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SPAA Faculty and Staff Discuss the Full-Circle Journey from SPAA Grad to SPAA Employee

SPAA Alumni: Full Circle Journey as SPAA Employees

On March 3, the School of Public Affairs and Administration presented a conversation with several members of the school's faculty and staff on coming full circle – from being SPAA students to being employed at SPAA. As part of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the school and the 75th anniversary of Rutgers University–Newark, participants discussed their motivations for selecting public administration as a career and SPAA as their platform.

The panelists included:

  • Domonic Bearfield (PhD’04), Associate Professor
  • Michael Dillard (MPA’10), Assistant Teaching Professor
  • Madelene Perez (MPA’09), Associate Dean for Finance and Administration
  • Jane Sharp (MPA’10), Director of NJ Certified Public Manager Program
  • Elijah Smith (BA’14), Director of RU-N Debate Team
  • Sharon Stroye (MPA’06), Director of Public Engagement
  • Lois Warner (PhD’07), Assistant Teaching Professor

The event was co-moderated by SPAA doctoral candidates Meril Antony and Kareem Willis.

As the conversation unfolded, the panelists spoke about their experiences at SPAA and RU-N and how these experiences helped them get their first jobs after graduation and paved their career trajectories. Jane Sharp and Elijah Smith provided insights about the BA and MPA programs. While Sharp graduated with an MPA 30 years after graduating from her undergraduate program, Smith completed his BA with SPAA and went on to pursue his masters degree soon after. They both spoke about the importance of work experience and how SPAA’s BA or BS/MPA program is a great combination of completing your masters while also gaining experience in the public administration field.

For Stroye and Dr. Warner, the network, the support, and mentorship at SPAA motivated them to return to work at SPAA. When asked about what advice the panelists would give to current students, Dr. Bearfield and Dr. Dillard agreed that students should not be shy. “Networking is key,” said Dr. Dillard. “As well as being comfortable in being uncomfortable.” Dr. Bearfield noted, “Going away and coming back is equally important. He said, “By working in New Hampshire and Texas, I learned new ways of doing things, and now I can share that diverse perspective with my students.”

All the panelists saw SPAA transition from a department in Hill Hall to a school in its own building at RU-N. When asked about their vision for SPAA, they all had a common wish: to see SPAA achieve greater heights but also to work to ensure SPAA is a place where students can grow, flourish, pay tribute to public servants, and really embody the mission and values of SPAA in their lives.

For more on celebrating SPAA's 15th anniversary: