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Alumni Spotlight: Teresa Wolfgang

Meet Teresa, alumna of our campus MPA Program! Teresa is a veteran and currently serves as the Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center in southeastern PA. In our interview, she discussed her role, the WRC in general, and her experiences in Villanova’s MPA program.
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What are you up to now? Tell us a little bit about the Women’s Resource Center.
I am honored to have been selected as the Executive Director of the WRC. The WRC is an organization founded in 1975. It was started by a group of women coming together to help one another through divorce, obtaining resources, and recently I was informed the founders assisted gay women with their needs. I like to describe the WRC as – we provide transition, growth and development services to all women and girls throughout Southeastern PA.

The WRC provides supportive and personal help to women who are struggling to keep their families and homes together during times of crisis and transition.

Our services include:
An Information and Referral Helpline offers the assistance of a real person trained to help with the increasingly complicated issues faced by many of the women who are in crisis due to a job loss, a medical problem, separation or divorce, or other family issues. We also provide supportive services to women veterans and partner with local veteran service organizations to ensure the female veteran is receiving the proper assistance. If WRC cannot directly assist, we provide our callers/clients additional resources in their communities. We have trained volunteers provide information and referrals to women facing crisis and transition, Monday through Friday 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Free Drop-In and telephone Counseling:
A professional counselor provides confidential consultations on any issue in person and by telephone, offered Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The goal of our free drop-in counseling is to give women hope and provide them with options for problem resolution. When they arrive they are usually overwhelmed, feeling alone and hopeless. When they leave they have phone numbers and names to contact and a plan for seeking on-going treatment. They also have a sense that they are not alone.

Free/Low Cost Legal Program:
The goal of the legal program is to provide low to moderate-income women with free and low-cost legal guidance, to increase their accessibility to information on their legal rights and options, and to provide them with practical information for building their capacity to work toward resolution of their legal problems. Consultations are scheduled with attorneys to discuss legal options around family law issues, divorce, and child custody. We also conduct seminars and workshops on divorce resources that include finance, investigators, real estate, support, and child custody concerns; every Saturday conducts a Divorce Support Group. The Legal Services Program of the Women’s Resource Center is invested in collaborative relationships. To date we have collaborated with area Bar Associations, OIC, the Delco Family Center, the Center Foundation and the United Way of Southeast Delco.

Career Development/ Services Program:
WRC offers networking groups, individual consultations and seminars for women looking for jobs, having been laid-off, re-entering the work force, or starting a new career. Additionally, we have folded our career program into Single Mothers and veterans. Taking a holistic approach will have a bigger impact on our client population using these two specific programs.

Financial Wisdom and Wellness: We provide specialized seminars and educational workshops that enhance our existing programs.

Veterans Outreach Initiative:
This program provides opportunities for female veterans and their families to assist in their transition to civilian life and/or provide additional opportunities, training, and counseling services to military families seeking assistance. Veterans and their families may use all WRC services at no cost; attorneys, therapists, career counselors, financial advisors and attend training, seminars, and workshops. The goal of the Outreach to Women Veterans is to offer supportive services to enable female veterans to be self-sufficient and to provide safe, secure homes for their families.

Single Mothers Program:
A structured support group offered at no cost for single mothers, held at five community based sites. Program includes dinner (with leftovers to be sent home) and childcare. The overall goal is to help mothers make positive changes in their lives so they can better provide for the successful development of their children, currently offered at five locations with a sixth beginning in the spring.

Girls Leadership Program:
A twelve week group program for 7th and 8th grade middle school girls that develops leadership abilities encourages community involvement while increasing self-esteem and learning positive decision-making skills. Trained, professional facilitators provide skill building programs, currently offered at nine middle schools in three counties.

Young Women’s Leadership Program:
This new program has grown out of demand from our client population and young women from the community college and four-year universities seeking assistance in professional development. We believe by building mentor relationships with leaders is at the heart of evolving into a leader yourself. Women make up almost half of the U.S. labor force, but only 5% of top leadership and 17% of corporate boards at Fortune 500 companies and as of the 2014 mid-term elections, women made up 20% of the U.S. Senate and 19% of U.S. House of Representatives and (Pew Research Center).

Volunteer Program:
This program provides opportunities for individuals to give back to their community. Currently WRC has 200 active volunteers doing administrative work, telephone helpline, program coordinators, attorneys, therapists, etc.

How did your Villanova MPA degree help you get where you currently are in your career?
Without Villanova, I would not have my current position!! I have a military and private sector background. After my 2011 tour in Afghanistan, I knew I wanted to work in nonprofits. So the best course of action for me was to go back to school and get the tools and education needed to transition over. After conducting some research, I decided to apply to Villanova because it was the strongest program. I met with Dr. Palus and originally I was only going to complete the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management because I have a Masters in Management. While I was in the Middle East 2013-2014, I made the decision to continue for the MPA. It was the best decision I made.

