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.”


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!