Appalachian State University (Appalachian) Communications Team
From Fine Art to Public Service
When Emily Bausch completed her undergraduate degree in fine art, she wasn’t sure how she wanted to continue her education or start her career. A temporary public service opportunity as a professional lifeguard in Florida gave her the direction she needed.
“During that very first summer, I saved a life,” said Bausch. “Every shift, I made a difference in someone’s day on some level, and this deeply impacted me. I was hooked!”
Since that clarifying experience, Bausch’s commitment to public service has continued to take shape.
After pursuing jobs in emergency medicine and law enforcement, she stepped into her first administrative role as a supervisor in a fire-rescue department. This promotion offered her the chance to explore new areas of administrative work, including public relations and communications.
Pursuing New Educational Horizons
Eager to improve her skills and serve the public more effectively, Bausch set her sights on UNC’s top-ranked1 MPA program.
“The quality of education offered at Carolina is simply outstanding,” she said. “No other institution connects with and serves public sector practitioners like the UNC School of Government (SOG). The SOG’s mission absolutely aligned with the values I wanted to instill in my own work.”
The online MPA program, MPA@UNC, offered Bausch the flexibility she needed without requiring her to relocate or put her career on hold.
“With MPA@UNC, I could have it all. Our program offered me the same experiences as a residential student, like plenty of classroom time, clubs, meetups, study sessions, get-togethers with alumni, and events on campus.”
“With MPA@UNC, I could have it all.”
She found she could attend classes and complete her coursework from anywhere: home, work, someone else’s house, the airport, hotel rooms—even a parked car.
“The online format also allowed me to complete classwork and listen to lectures anytime,” she stressed. “I could listen to them more than once and re-watch classroom discussions. This was especially invaluable to me because it meant I could dive very deep into the material.”
Above all, Bausch chose Carolina because she knew the online program would hold her to the same rigorous academic standards as on-campus students—and she knew potential employers would take notice.
“This is a nationally ranked program, so it’s very hard work, but it’s the reason why I’ve grown so much in my career,” she said. “We have the ability to learn from practitioners who are also our classmates and work with Carolina’s world-class faculty.”
For Bausch, getting to know faculty, staff, and other students was one of the highlights of her experience.
“It was not uncommon for me to text or call other students as much as I would text or call any close friends at home,” said Bausch. “When I came to campus, we had tons of fun together like any other school chums.”
“It was not uncommon for me to text or call other students as much as I would text or call any close friends at home.”
In addition to establishing friendships with her fellow classmates, Bausch joined groups and organizations—such as the Student Leadership Committee—attended voluntary SOG meetings, and participated in onboarding and information sessions with prospective students through the online classroom.
She also made it a point to come to campus for in-person coursework. Bausch participated in an on-campus immersion, which allowed her to participate in weekend coursework while engaging with other residential and online MPA students. Another weekend course —Mediation and Facilitation—even allowed her to collaborate with students from UNC’s MPH and MSW degree programs.
For Bausch, the immersion experience was an invaluable opportunity. “I would certainly suggest that any MPA student take advantage of these classes to increase their course diversity and interactions with the SOG.”
Career Advancement Through Practical Experience
As part of her program requirements, Bausch completed a Practical Work Experience (PWE), which is designed to give students real-world experience in a public administration setting.
Her PWE wasn’t just eye-opening—it helped her land an exciting new role at the state level.
“I heard that the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida was looking to make some major administrative and program changes,” she explained. “After holding a meeting to pitch my internship ideas and suggestions to the marshal of the court, they were willing to take me on as an intern in the marshal’s office—something the court had never done before.”
Just a couple months later, another opportunity presented itself: Bausch was invited to apply for, and was eventually offered, the role of chief deputy marshal.
But career advancement was just one highlight of the PWE. She also learned more about what kinds of work she enjoys most, including writing, research, communications, and change management. These responsibilities gave her the opportunity to interact directly with the public and connect her work to a broader purpose—things she had craved in previous roles.
“Carolina’s emphasis on professional communications and practical application of academic learning align perfectly with the work I do every day.”
Bausch’s time as chief deputy marshal spurred even more self-reflection and led her to her current role in higher education. Today, she is a critical-crisis communications specialist with Appalachian State University (Appalachian), where she works with the Emergency Management Task Force, Campus Public Safety Committee, and many other planning and response committees related to health and safety at Appalachian.
She also collaborates with the Appalachian Police Department (APD) and Environmental Health, Safety, and Emergency Management (EHS&EM), working on everything from major events, emergencies, creative projects, and communications initiatives.
“My Carolina MPA prepared me very well for my position with Appalachian. Carolina’s emphasis on professional communications and practical application of academic learning align perfectly with the work I do every day.”
Forever a Public Servant
Regardless of how her responsibilities and interests continue to evolve, Bausch says she’ll never leave public service. Why? Because it gives her a link to people and communities she wouldn’t find anywhere else.
“I know the common denominator in my work, no matter where my career takes me, will always be a direct connection with the community,” she said. “I love helping people create the changes and improvements they want for their organizations, and I love communicating with them.”
Make Your Commitment to Community
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