When Elizabeth Lo was exploring options for online public administration programs, she based her interest and ultimate selection on three factors: reputation, network, and curriculum.
After evaluation, she said the choice was clear: UNC-Chapel Hill’s online Master of Public Administration program (MPA@UNC).
“It was really important to me to find a program with a quality reputation, great network, and curriculum that was rigorous and would really be a return on my investment,” Lo said.
At the time, Lo was working as the IT program manager in the Hennepin County, Minnesota, Office of Budget and Finance. She had worked for nearly 20 years in local, county, and state government and was looking for ways to expand the scope of her leadership potential in the field.
“The public sector is where I want to be,” she said. “That’s where I get my energy and feel I can contribute value. So it was important to me to find a program that would help with my professional development.”
Seeing Government Through a Different Lens
Since joining the MPA@UNC program this January, Lo has found the well-rounded curriculum to be invaluable in furthering her public service career.
The two classes she has taken thus far—Institutions and Values of Government and Law and Public Administration—have already expanded her perspective.
“I’m able to view government through such a different lens,” Lo said. “I’m gaining a deeper and practical understanding of how and why U.S. government was designed, in addition to where the U.S. government framework works and where there are challenges.”
Since committing to the program, Lo said she has also found the diverse network of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to be a great resource in expanding her access to opportunities in the local government field.
When talking with admissions counselors from the program, Lo learned that she qualified for Local Government Tuition Matching. This scholarship is awarded to admitted students who work for a local government employer and matches any tuition benefit funds provided by the employer up to $10,000.
For Lo, this opportunity to attend a top-ranked program at a reduced tuition rate was one she knew she had to take.
“I really value a quality education, but I also know that money can be a barrier,” she said. “With this scholarship, I’m really able to get that return on investment. That investment in your education is so worth it. I would absolutely encourage others to apply for it. It has been so helpful for me.”
Reaching New Milestones
But among the many opportunities the program has brought to Lo, one stands out most: a new job in local government with ample opportunity for professional growth.
“I talked with a UNC MPA alum who told me about an opportunity to lead an IT department in Bedford County, Virginia,” she said. “After doing some research and going through the interview process, I got the position and am actually moving out there now.”
The transition will be a marked one. Lo is leaving the largest urban county in Minnesota to accept the IT director position at Bedford County, which is smaller and rural, and she could not be more excited.
“There’s so much opportunity for what I can do in this role,” she said. “Taking what I’ve learned working in local government and from the program, I think there’s a great chance to share and leverage what I am learning in the UNC-MPA online program.”