Webinar: Online MPA Graduate – Charlotte LaBelle

View all blog posts under Online Master of Public Administration | View all blog posts under Webinars


Hello everyone. Welcome to our MPA webinar today. Thank you for joining us. My name is Aili Byng. I’m an advisor here with Ohio University and the specialist on the Master of Public Administration graduate program. We are going to get started in just one moment. I am however going to point out while we have a couple of minutes or so allowing others to log on a couple of things that you may be seeing on your screen. You are going to find there a section where you can input questions that you might have about our presentation or about our program. You will also see social media links that you can share this presentation with colleagues and/or friends that may be interested in the online MPA with us here and feel free to use those and share those out using social media.

So we are going to try to keep this today to about a half an hour 30 minutes at most. So that you can get a little bit of time back in your lunch hour. Thank you so much again for taking the time and joining us today. Keep in mind that if we do not get to everyone’s questions. Please do use that Q&A section input those questions there. They will be sent to me with the recording and one of us in the enrollment and admissions team will reach out to you make sure that you get answers to those questions. So let’s go ahead and get started with us today as you know my name is Aili Byng. I’m an advisor here and our good friend Charlotte LaBelle who is a recent MPA graduate Charlotte say hello to everyone.


AILI: Go ahead Charlotte tell us a little bit about your background if you don’t mind.

CHARLOTTE: Yeah for sure um. So I was born and raised in Orrville, Ohio which is a really small town south of Akron. I went to the University of Akron for my undergrad. I did I had a I got a Bachelor of Arts in communications and public relations with some minors in sociology and military studies and then I could. I was in the Ohio National Guard throughout my undergrad and then I commissioned and started active duty in 2014. So I’ve been an active duty Army officer for five years now. My husband is also active duty and I really I chose Ohio University because growing up in Ohio, I knew the reputation that OU had and this program is exactly what I was looking for. So and then I also do a lot of volunteer work which is something I’m very passionate about. So I volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and teach Suicide Prevention to soldiers as well as to schools and within the community. So that’s why I chose the concentration in nonprofit management.

AILI: That’s fantastic well done. Thank you both you’re yourself and your spouse on our behalf for your service to our country. This is exactly the type of student that I love to recommend because it’s very clear that you have a mission, that you’re really focused on that mission of helping others. I imagine that you found the MPA and the nonprofit specialization to be particularly effective for the work that you’re doing both that which you’re going to be employed in and your volunteer work. Is that what inspired you to pursue the MPA?

CHARLOTTE: Yeah a little bit. Um I come from a family that is full of devoted public servants. Many of my aunts and uncles are firemen, teachers, members of the school board, but my biggest inspiration really was my dad who has worked in the public sector for the majority of his career. And in his current position he has had, he’s a critical representative that links county and state regulations with farmers in the area in order to protect the water and soil from for pollution. But he’s also on our home, My hometown City Council. So the stories from him in both of these roles really and understanding the impact that he can have in the community fascinated me and it made me want to extend my public service from the military into something more and learn more about other ways that you can impact the communities. And then also like both of my parents are consistent volunteers and dedicated dedicated to the service of others and they volunteer on boards for Goodwill and United Way and that kind of also inspired my desire to do the nonprofit management concentration. So and then really I knew that I didn’t want to retire from the military. So I wanted to pick a degree that I could continue to be a public servant when I got out of the army and this is this degree was far beyond anything that I had expected. It was exactly what I was looking for in that area.

AILI: That’s really great. So not only do you and your spouse have a mission and have this mission driven focus of helping others and our community in our country overall. That’s something that’s learned in your family. Have had those examples of what it is to serve your community very very clearly laid out. So it feels like a very natural progression for you to the MPA.

CHARLOTTE: Yeah it was it’s truly a value of mine to you know contribute to society in a greater way. And like every class kind of showed me how that how you could impact in the community even more so.

AILI: It’s really good that you bring that up. So one of my question for you then is going to be, if you had to choose you know, an example of a class that you found helpful specifically in the nonprofit management specialization maybe for this mission driven focus that you have, what would you say it was?

