Ruth Rivas


Graduated: December 2014

You experienced a career change while you were enrolled in the program. How did that impact your pursuing an MPA degree? Were there elements of your career change that change made you think differently about public administration?

My career change was one of necessity. However, I have found work as a public servant. While administration is a key part of this degree, I have been able to take my public service spirit and use that in my current teaching job. Public administration is so much more than just being a bureaucrat. Anytime you work in public service you are in some way a part of public administration.

You enrolled in MPA@UNC shortly after it launched. Why were you willing to choose the brand new online format?

Carolina’s reputation assured me that the courses would be quality. Bottom line, though, you need to be willing to take a risk to be part of something really special. The first cohort is experienced, diverse, intelligent, and dedicated. After taking my first class and meeting my professors and peers, I knew the program would be a success.

How did the online format benefit you? Were you able to balance work, school, family, etc. while pursuing your degree?

I am currently a full-time mom and teacher. I moved three times during my two years. The online format made that possible. I did work at 6 a.m. and had class at 6 p.m. because that was what worked for me. The balance is tough, but it is possible. A traditional degree can’t offer that level of flexibility.

How did the live class sessions contribute to connections built with faculty?

I think the live sessions provided an opportunity for faculty to get to know us pretty well. Because we watch lectures on the platform and our classes are very small, every live session was like a seminar. There are several faculty members I feel very close to and know I will call on throughout my career (and have already).

Did you participate in the 2014 Public Administration Conference?

I had the opportunity not just to attend, but also to help plan this year’s conference. As the first online student on the planning committee, I was very flattered by the invitation and found both the planning and the conference as great opportunities to connect with alumni and faculty members you might not otherwise see.

In what ways are you planning to use your degree now that you’ve graduated?

I’m planning to teach for a while. Our next move as a family will hopefully be to the DC area where I want to work on the school-to-prison pipeline issue and related policy, combining my past life, current passion, and MPA skills.

What is your favorite memory of MPA@UNC?

I think my favorite memories of the program are the moments I shared with colleagues and professors having that “aha” moment. I am all about relationships, and the ones I’ve developed are so valuable to me. I learned as much from the people as I did from the academic work.