “I’m still very passionate about policy and government, but it turns out the skills around statistics and research methodology ended up being what I get paid to do!”

While Robert doesn’t directly work with public policy in his job, his hobbies revolve around it. In his spare time, Robert has started both a podcast and is involved in a nonprofit called the Civic Data Alliance. He started “My Old Kentucky Podcast,” which he co-hosts with another Louisvillian, to bring public policy conversations to the community. The most recent episode focuses on state tax reform. His work with the Civic Data Alliance is also driven by passion: “I remember how hard it was (in school) to access government data sets. Lots of the time when we got data, it was in formats like PDF or Word that were difficult to use. The CDA is committed to opening government data and to using that data to elucidate policy options for governmental and other community leaders.”

Robert also serves on the board of Highland Community Ministries, and is active in the Highland Baptist Church. Otherwise, you’ll find him at home with his wife.

All of our alumni are different in their passions, public policy philosophies, and interests. However, they all have something in common with Robert: a commitment to the public good, both in the office and on the weekends.

Recent Graduate Leads Congressman’s Constituent Economic Development Services

April 7 Friday 02:14 PM

Prospective students often wonder where our graduates work after they finish their degree program. We sometimes struggle to answer because there are so many possible paths for MPAs and MPPs. Yet, somehow, some way, the Martin School is able to prepare individuals for work across sectors, policy areas, and job titles. Alyshia Powell (MPA ’16) sheds some light on the mystery:

“One of the most important things I learned in my time at the Martin School was how to communicate complex policies or processes to people in an effective, concise manner… The value [of the program] came from the professors I learned from and the people I learned with. Besides budgeting and analysis skills, I also think the focus on professional development was critical to my success in this office. There are many different options for careers in public service, but the professional development skills learned are universally applicable to all options.”

As the Director of Economic Development for Congressman Andy Barr, Alyshia brings all of these skills to bear, and more! “I help local elected officials and constituents identify federal funding for projects in their communities,” she says, “These projects range from infrastructure projects to historical preservation projects and everything in between.” What does this process look like? Alyshia often meets with stakeholders to understand their needs, and then puts together detailed reports with potential funding sources for the project. Her work doesn’t end there, though—she also guides applicants through the grant process.

“My favorite days are the ones where I get to go out into the district for a groundbreaking or ribbon cutting for a project that I know is the culmination of years of hard work on behalf of many people in the community,” she shares. “It is very rewarding to know that you played a small part in making that project a reality, and even more rewarding when you see how that project makes life better for the people in that community.”

Although Alyshia graduated recently, she isn’t new to a career in public service. She worked full-time while attending graduate school. While extremely hard at times, she found value in continuing to work while studying. “I was able to immediately apply skills learned in school to my work on behalf of constituents,” she recalls. For example, around the time she took a class in strategic planning for the public sector last year, she also had the opportunity to put together a strategic plan in her own workplace.

We are so proud of the difference Alyshia is making in the world, and we look forward to seeing where her career takes her!

Alumna Keeps Local Government Accountable

April 5 Wednesday 02:32 PM

When we think of auditors, what often comes to mind are financial sleuths on the lookout for fraudulent behavior. As an Internal Auditor for the City of Convington, which is situated right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Jenna Skop (MPA ‘13) has a slightly different mission. “I evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of City programs and activities,” she explains, which includes not only reviewing “operations and management practices, identifying areas where inefficiency, risk, or weakness exists,” but also finding potential solutions to these challenges.

One of the things Jenna loves about her job is the opportunity to learn new things. Every year, she plans out the audits she will do. While each audit is unique, all of them require advanced communication skills; she does a lot of writing and public speaking in her role. Between her current and previous work in a similar job in Atlanta, her projects have ranged from public school bond funding, aging programs, public parking, and teacher attrition rates. Jenna looks forward to growing as a program evaluator and auditor—increasing transparency and taxpayer accountability gives her career a meaningful purpose. She learns not just in her everyday operations, but also outside her auditing projects, having recently obtained her Certified Fraud Examiner certification.

When every day is so different, an MPA comes in handy: “The Martin School taught me about government management – how to make decisions and include ethical considerations, how to frame an argument, and the program drilled into me the importance of concise and effective writing skills... Government is about providing a public service, and it is important for staff to provide the best information possible to legislators and decision-makers,” she explains. Current students should also take note—all of those technical financial management concepts won’t just disappear! In previous work in Atlanta, Jenna and her team found old class materials helpful on a project. “I actually broke out the textbook used in the funds management class, so other staff and I could plot out the best ratio analyses for a hybrid balanced scorecard we were compiling!”

In her spare time, Jenna loves spending time with her family and friends. While she might not call herself a “foodie,” she cannot resist trying out all the new hotspots in nearby Cincinnati!

Where Are They Now?

April 3 Monday 12:03 PM

New students quickly learn that the Martin School community extends well past graduation. While alumni can be found all over the world, they stay in touch-- with each other, their favorite faculty members, and even current students. As the spring semester comes to a close and we send a new group of graduates off in to the world, we would like to celebrate our alumni community. We will be posting fresh Alumni Spotlights throughout the month. Until then, check out some of our past revisits with alumni:

We don't have to look very far to find several of our doctoral graduates! Dr. Denison, who is an expert in public and nonprofit financial management, has been a Martin School faculty member since 2005. More recently, Dr. Zimmer has "come home" to the Martin School, serving as our newest Director. Dr. Trautman has also recently joined us as our Director of Public Financial Management program; she's been a wonderful leader for our innovative new online program offerings. And, Dr. Hall has been a visiting professor with us this academic year-- he's also recently been named the Editor-in-Chief of the Public Administration Review.

Our graduates are making a difference in all levels of government, the nonprofit sector, and in private businesses. For instance, Andrew McNeill serves as the Deputy State Budget and Policy Director, while Danielle Clore serves as the Executive Director of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network. We have a number of graduates in local and federal government, too! You can read some of our past Alumni Spotlights here.

MPA Alumna Leads Development for Local Special Olympics Chapter

March 31 Friday 09:27 AM

Angela (MPA ‘13) doesn’t have a typical day as the Director of Marketing and Fundraising for Special Olympics Hamilton County. As a member of a small team, she often wears many hats—“there is a lot of crossover between the program and development departments,” she says, “Some days I am meeting with corporate partners, other days I am running around a soccer field.” She finds this flexibility refreshing. Many of our graduates, like Angela, don’t just work behind a desk all day.

Angela made the most of her time at the Martin School, which continues to benefit her in a number of ways. As a student, Angela recalls a nonprofit management course taught by Dr. Blanton as particularly valuable, which offered a blend of taught material and hands-on practice in developing a nonprofit plan. On the whole, the curriculum and experiences exposed Angela to the types of tools and analyses public administrators use to make difficult decisions. Our program not only honed her skills, but also gave her “a great group of friends who are always helpful in giving career and life advice!”

In her spare time, Angela stays busy traveling and taking her dogs to the park. We are always so inspired to hear about the great work our students are doing for the public good!