CHARLOTTE: So in the program overall. The policy analysis in public-private partnership classes were actually two of my favorites because they kind of gave me an idea or a scope of the broad range of issues that this degree can allow you to have an impact on and then it forced me to think in a different way about things. Like understanding how public services like fire department or police protection. How policy has an impact on them and how they’re able to do their jobs because in the military it’s kind of hard to open your mind to those kind of things because we’re just we’re given money, we’re given resources and policy impacts us, but not on a small scale in our little bubble. It’s more of a large scale for the military operation. So understanding how local government’s policies can impact services like that really was eye-opening to me. So yeah I think those are my two favorite overall classes for sure, but then also in the nonprofit I really learned how you can you contribute to nonprofits in many different ways but also how to strategically make goals to make a non-profit have longevity and that was something that really interests me throughout the program.

AILI: That’s wonderful. Very good to hear that. So since you’ve graduated in Spring 2019, what have you been up to? What does life look like now that you have this MPA behind your name?

CHARLOTTE: Yeah so I actually my husband and I are transitioning out of the Army this year. So at the end of the year we will both be civilians officially. Um so I but before I am actually out, I am going to be participating in an internship and so I was really looking for something in the public sector that I could learn and apply my degree and I actually was selected for an internship with the mayor’s office in Lexington, Kentucky. So I will be starting that in August which I’m really excited about and Mayor Gorton is actually an Ohio native and I think a big driver of the reason I was selected is because she understands and knows the reputation of Ohio University and I think that really helped me to be selected for that internship so yeah.

AILI: That’s fantastic. It also speaks. I tell students when I’m on the phone with them all the time it also speaks to the networking that you are going to join. That network of OHIO grads and Ohio former residents of the state but also people who are familiar with the reputation of Ohio University. And that can make a dramatic difference in your career moving forward. It’s an automatic sort of network of people your network throughout the country, right. So I guess one. I actually. I suppose go ahead.

CHARLOTTE: Well actually was funny because while I was on I had a phone conference with about five people were in the room when they were on the phone with me for that interview. And one of the gentlemen was a graduate of OU and he he yelled out go Bobcats. So kind of was a really good icebreaker.

AILI: I like that very much. Good deal. So let’s talk a little bit about time management tips. As a former student, recent grad. You’re going to have lots of really valuable information for our students, our prospective students, the people who are on the call with us today and I think it’s important to point out that planning is really key. Being able to spend a little bit of each day making a plan, scheduling the day out, maybe if you are really good with the calendar and color coding things that you need to do I know that I found that to be really effective. Setting aside time to be able to do the work. So you were working full time in the military while you were doing this, how did you find a way to manage your time wisely?

CHARLOTTE: Yeah so there are a couple of things that I did because like you said my work schedule could range from 60 to 80 hour work weeks depending on like what missions we have going on, or what what’s going what training is going on, and my husband deployed during the program. We moved to three different states. So it was crazy. So I definitely took the time every Sunday was kind of my planning day because most most courses, things were due like by Sunday. And then the next week would open up and that was when I looked at the week for my work and then looked at my priorities and then also what requirements I had for school and then kind of laid out what time I would block off for school. But then in order to get the readings done and things like that I used every ounce of spare time I had um even like running, even if I was on the treadmill. I’d be reading you know that kind of spare time that I had or lunchtime I would make sure I focus on reading while I was eating instead of looking at social media or taking the time to do something like that. So really focusing on what spare time you actually have and then prioritizing what needs to get done and then I think honestly the OU, the online instructors for this program were critical for me because part of my job like there’s times where I would be gone for a week without internet or in an area without computers or something like that. So they really worked with me to either release the homework early a few days early, so that I could work on it before I left or anything that I needed to help me to succeed. So that really was beneficial for me.

AILI: That’s so fantastic you’re not the first person to tell me that. The professors do understand that the need for that flexibility. That goes into another question that I get all the time. I see it’s one of the questions that’s been posted that that deadline-driven and asynchronous format, plus the flexibility of the professors being open to you all having real life your your full time jobs on top of that um was really something it sounds like to me was hugely effective and helpful to you.