What advice do you have for current MPA students?
The MPA degree is flexible and provides us with a wide range of opportunities. I highly recommend getting a graduate certificate in a subject you like. For example, a current MPA student is getting her certificate in Education and another friend is getting his certificate in Statistics. So do not be afraid to step outside the program and add a few classes to customize your degree. Find subjects you are passionate about.

Were there any particular courses or learning experiences during your time in the MPA program that stood out to you?
I loved the entire program and its flexibility to customize our electives. I use statistics in my new job along with Strategic Planning, Financial Management and Org. Theory!!!! The entire program is beautifully connected to ensure students leave Nova with a fantastic experience, an amazing degree and tools to be successful.

Teresa Wolfgang
Teresa Wolfgang

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. John Kelley (Part 2)

Check out the second half of MPA faculty member Dr. John Kelley’s story about his amazing experiences in Copenhagen!

Copenhagen
Copenhagen

From the public administration perspective, Denmark can be baffling with its sixteen (or so) political parties. No single party has won a majority of all voters since 1901! This means compromises and coalitions which tend to form along traditional liberal and conservative lines. In the June 2015 elections, ten parties accumulated enough votes to gain seats in Parliament, ranging from 47 seats for the Social Democrats to 1 seat for the Faroe Islands Republic Party. However, by the narrowest of margins, a coalition of the more conservative parties replaced the Social Democrat led liberal coalition. A key player this time around was the
Danish People’s Party which vaulted into an all-time high of 21% of the vote (this translated to 37 of the 179 seats). This latter party’s nationalistic policies of sharp restrictions on immigration and asylum policy have brought biting criticism from the U.S. and other countries especially in light of the Syrian refugees.

But to further perplex our U.S. mindset, the Danish system (along with a number of other countries) grants the Prime Minister the power hold a “Snap Election,” an election called earlier than expected. Often, these are called at moments when the incumbent coalition is especially popular, thus giving it improved chances to win. However, Snap Elections are also called in Denmark when there is doubt as to whether the populace supports the incumbent policies. Such was the case in the June 2015 Snap Election (three months earlier than the last possible election date) and indeed there was a shift in the ruling coalition. Already, however, there is a strong liberal backlash that may result in another Snap Election, earlier than the four year term of office for Parliament members.

Three other intriguing features of the Danish system are: (1) a narrow window for putting up public election posters – “from midnight the fourth Saturday before the election date;” (2) restricted TV time – each party may submit a two minute TV presentation, these are randomly assigned and each is shown on only one evening, followed by a half hour talk by party officials/candidates; and (3) there is virtually no door to door canvassing. Can you imagine what our campaigns would feel like if we adopted these measures? By the way, voter turnout was 86% in Denmark this year; compare that with our 56% voter turnout in the last presidential election.)

Turning briefly to the nonprofit dimension of the Danish system, there are also major differences. As you would expect, the nonprofit human services sector is proportionately much smaller since most services are delivered by the state, such as mental health counseling, daycare, and employment training. However, there is a significant and vocal nonprofit social service sector that tends to play two roles. First, many services dealing with the most difficult cases were historically provided by the church or by voluntary NGOs. This still continues and we see nonprofits delivering the bulk of direct care in areas such as the homeless and addiction. Second, the nonprofit sector is a gadfly with an exceptional wingspan, aggressively advocating for programs in emerging areas of need (e.g., HIV) and in responding vigorously to vulnerable populations. For example, many see nonprofit nudging as the spark that led to the Danish Homeless Strategy, the only European example of a large-scale Housing First program, involving more than a thousand participants.

It is well known that Denmark s not a church going society. In fact, one colleague describes paranoia as “being in church and imagining there is someone in the pew behind you.” But many Danes assert that “community” and “compromise” are indeed their religious precepts. A deep sense of community, well rooted in Danish history, has been identified as an undercurrent that nurtures the social welfare system in this country of 5.6 million. All Danes have a right to have their basic needs met including needs such as education and child rearing. (This “caring homogeneity” has, in the opinion of many, also led significant numbers of Danes to adopt to anti-immigration attitudes, both to preserve “Danishness,” and the fiscal viability of the social welfare system.) Finally, Danes would rather compromise than confront. This makes it possible for the double-figure party system to function and form leading coalitions; this makes it possible for some remarkable alliances between management and labor unions – over 70% of Danish wage earners are reported to be members of unions, whereas our US union participation has ebbed to about 11%.

So, MPAers, I hope this read was informative. Coming to Denmark has been “a wonderful ride” for Nancy and me. I hope that you too have the chance to travel and absorb our global community. For now, however, we wish you all success in the final months in your Fall 2015 semester.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! (In November, we’ll be with Danes, celebrating the ancient feast Martinmas Eve, the evening before St Martin’s Day. Many Danes eat roast duck or goose on this evening. According to the legend, Martin was revealed by some geese when he modestly hid to avoid becoming a bishop. He therefore decided that every year on this day, 11 November, the geese must lose their lives to be eaten.

