MPA Student Explores Professional Interests in Local Government Internship

August 4 Friday 11:34 AM

Paul Kleier is an MPA student beginning his second year this fall. He reflects upon his summer internship experience with the City of Cresview Hills in Northern Kentucky.

When I entered the Martin School last August I knew that my professional interest lay in local government. When it came time to explore internships, therefore, I looked at the possibility of working for a city government. Being a native of northern Kentucky, this search led me to the City of Crestview Hills where I have been interning for the past two months. My experience here has been both educational and eye-opening and included tasks ranging from the more mundane realities of small, local governments to intriguing projects that can shape the future of cities.

Working with Tim Williams, the City Administrator of Crestview Hills, and other staff at the City, has exposed me to a broad array of concerns that local government must attend to. While visiting road maintenance projects with the Public Works Director, I have learned about the many considerations that go into these projects, such having proper signage to denote changes in traffic patterns. By being part of the process to develop a Mixed-Use Zone for the City, I have been able to see the qualities that are important in choosing partners for projects. I have been leading my own project of reviewing and making informed recommendations to improve the aesthetics of the City’s office park. Through this, I continue to realize how much work goes into overseeing a seemingly straightforward task that can lead to contentious interactions with constituents of the City.

Besides the duties that have been assigned to me, I have learned a great deal from observing City Council meetings. Committee meetings are often even more informative, and they tend to be longer and more focused and, therefore, more substantive. The ability to lead a focused discussion, elicit thoughtful and constructive opinions, and be mindful of the various personalities and preferences in a room is very valuable whether the subject of the meeting is the possibility of a financing program to encourage energy efficiency or how to work with the local Sanitation District to address hill erosion.

As the summer draws to a close, I look forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned from my internship with Crestview Hills. I feel confident that this field is for me because it’s the most excited I’ve ever been to go into work, knowing the projects I have in store. After all, it is very reassuring when someone interested in local government spends free time wondering about whether a particular resident would have had to get a permit to construct a detached accessory structure in their yard!

Two MPA Students Spend their Summer at the State Capitol

August 1 Tuesday 11:38 AM

Dexter and Eve, two MPA students entering their second year at the Martin School, have worked at the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, or LRC, this summer as graduate fellows. We checked in with them to see how their internships were going. 

What does the Legislative Research Commission do?

Dexter: The Legislative Research Commission is the nonpartisan, fact-finding and service arm of the Kentucky General Assembly. It is a large organization of mostly nonpartisan, professional staff performing the structural work of the legislature through committees such as interim joint committees, statutory committees, and special committees/task forces.

Eve and I work for Program Review and Investigations which is one of nine statutory committees under the purview of the legislative branch. Statutory committees are established by the General Assembly to perform specific tasks related to oversight of the executive branch of state government year-round. Program Review specifically “reviews the operations of state agencies to determine that funds are being spent appropriately and whether state programs are implemented effectively by the executive branch.” We study the operations, practices and duties of state agencies and provide reports to the General Assembly. These reports are often posted online for the pleasure of the public, check them out! 


As graduate fellows, what do you do from day to day?

Dexter: I work with the Program Review team collecting data, scheduling phone interviews, writing academic literature reviews and thinking of creative ways to display numerical information to the General Assembly. Our projects are given to us by legislators and we employ a divide-and-conquer approach to our work, each person in our office addressing a piece of the overall puzzle and sharing information with one another along the way.

Because Eve and I are graduate fellows, we’re encouraged to leave our work from time to time and sit-in on interim joint committee meetings. These can be very interesting.  More on that from Eve. 

Eve: Our schedule varies day to day, but most days progress in a similar fashion. In the mornings I come in and check my email, catch up on news, and try to get a head start on any research projects we are assigned before lunch at noon.

We are given an hour for lunch, so Dexter and I eat lunch outside if the weather permits, and then walk around the capital or read until our hour is up. Frankfort has a beautiful capitol building and surrounding grounds, so we are very fortunate that we get to spend every afternoon learning about the culture and history of the area. We spent one day’s lunch riding the town’s trolley around Frankfort!