CHARLOTTE:Oh absolutely. It was actually essential because I can’t imagine that I would have been able to do more than one class at a time and then knowing that like there’s a plan in place for me. That showed me the whole 24 months before I started where I knew every class that I was taking in the next class and the next I was taking. It allowed me to kind of have that almost on like one step at a time mentality where. My mom’s always telling me that. It’s just one step at a time. One foot in front of the other and that was kind of like how it it helped me to not get overwhelmed because I could just keep chugging through one class and and then also the having it only be like seven weeks at a time. It made it so that every time you completed a class you kind of had a new like inspiration when you started the next class. So it was kind of nice to have a change of pace every seven weeks. So it made it easy to keep going.

AILI: Yes, good point. It does not become overwhelming and I like what your mom said to you about one step at a time. That’s something I reference all the time it except I use compartmentalization as the word. And that’s something that I learned from my father who, was in the military and my brother who was in the military. I’m sure you understand compartmentalization very very well and so it’s something that is key to being able to keep moving forward. One session at a time and within one session at a time, one week at a time. So that then you’re not overwhelmed and getting at “oh I’ve got 24 months of this, I’m never going to make it.” No I’ve got seven weeks in front of me. That’s where compartmentalization comes in handy. Absolutely. Very very good. So then using that sort of format you know one class at a time format that you mentioned was so helpful. Do you feel like you retained a lot more of what you were meant to be learning because of that one class at a time format?

CHARLOTTE: Yeahbecause well like I said um I was so busy so knowing that I only had to really invest my brainpower my spare brainpower into one subject made it a lot easier to like not rush through the reading material or like skim the reading material. I had it I had time to really watch the videos and understand the lecture and comprehend and retain the information.

AILI: That’s fantastic good to know. So if I were to ask you on one piece of advice that you would give to someone who is considering a career in public administration, whether that’s public sector, state and local government, nonprofit, what is that one piece of advice that you would give that person?

CHARLOTTE: So I don’t. Since I don’t really work in well I mean military public sector but I don’t work in the field necessarily yet. I think this degree specifically my advice would be that so I mean. I’m a perfectionist through and through and I’m sure a lot of people with better seeking that this degree have that type A mentality. And doing this program I think my advice would be that it’s not easy to work full-time and do graduate school and it’s not meant to be easy. It’s supposed to be challenging but understanding that you’re going to be challenged and you might not get a 4.0 but it’s okay because the end goal is just to graduate and really just taking that one step at a time to get to that goal because the end result will have a lot of value. You’ll that those three little letters after your name and then the reputation of Ohio University behind it is worth it. So I think just to like give yourself a little bit of grace in a way. Like throughout the program of knowing that it’s going to be hard and you’re going to have to push yourself but it’s only two years and at the end it will be worth it. So.

AILI: It’s a valuable return on your investment isn’t it?

HARLOTTE: Yes. Absolutely.

AILI: Very very good. Very well stated. So stick around for a little bit in case we have some questions that people might want to address directly to you. Let’s transition into the support for the online students. So that you all can see you will have one of me for example a dedicated enrollment advisor who will help you from the very beginning. The moment you request some information, one of us will give you a call. You will not need to call back in and speak to ten different people and explain your stories ten different times. You will have that dedicated person in your corner, helping you move through the entire admissions applications process all the way with you through welcome calls, orientations, etc. to start of class. As you begin that welcome call process you will have a Student Support Specialists which will be then that individual who takes over moving forward as your primary point of contact and that individual is going to assist you with connecting you to the University and resources. Of course registration reminders, question, book lists, things of that nature. If you’re having any trouble and you’re not able to locate material they can help share some resources with you. They are an all-around support specialist / administrative assistant / coach in your corner. And you will find that they take their responsibilities to you and their commitment to you very very seriously. In fact quite as serious as the program director and the faculty that you will be learning from. These individuals are experts in the field. We have many who are experts out in real world, who have come back to our University to now teach and our executives in residences are also teaching. They have all of the real-world experience as well as the academic background. Yes they are all PhDs. No they did not come out fully formed PhDs, so they will understand the struggles and as Charlotte mentioned they will be open to being as flexible as possible and as helpful as possible to you all as students moving forward. Our goal at Ohio University and I know for a fact at Voinovich in particular is to help you all become graduates, not just starters, graduates. And that is our commitment to you from the very first phone call you with have an advisor all the way through the entire process and I think it’s been made very clear by Charlotte to you all that this is what she’s experienced as well.