Med venlig hilsen,

John Kelley, Adjunct Professor, Villanova University & Visiting professor, Danish Institute for Study Abroad

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. John Kelley (Part 1)

Dr. John Kelley is one of our faculty members in the MPA program, concentrating on teaching strategic planning and evaluation courses for the program, all while maintaining an active consulting practice. Take a look at where Dr. Kelley spends his fall semesters! Make sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of Dr. Kelley’s spotlight, which will be available later this month!

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Dr. Kelley and his wife Nancy on their trip
Dr. Kelley and his wife Nancy on their trip

Dear MPAers,

For over 20 years I would hop into a trusty VW (they were trusty then), drive 8 minutes, greet Regina, Carl or Joe at the gate and begin a typically fulfilling work day at Villanova.

For the last four fall semesters, I hop on my trusty bicycle, pedal 15 minutes, greet Tanya or Louise at the front desk, walk up 54 narrow steps in a 1798 building, and begin a typically fulfilling work day at DIS – the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, located in Central Copenhagen. (Note: Over 60% of the Danish Parliament members bike to work – can you picture that in DC?)

My wife, Nancy (also a Villanova professor) and I have been arcing between Denmark and the Main Line since 2011, teaching and doing consulting for DIS. In 2011, I gave up my full time administration position at VU, and we were very lucky to gain positions at DIS. It truly is a lovely toggle, with Fall semesters spent in this capital that dates to the 900s and Spring semesters on campus with the MPA program.

DIS is a very well regarded Study Abroad program for U.S. undergrads — over 1,100 from all over the US flock to Copenhagen each semester to enroll in DIS which features over 220 courses across 22 academic disciplines from to Global Economics to Graphic Design. Typically, 14 to 20 Villanova undergrads attend DIS each fall and sparing.

With Denmark such a hot topic in the news, especially due to Bernie Sanders’ surging campaign, we thought it an apt time to share some experiences and observations with you.

Hilary Clinton said during the Presidential candidate debate in mid-October: “I love Denmark.” Nancy and I feel the same. We have been treated with open-arm warmth since our arrival. In fact, I remember one octogenarian who, upon learning that I was from the USA, threw his arms around me, hugged me and uttered: “Befriere”…meaning Liberator as he referred our troops helping free Denmark from Hitler rule.

We have experienced some distinct cultural differences, but no cultural shock as we now feel very much at home here. In fact, we are somewhat spoiled, living in a DIS apartment overlooking the Christianshavns Kanal, dug in the 1600s (our 4th floor apartment is visible on the left side of this picture).

Perhaps the biggest difference between our two countries and one that is making news today is the Danish social welfare state. True, the taxes are formidable (we pay over 40% of our salaries in taxes), but we have heard absolutely no disgruntled murmurings from our Danish friends. You probably know that this commitment brings free medical care, childcare, education and pensions, but there are other lesser known benefits. Not only do students receive a free college education but undergrads and master students receive a monthly state living stipend of dkk5903 (circa $900). Further, many benefits are much more generous than we experience with maternity leave totaling 52 weeks, split between the parents. A special job category, barselsvikar, provides for replacements during birth and infancy and is essential in keeping organizations going.

…stay tuned for Part 2 later this month!

Alumni Spotlight: Wendy Jolley-Kabi

Meet Wendy, an alumna of our online MPA program! Wendy currently serves as the President/CEO of Global Health Action in Atlanta, GA. She answered a few questions for us about her experiences:

What do you think is the most valuable aspect of Villanova’s MPA program?
As an online student, I was somewhat surprised and absolutely delighted that I was part of a remarkably engaged learning community. My classmates were spread across the country – and sometimes around the world – but our connections through discussion posts and classroom activities added great value to my Villanova experience.

What are you up to now?
In May 2015, I was selected to serve as the President and CEO of Global Health Action (GHA), an international nonprofit organization located in Atlanta. Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities in under-served parts of the world. I feel like I’ve found my home at GHA. In our daily work, we support the knowledge and creativity of local communities in solving their own problems and challenges.
How did your Villanova MPA degree help you to get where you currently are in your career?
I undertook a job search while enrolled in my MPA classes. Each course helped round out my expertise as a nonprofit leader. The readings and classroom discussions in several courses, especially Administrative Communications and Managing Public Networks, altered significantly the language I used to talk about my skill sets and accomplishments. And, perhaps most importantly, several of my instructors, most notably Ralph Gigliotti and John Fallon, provided opportunities for me to really explore my professional gifts and shortcomings through structured course assignments. And, last but not least, my classmates cheered me on through the search process – even after graduation!
Wendy Jolley-Kabi pic