Back in the office, Dexter and I will either continue working on collecting/analyzing data for Program Review reports, or attend an interim joint committee meeting that is scheduled. So far, we have attended the Natural Resources and Energy, Education, and Health & Welfare & Family Services interim joint committees. We have also attended statutory committees, such as Tobacco Settlement Fund Oversight, Public Pension Oversight Board, as well as Program Review and Investigations. 


What has been your favorite project so far?

Dexter: So far, we’ve been working on one large project all summer that is due mid-August. While we aren’t at liberty to get into the specifics of the project itself I can say that one of the most enjoyable parts of my work so far has been the wealth of information that I have been able to consume and regurgitate to my co-workers on a topic I previously knew nothing about. I think that’s the cool thing about having rotating projects; in a month I’ll have the chance to become well-versed on a completely different topic. As someone who considers himself to be naturally academic, this aspect of my job is extremely refreshing. 

Eve: I definitely agree with Dexter. The project we have been working on so far this summer is a topic that was far out of my element previously. It has been eye opening in many ways and allowed me to approach an issue and learn how it’s impacted regional as well as state policy. The amount of detail and wealth of information we have collected has allowed us to become very familiar with the topic. With this familiarity we can better analyze information and present it to our colleagues, which I believe is a beneficial experience for us to have as we enter the job market post-graduation. As our current project is currently wrapping up, I am looking forward to our next assignment and researching another topic impacting the Commonwealth.    


Do you each work on individual projects, or mostly work together?

Eve: While we have been working on the same Program Review report this summer, Dexter and I have divided and conquered many of the tasks we have been assigned to do. Before we send anything in however, we always proof-read and discuss our results. The conversations we have in the editing and discussion stage have been very helpful in understanding our work and the research process within this department.

Additionally, our internship has included seminars to help us become more familiar with the state’s statues, administrative regulations, and drafting bills for the legislature. Although in Program Review we don’t draft bills, it was very interesting to go through the writing process of developing our own bills and using the LRC’s own drafting application. I wrote a bill on wine shipments to Kentucky, while Dexter designed a bill to regulate how drivers open doors on roadways to avoid biker injury.


Lastly, how has this internship changed your goals or perspective?

Dexter: This is a big question that I’m still working out in my mind as I enter month 3/10 here. I’ve really enjoyed being so close to the decision makers for our state. Before this fellowship I didn’t give much thought to how the state government operated or what exactly state officials were responsible for. I’ve developed an appreciation for this level of government that I didn’t have when I first started my time in the Martin School. Kentucky is a larger state than I remember with a diverse set of characteristics. As a result, there is a wide range of subject-matter experts here all working toward the improvement of our commonwealth. To me, that’s a really cool thing to be a part of and it leaves me excited to continue my education so to increase what I can contribute to Kentucky.

Eve: Before working at the state capitol, I didn’t fully grasp how much time and detail goes into the policy process. Although fluent in Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill”, it was eye-opening to witness the committee process and the subsequent discussion and research that goes into making policies law in Kentucky. Every level of government plays a role in providing and ensuring every region in Kentucky is provided for. Bill was right when he says, “it’s a long, long, journey.”

My fervor to work in the public sector has been solidified even further this summer. It is possible to make a lasting impact on a policy, and that was something I was beginning to doubt.  In fact, I am now interested in running for office someday, which is something I had never considered would be attainable nor useful. The Legislative Research Commission has been an exciting place to work this summer, and I’m looking forward to the next 7 months! 


Henry Clay Congress 2017

June 29 Thursday 11:54 AM

It's been an exciting couple of weeks at the Martin School! Staff, faculty, and doctoral students had the exciting opportunity to partner with the The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship to work with college students from all over the USA! Fifty students converged in Lexington for a week of programs focusing on the salient theme of compromise. With the legacy of the great Statesman, Henry Clay, in mind, the students tackled four policy topics: Transportation, National Debt/Deficit, Foreign Intervention, and Health Care. The four groups divided into eight subgroups to create policy proposals centered around differing ideology then the subgroups came together for an intensive compromise session in which they crafted and presented a final policy proposal that would both address the issue and satisfy both parties. One group was presented an award for Best Policy Project, two subgroups received awards for Best Policy Proposals, and four students--chosen by their peers--were awarded the Henry Clay Award for Excellence in Compromise for facilitating compromise within their respective groups. Beyond their policy projects, in which students were coached by four Martin School doctoral students, the students had the opportunity to hear from a variety of people involved in the policy process: The Council of State Governments and representatives from academia, the judicial system, the media, and lobbying groups. The group stopped by some signature Kentucky sites as well including the Ashland Henry Clay Estate, Three Chimneys Farm, the Campbell House, and Woodford Reserve Distillery. 