So let’s talk a little bit about the core curriculum. You’ll see here some of you have already spoken to me or to any of the advisors know that it’s 12 classes total. The core curriculum is specific to a little bit more general concentration or excuse me not concentration courses but general curriculum things like public budgeting, organizational leadership, public and private partnerships.

These are important courses that is really helpful for you all to know and then of course you’ll see here the concentrations the Public Leadership and Management concentration and the three classes that belong to it. The Nonprofit Management specialization and the three classes there and then our brand new newest one to join, State and Local Government Management and the three classes that are being given in that concentration. If you have any questions about any of these please note them in the Q&A section. Again we will make sure someone gets back to you with those questions. So as you can see here really quickly admissions process straight-up. Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, transcripts from all institutions attended, a letter of intent or personal statement, resume, and make sure that you secure three letters of recommendation.

It’s important to note that you have three opportunities to get started each calendar year. Spring is in January. Summer is in May and Fall is in late August and of course these three concentrations that we have currently. We will be adding new concentrations fairly soon so do feel free to keep an eye out for the brochures and the information that you’ve received. We’ll send emails out with updates on any new concentrations as well. Here is all of our contact information email please feel free to reach out. There’s the 800 number that you can reach out to us or you can just reply to any of the contact attempts that you have received from your advisor. So we are going to give look at that 25 minutes and counting in our 30 minute promise at the top of the webinar. So let’s have one or two questions that I see here. And Charlotte if you don’t mind, I’m going to throw this one to you. A question is typed in about student support, how did you get along with your student support rep? Do you feel like they were responsive and helpful? That’s a good question.

CHARLOTTE: Yes that is. Yes absolutely. James was mine and he not only like if I if I needed something would he respond very quickly. He had a text message service that you could text him, you could call him but also he every single after every class we kind of had a check-in phone call each semester that he would do to just see how things are going. How I like the courses. If there is anything I thought should be changed or if I had suggestions. So he was very responsive and receptive. So that’s really great.

AILI: Thank you so much for sharing that. Okay, one more question so we can give you all time back in your lunch hour. How many at oh this is for you Charlotte, how many actual hours each week do you think that you spent on coursework?

CHARLOTTE: It definitely depended on the class. There are a few that required a lot more writing which for me takes a lot longer because it just is a longer commitment. Um and then reading there’s a lot of reading but it wasn’t overwhelming. That was what I was worried about was the amount of reading that would be required because I don’t have a lot of time during my day to sit down and really read through information but every single class it was not only writing but writing paired with a video with the instructor so if you didn’t have a ton of time to thoroughly read the information, the video paired with it kind of helps you to understand the material. So I think hours wise it’s really hard to say. Most of the time it was dedicated to the weekend for me. So I would spend maybe five hours on the weekend and then throughout the week I would spend depending on the class like another five so maybe like 10 to 15 hours a week depending on the course load but it really was and they give you the curriculum ahead of time or the requirements so like that you can see what readings that there will be throughout the course. So if you need to read earlier you can do that if you know you have a week coming up that has a lot of outside school requirements then you can read earlier. So I think it was really manageable.

AILI: Excellent, very good. Thank you so much. So we’re going to leave you on that question. Ladies and gentlemen thank you so much for joining us as you can see from Charlotte’s answer to that question we take the flexibility part that we always speak to you about very very seriously because at the end of the day what we’re looking for I’ll repeat this because it bears repeating, our graduates. So if you are serious about making a difference in your career and therefore the people the communities that you will serve, the stakeholders in your communities, you will be able to get that flexibility that help that support that knowledge. Keep adding tools to your toolbox with our program. Thank you so much for your time. Charlotte, thank you so much for your time as well. It has been such a pleasure speaking with you and hopefully we will speak once again soon. Thank you. Thanks everyone enjoy the rest of your day!