Alumni Spotlight – Latisha Upshur

Meet Latisha, an alumna of our MPA program!

“Hello fellow Villanovans!  I am a recent graduate of Villanova University’s Master of Public Administration degree program.  My professional background is in finance and administration.  My past employers include a federal student loan servicer, several insurance companies, a wealth management company, and a real estate company.   More recently, I have transitioned into the public sector.  My last position was in administration at The School District of Philadelphia.”

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1) What are you up to now? Tell us a little bit about your new role as State Grant and Special Programs Specialist with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Association (PHEAA).

In February, I was blessed with the opportunity to relocate to Harrisburg, PA to accept my new position as State Grant and Special Programs Specialist at Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).  PHEAA’s State Grant and Special Programs Department has a mission to promote access to higher education for residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In my current role, I simplify somewhat convoluted information to our constituents and use my creative spirit to provide progressive solutions for the department.  The integrity of the State Grant Program is maintained through audits to ensure that all PA residents have an equal opportunity to receive eligible grant funds.  If a state grant is awarded, and it is later determined that the award was based on fraudulent or withheld information, we must recoup the funds.  I work collaboratively with students and their families, schools, PHEAA’s legal department and local courts to collect PHEAA’s state grant receivables. I am also a huge advocate of higher education and justice, so I enjoy what I do!  I also enjoy freelance grant writing, cooking, and spending time with my family.

2) Were there any particular courses or learning experiences during your time in the MPA program that stood out to you?

Some of the courses that stood out to me in this program are Leadership Ethics and Analysis and Research.  I am presented with grey scenarios that require unbiased analysis and decision-making skills. There are large volumes of information received, so the statistical analysis and research practices were great platforms to assist me in decision-making.   I also enjoyed the opportunity to analyze case studies and conduct interviews with public administrators.  Those real-life experiences provided valuable insight on how to implement thought processes, theories and practices into my daily routine.

3) What advice do you have for current MPA students?

The advice that I will give to current students is to limit distractions and be very organized.  A successful public administrator is responsible for oneself and his or her decisions have a direct impact on the lives of others.  This program moves very quickly and there is a lot of information to retain.  Staying focused, touching on the material each day, and managing your time wisely are important keys to success.  Take lots of notes and humble yourselves.  Everyone has something unique to offer.  Hindsight is 20/20.  It’s amazing how something that didn’t make much sense to you in the past is so clear now.  Stay in it!  Set smart goals! Be Passionate! Be a Nova!

Conference Opportunity: Urban Ideas Worth Stealing – 5/10

Great opportunity for those interested in local government!

Thanks to a conference sponsorship from WHYY and reporting project Keystone Crossroads, we have 5 complimentary tickets available for our students to the conference, Urban Ideas Worth Stealing! The conference will be held in Harrisburg, PA on May 10th from 8:30am-6:00pm and will explore ideas for how Pennsylvania Cities can improve.  People with all levels of knowledge about urban issues are encouraged to attend, and the event will include a panel featuring local mayors moderated by WHYY national reporter, Dave Davies, about the issues they are encountering in their communities.

Any interested students must contact Adrienne Webb to claim their ticket at awebb@whyy.org.

Faculty Spotlight – Carla Fall

Meet Carla! Carla works on citizenship and naturalization policy matters for the United States Department of Homeland Security. She is also an Adjunct Professor at both Villanova and Temple University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Temple University and her Master’s degree in Public Policy from George Mason University. Carla is based in Washington, D.C.

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1) Tell us a little bit about your professional background. How/what made you join the Villanova MPA faculty?

I currently work for the United States Department of Homeland Security, conducting research and policy analysis on matters involving citizenship and naturalization benefits.  I absolutely love my job, and am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work in a variety of roles in the immigration field.  From September 2010 to August 2016, I was the Community Relations Officer for the 5th district of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, where I designed outreach initiatives and engaged with immigrant stakeholders throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia.  From September 2008 to September 2010, I served as an Immigration Law Analyst for a headquarter component of Homeland Security.  I also worked as an Immigration Counselor for a charter school in Washington, D.C., assisting adult immigrants with humanitarian and family-based cases, and at immigration law firms in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, P.A., preparing both employment and family-based cases.

After working with immigrant populations for years, teaching seemed like a natural fit, and when approached about an opportunity with the Villanova MPA program, I jumped at the chance!  As my students will attest, I bring a lot of my immigration experience into the classroom and hope that they enjoy it as much as I do.

2) What course(s) are you teaching? What can students expect to learn in it/them?

This summer, I will be teaching my second “Managing Public Networks” course.  In class, we cover everything from governance to managing conflicts among the various job sectors (government / private) to negotiation tactics.  At a minimum, I hope my students leave the course with a greater understanding of the many moving parts that comprise the way our networks are arranged.  However, my goal is for students to take what we learn and apply it to their professional and private lives.  It’s a fun, interactive class, with lots of time for debates and negotiation simulations — if you haven’t signed up, do so!  You won’t regret it!

3) What advice do you have for current MPA students?

Volunteer!  Finding the right job (or any job) in your area of interest isn’t always easy.  I always knew that I wanted to work in the field of immigration, but I didn’t know in what capacity.  Through volunteer opportunities as an ESL teacher and legal assistant, I was able to learn about different issues that affect immigrant populations, make important contacts, and gain a better sense of what I wanted to do.

35th Annual Monetary & Trade Conference, presented by GIC and Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business – 4/21

On April 21, 2017, the Global Interdependence Center will host its Annual Monetary & Trade (AMT) Conference in partnership with the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University.  Speakers are drawn from the top echelon of policy makers, academics and business leaders.

The theme for the 2017 AMT Conference, supported by Moody’s Analytics, is De-Globalization: Is it real?. This event will take place on Friday, April 21st, 2017 from 9:00 am – 12:30 pm.

Learn more and register here!