Online MPA compliments students’ work with U.S. congressional representative

Daniel Kington
April 18, 2018

For working professionals, particularly those committed to promoting the public good, balancing a career and personal life while advancing their education can be difficult. However, the Online Master of Public Administration program at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs provided two public servants working in U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s Marietta office with the opportunity to do just that.

Cody Pettit, a staff assistant for Johnson, serves as the first point of contact when a constituent reaches out to the office, drafts proclamations for the congressman and fills other roles as needed. Ty Giffin, meanwhile, responds to most constituent cases involving the Department of Veterans Affairs—which could range from awaiting disability for Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam to needing surgery or seeking records.

Pettit and Giffin both said they enjoy serving with Johnson, a Republican who represents areas of eastern and southeastern Ohio. Giffin is particularly happy to work with veterans.

“I enjoy helping veterans get what they need and what they have earned,” Giffin said.

Although content in their current positions, the two public servants hope to eventually make an even broader impact. While Giffin is not yet sure of his future goals, Pettit hopes to one day pursue elected office. This desire to advance their careers is what originally led both Giffin and Pettit to pursue master’s degrees in public administration.

“Having an MPA degree is a unique qualification for public office that could help when running for election,” Pettit said. “Additionally, an MPA will better prepare me for the kinds of roles I hope to take on as an elected official.”

Pettit and Giffin were already working full time when they decided to pursue degrees, which, combined with other life responsibilities, made attending traditional, on-campus programs impossible. However, the Online MPA program at the Voinovich School has given both public servants the opportunity to continue working while earning their degrees.

“If you are an employee, unless you work near a university, even being a part-time student is quite difficult,” Pettit said. “Completing my degree online has made it easier, such that I haven’t found it all that difficult to balance everything. The workload is significant enough to learn a lot of new information, without being overwhelming.”

Giffin and Pettit are concluding their final year in the program. Both said they have thus far enjoyed their experiences at the Voinovich School, which Giffin attributed to the School’s quality of instruction and care for individual students.

“Everyone at the School has been very responsive and helpful, which has made the program enjoyable,” Giffin said.

Although Pettit and Giffin hope to use their experiences in the Online MPA program to move their careers in new directions, the program has also given them knowledge and skills they can immediately employ at Rep. Johnson’s office. Pettit said the MPA program has developed his capacity for organizational communication; Giffin named a different area.

“My classes have helped me gain a better understanding of our government,” Giffin said. “The class on public budgeting, for example, helped me better comprehend budgeting processes, and that has helped me better respond to the concerns of constituents.”