After an enriching week in Lexington, 14 of the college students went on to Washington DC for another week of inspiring sessions. Highlights of the trip consisted of a visit with the Clerk of the Supreme Court; a tour of the House Floor in the U.S. Capitol Building; sessions with the Congressional Budget Office, organizations representing the States, the Government Accountability Office, and Lobbyists; and a visit to the Congressional Country Club. The big event of the week took place at the Willard Hotel where guests gathered for the Bourbon Barrel of Compromise featuring Senator Mitch McConnell, Congressman Andy Barr, and former Senators Tom Daschle & Trent Lott as well as the Kentucky Distillers Association. On the final day of the week in DC, students had the opportunity to engage with the Bipartisan Policy Center, an organization that functions as both a think-tank and lobbying organization to push the theme of compromise forward in Washington DC through bipartisan conversation. All in all, this year's Henry Clay College Congress left participants with a sense that there is hope for compromise and continued dialogue on the most challenging issues of our time. 

What’s Next for Kentucky Schools?

May 8 Monday 11:04 AM

Did you miss the expert panel discussing the future of Kentucky schools? You can catch it online! The Gatton College has posted a video of the event. Dr. Zimmer, the Martin School's Director and a leading expert on education policy, discusses school choice, vouchers, and charter schools as a panel member. This topic is evemore salient, and we are happy to be a part of the conversation!

Alumna Leads Diversity and Strategic Enrollment Initiatives

May 1 Monday 10:48 AM

The thread running through Natalie Gibson’s (MPA ‘98) career focuses on organizational development in emerging education policy issues such as the achievement gap and student success.  “I am always drawn to positions that allow me to focus on strategic planning, budgeting, and capacity building,” she says. Today, Natalie serves as the System Director of Cultural Diversity for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). In that role, Natalie provides leadership, support and service in two domains:  diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as strategic enrollment management, engaging with “approximately 10,000 part-time and full-time faculty and staff at 16 colleges to insure the access and the success of approximately 80,000 students, especially those from traditionally underserved backgrounds.” She finds purpose in this role, because community colleges provide so much to so many—“These opportunities transform lives by helping [students] gain an education that increases the likelihood of gainful employment,” she explains.

While inclusion in postsecondary education may seem very nebulous to the layperson, for Natalie, there is a focus on concrete strategic goals and objectives. She supervises System Office staff, leads two functional peer teams and other working groups, as well as working directly with the KCTCS Cabinet and President’s Leadership Team. She’s implemented new initiatives, including the Diversity Capacity Building Program, a KCTCS Diversity Dashboard, and Super Someday, which is a state-wide program that provides African-American and Latino students pre-collegiate academic enrichment opportunities as well as access to information and resources to improve college attendance. As the system-level subject matter expert for recruitment and retention efforts, she has reason to celebrate! After 8 semesters of enrollment declines, KCTCS colleges implemented their final strategic enrollment management plans and student enrollments for the system steadied in the fall of 2016.

“I really enjoy collaborating with groups of faculty and staff from our colleges and the system office to identify solutions and build capacity to increase student success,” she says. However, that can be challenging. One of the many hats Natalie wears is that of a change manager— which is particularly difficult in an age of constrained budgets. “It is so easy to defer to places of comfort and familiarity in times of stress,” she explains. Her Master’s program helped her to develop the skillset needed to handle such dynamic and politically-charged waters.

Natalie is no stranger to a challenge, though. After completing her MPA, she worked for the University of Kentucky as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Safety Program (SCAHIP), which sought to prevent agriculture worker injury and illness. As the CAO, Natalie was instrumental in attaining around $9 million in federal grant funding for the Center’s work.

In her spare time, Natalie loves spending time with her family and pursuing her favorite hobbies—traveling, shoe shopping, reading, and watching movies. We are proud to call Natalie a member of the Martin School family, and we know she will continue to make a positive impact on her community!