This is the first installment of an ELGL original content series titled “The State of North Texas” by Tim Clark. Tim is a first year student in the University of North Texas MPA program.
Background Check on Tim: New Sensation: Tim Clark, University of North Texas, Research Assistant and MPA Student
Connect with Tim: LinkedIn
Growing up in San Antonio, I had no interest in government at all. In fact, as far as I was considered, government was the problem. That all changed however, three years ago, when I switched my degree from Biology to Public Administration. When I learned what made government tick, a whole new world opened up for me. I had learned about the structure of government before in political science classes, but public administration brought the process of government to life.
My interest in local government began soon after when I took a course on urban management. What caused me to fall in love with city management was the fact that city managers were not limited to one specific policy area. Their view on policy was broad. However, they also focused on the details of policies. City managers saw how local, state, and federal policies interacted with each other at the local level. What also drew me to city management was the fact that there’s never a dull moment in local government. There’s always something going on.
I soon signed up to join ICMA, UMAST, and TCMA to connect with as many professionals as I could. I was also fortunate enough to meet with former as well as current deputy city managers, assistant city managers, and city managers of San Antonio. These connections solidified my interest in city management and my desire to be a city manager.
In addition to networking, I also spent the summer attending as many city council meetings as possible, including the budget presentations, as well as interning for the City of San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department. This gave me a better understanding of the issues facing San Antonio.
Following graduation in December of 2012, I took a semester off before pursuing my Masters. While my original plan was to attend UTSA’s MPA program, I am glad that I took a semester off. It was while attending TCMA’s William King Cole Effective Local Government Series that January that I found out about UNT’s MPA program.
A few months later, I travelled to Denton to meet with Dr. Bland, the Chair of the Public Administration Department. I was more nervous than a Turkey on Thanksgiving due to the fact that I had no experience in local government and my undergraduate GPA was 3.39, a result of the biology classes I hadn’t done as well in. Surely this would hurt my chances of getting into a top program like this. However, he was impressed with my passion for local government and desire to be a city manager. I finished the application a week later and I was accepted less than a month later when I took the GRE.
Now, almost a year since then, I know I made the right decision in applying to UNT’s MPA program. The program focuses on preparing students for careers in the public and nonprofit sectors. One of the best components of this program is the mandatory internship for pre-career students. Each student must complete 440 hours in an internship with an organization of their choice. Because the program is located in the DFW metroplex, more than 200 cities and hundreds of nonprofits and special agencies are available for students to intern at. Additionally, many of the city managers or assistant city managers in these cities are alumni of the MPA program. Because of the strong international alumni network the program maintains, students from the MPA program are usually first choice for both internships and jobs that open up in those cities.
Now in my second semester, I’m nearly halfway finished in the program and still strongly focused on being a city manager. While I entered the program with the goal of returning to San Antonio to begin my career, I have since found myself debating whether I should stay or branch out to other cities and states. One thing I’m certain of though, is that coming to UNT was the best decision I’ve ever made. If you’re looking to get your MPA in Texas, I highly recommend putting UNT at the top of your list.
One thing I hope to gain as a columnist is to connect with other local government professionals and MPA students around the nation and expand my network. I also hope to share my experience as an MPA student both at UNT and in North Texas. I’m grateful to ELGL and Kent Wyatt for this wonderful opportunity.