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SPEA Connect Provides Flexible Path for AmeriCorps Alums to Develop as Leaders

March 28, 2014


After getting sucked into clicking through another “Top 20…” listicle on BuzzFeed or another level of Candy Crush, it’s easy to identify all the ways that technology has made wasting time easier than ever before.  However, technology also provides the innovation and tools needed to efficiently manage time and resources. Online higher education programs that bring ‘bricks and mortar’ academics to the internet, are an example of this and one that many Alums are taking advantage of.  Anna Duquaine and Erica Abrams Yan are both AmeriCorps Alums attending Indiana University’s SPEA Connect program, a highly regarded (ranked 2nd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report) online MPA program designed to prepare AmeriCorps Alums to take their careers to the next level.

Along with more than 50 AmeriCorps Alums who have enrolled in SPEA graduate programs in the last 5 years, Anna and Erica are able to take advantage of SPEA Connect’s generous credit waiver policy that provides any student who served in AmeriCorps with a credit waiver of 3 hours ($2,950 discount) up to a maximum of 6 hours ($5,900 discount).  Because Anna and Erica are both busy professionals, the flexible and convenient structure of the SPEA Connect online MPA program allows them to study where and when it is most convenient for them.  As MPA Director and Professor Bob Kravchuk shares, “We believe our online graduate programs are an ideal fit for AmeriCorps alumni given their dedication to public service, whether they are located in Washington DC or in a rural or urban community.  SPEA Connect allows AmeriCorps alumni to further their knowledge and career prospects without having to leave their families and jobs.” To read more about the SPEA Connect experiences of Anna and Erica, view their stories below.

Anna Duquaine

2014.03.Anna.DuquaineMy previous AmeriCorps experience as a Public Ally in Indianapolis has significantly shaped my graduate education in nonprofit and public management.  At SPEA Connect, I have found that the learning material, theories, management techniques, and other deliverables are more meaningful and relate-able because I’ve had that real-world experience within the sector.  Not only do I connect with the content and other classmates at a higher level based on my AmeriCorps experience, I also am able to contribute more meaningfully to class discussions in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.

I’ve also seen my professional path evolve as stepping stones towards my career goals as a future leader within the public and nonprofit sectors.  AmeriCorps allowed me to get my feet wet and gain some real-world experience; now SPEA is providing me the tools and knowledge to move forward as a successful future leader.  My approach to education has always been a holistic approach – I believe that both practical applications of the learning materials along with a strong educational understanding result in optimal learning and growth.  SPEA encourages both components through class discussion among classmates from various backgrounds and experience levels, incorporating real-world case work and discussions within every SPEA class, and requiring an internship experience before completing the masters.  Future employers want to know that applicants have both the understanding of the sector as well as the experience within the sector to be a successful employee, and SPEA is getting me there.

SPEA Connect is unique in that I have access to a cohort of students from all over the world with various levels of professional and prior educational experience.  I have found that the unique perspectives my classmates bring to discussions have really enriched the learning experience and have helped me grow in my ability to work with a diverse group of people.  As our society becomes and increasingly global one, I think this component will be vital in the success of the professional moving forward within the public and nonprofit sector.

Erica Abrams Yan

2014.03.Erica Abrams YanMy AmeriCorps experience aids my success at SPEA because it’s that concept of “real world experience”.  AmeriCorps has allowed me to approach the theory we’re learning in class and look at it through a different lens.  Instead of trying to think of hypothetical scenarios to visualize and connect the material we’ve learned in class, I can immediately draw upon my experience and think of those concrete, tangible situations where I’ve actually encountered what I’m learning.  It’s thrilling to realize the information and strategies we’re learning in our virtual classrooms are what nonprofit and public organizations utilize!  It’s also very exciting to share my experiences with my classmates because we’re so eager to learn from another.  I feel that by sharing my AmeriCorps experience, and with other classmates sharing their experiences, my classmates and I have mutually beneficial relationships.

SPEA Connect’s flexible design offers such a wide variety of course offerings.  The courses and the program are smart options for anyone wanting to pursue a career in public administration, nonprofit management, or public policy.  I’m confident and comfortable knowing that SPEA is preparing me for a successful career in nonprofit management- it’s clear to me that I will take what I learn from the coursework and reference it in my professional career.  The ability to shape the curriculum to fit my needs and the pragmatic nature of the course materials is exactly what I wanted in a graduate school experience. What’s also remarkable about SPEA is its instructors; they’re seasoned professionals who are passing on valuable information and sharing tools with my classmates and me that will help us succeed.

SPEA Connect is a particularly unique graduate school experience because it allows me to go to school and work at the same time.  I’m noticing so many parallels between what I’m learning in the virtual classroom and what deliverables I’m managing and accomplishing at work.  I love knowing that my MPA degree is going to be so transferable and applicable.  I also appreciate the opportunities SPEA Connect creates so that my classmates and I can interact with each other.  I’ve met some truly talented individuals from many different career paths and experiences, and it’s exciting that I can communicate with them in real time over the forums and chat rooms.  SPEA Connect is a far departure from the traditional classroom model.  Even though I’m not able to meet many of my classmates in person, I feel I’ve learned just as much – if not more – than sitting in a classroom on campus about them, their experiences, and the world around me.

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) at Indiana University has a longstanding tradition of recognizing volunteer service through AmeriCorps.  SPEA’s graduate programs have enrolled more than 50 AmeriCorps alumni over the past five years and the MPA program grants a three credit hour waiver for each year of AmeriCorps service (up to six credit hours). 

One Comment leave one →
  1. VISTA Leader permalink
    March 31, 2014 6:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Arizona Alliance VISTAs.

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