SPAA Graduate Profile: Diana Jones (MPA'21)
Full Name: Diana J. Jones
Hometown: Queens, NY; Now reside in Montclair, NJ
Degree Program: Master of Public Administration (MPA)
Graduation Year: 2021
Why did you enroll at SPAA?
I worked in the for-profit sector for many years while personally serving and volunteering in my community and continuously looking for opportunities to impact my spheres of influence in positive ways. When I decided to return to school, I was originally enrolled in the business school because it made sense with what I was doing professionally. What started to happen was that there was an inner nudging reminding me of the prayer I had made years earlier… how can I make my passion for service my career? I then attended my first majors/minors fair where I learned more about SPAA. I decided to switch schools and from the first class until now, I know I have made the right choice.
What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?
The skills I have learned professionally, in my leadership roles in the community plus my educational accomplishments, are a great mixture that will add value to any organization I am a part of. My hope is to work for an organization that operates with integrity, compassion, and has the drive to work towards their mission of service to others.
Favorite SPAA memory?
One of my most prominent memories was the time when a grant writing class I really wanted to take in person was only given online. I spoke with other students and realized I was not alone. I, alongside other students wanted to advocate for SPAA to offer the class in person instead. We spoke to an advisor, collected signatures to show that there was a demand, got confirmation from a professor that he would teach the course if it were made available and presented our findings to leadership. Not only was it decided that the course would be given in person, but it was filled to capacity and what we learned was so valuable in that grant writing is a tool that any nonprofit administrator should have in their toolbelt.
As a non-traditional college student having returned to college after many years, it was a bit tough in the beginning to get into the flow of the coursework. Also my strengths do not lie in math-related courses, so it was challenging to understand some of the mathematical content of economics and statistics. However, with pressing into the coursework, obtaining tutoring, and connecting with other students in a study group, I was able to surpass even my own expectations by receiving A's in all but one of my courses.
I just accepted a position with a large nonprofit organization that serves people in need of food, rent, shelter, clothing, utilities, back-to-school supplies, and more. The department I work for is going through their own restructuring; however, I get an opportunity to help with the strategic planning of how we can serve people better.
Advice to incoming students?
My number one piece of advice to incoming students is to advocate for yourself. If you are having trouble in a course, connect with other students to develop a study group. If you are having challenges choosing classes, connect with your advisor to iron out those details. If you do not understand a concept in class, connect with your professor and reach out to the tutoring center. Each time you advocate for yourself, you are one step closer to accomplishing your goal of attaining your degree. Also remember that this educational milestone is a marathon, not a sprint, so take it one day and step at a time. By doing so, you can focus on what is just ahead of you, whether that is the next paper or presentation, which will make this journey more manageable.