Graduate Profile: Christopher Happel (MPA '17)


Hometown: Kearny, NJ
Degree program: Master of Public Administration
Concentration: Healthcare Administration

Why did you enroll at SPAA?
The School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University – Newark interested me when researching it as an undergrad. It may seem strange to be an undergraduate double major in psychology and criminal justice and then go to graduate school for healthcare administration, but the idea of helping people at the international, federal, state, and local levels aligns with my vision. SPAA shared my vision and had the staff and resources to support it.

What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?
With my degree, I hope to either enter the healthcare field as a hospital administrator or become a head coach at a university. My overall goal is to help others in reaching their goals and dreams.

Best moments at Rutgers University-Newark?
My favorite moments at Rutgers University – Newark were during my undergraduate career on the track and field team. In 2013, I helped break the school record in the 4x400m Relay and the Sprint Medley Relay. Those records still stand today! As the graduate assistant coach during my graduate career, coaching athletes to beat other school records were unforgettable moments.

Favorite class(es) and professor(s)?
All of my professors were amazing. They all played a crucial role in who I am today. In my undergraduate career, my favorite classes were "Italian Literature in the English Translation" with Professor Spina studying Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and "Intro to Logic" with Professor Buchner studying loopholes to arguments. During my graduate career, my favorite professors were Jeffrey Backstrand and Alan Sadovnik, who taught me healthcare and research design, respectively.

Biggest challenge?
I did not have many challenges in college. The main area I struggled in was giving class presentations. Trust me, it does not come easy at first. However, I can assure you, the more times you do it, the easier it gets. Talking in front of people is some students’ nightmare. Being confident with yourself, showing that confidence to others, and using repetition are the secrets to being successful at presentations or speeches. Drown yourself in presentations, participate in class, talk more often to people, and never be afraid to fail.

Next steps?
After graduation, I will be doing a local administrative job helping kids and being an assistant coach for Rutgers University-Newark for the track and field teams. Eventually, I will move on to other areas of the state, country, and world to help others, still contributing back to Rutgers – Newark any way I can. Everyone has the ability to be great, they just need the opportunity to show it.

Advice to incoming students?
There are three major things to do as a college student. First, you need to make yourself as marketable as possible. Being involved in the university and community allow you to put yourself out there, obtaining experience that you may miss out on otherwise. Fight for something important to you, create an organization about something that interests you, or join a sports/club team. Second, learn as much as possible. Knowledge is the key to success. The more you know, the better you will do in this world—people will have more respect for you and take you more seriously. And the third, network! Talk to as many people as you can. Reach out to professionals, professors, public figures, etc. The more you communicate with people, the better your conversational skills will become. Meeting others and creating relationships is just as important as doing well in your courses. Remember, it’s not just about who you know, it’s about who knows you.

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