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MPA Alumnus Brings Policy to Life at Regional Think Tank

Dustin Pugel graduated from our MPA program in 2012. He received his  bachelor's degree in History from Asbury University, where his passion for public service was ignited by his student government involvement. As the study body Vice President for Governance, Dustin had the opportunity to work on student policy issues. He decided to pursue his MPA to learn more about the policy process and evaluation. He currently works for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), which is an initiative of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). In describing his current work, Dustin says, "I love this job… It's a dream job."

In his work as a Research and Policy Associate, Dustin researches and advocates for policies related to low-income Kentuckians, often collaborating with key stakeholders both in and outside of government. Often working on many projects at once, he has recently focused on the Medicaid expansion, the minimum wage, public assistance programs, higher education funding, and early childhood education in Kentucky. Prior to his current job, Dustin was a community organizer.

The Martin School helped Dustin develop the perspective and the skills to tackle such a wide variety of policy problems in complex political environments. Dustin felt that the faculty not only were experts in their fields, but also really brought the material to life. For instance, one of his key takeaways from our program was the importance of the budgeting process; as he put it, the budget is a "values-setting document… You can't understand society's preferences unless you understand their wallet." Dr. Hackbart and Dr. Denison would agree!

The Martin School also instilled in him the art of communicating complex ideas in simple but powerful ways. Dr. Wilson, who advised Dustin on his Capstone Project, really pushed him to write in an engaging way for his intended audience. His hard work paid off! Dustin received the Reedy Award for his research on state-by-state migration by educational attainment, commonly referred to as "brain gain" or "brain drain" depending on the trend.