MPA alumnus awarded for public service in West Virginia government

Daniel Kington
May 10, 2018

Gallagher, Crescent
Photo by Rusty Marks; originally published at The State Journal.

Crescent Gallagher, a 2013 alumnus of the Master of Public Administration program at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, was recognized recently for outstanding public service with the 2018 Generation Next: 40 Under 40 award, conferred by The State Journal in West Virginia. Bestowed annually, the award recognizes innovation, talent and leadership among 40 people under the age of 40 poised to make an impact on their communities or state.

Gallagher was specifically recognized for his work with the West Virginia department of agriculture, but his passion for public service predates his current position. He first gained interest in public service during his undergraduate education, but he felt the need to supplement his studies in political science with practical work to make his community and nation a better place. Gallagher joined the Ohio University chapter of the College Republicans, and spent his summers working on campaigns for political candidates.

“I’ve always been drawn to public service because, rather than working to create wealth for companies or individuals, I’m interested in helping people and trying to make a difference with whatever time I have on earth,” Gallagher said. “Public service and helping with political campaigns ultimately felt like a good way to give back to people within my career.”

His work with the College Republicans led to opportunities such as an internship with Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson. However, Gallagher wanted to advance his education to make a more profound impact upon society.

“I was drawn to the Voinovich School’s MPA program because I wanted to supplement my theoretical education in political science with applied experience,” Gallagher said. “At the Voinovich School they expect you to work or have some kind of involvement, and your class schedule is flexible toward that mentality.”

Gallagher said the flexible and applied nature of the MPA program allowed him to gain real-world experience, particularly in his role as a graduate assistant with the Appalachian Rural Health Institute. At ARHI, he worked to develop a rural health association for Ohio, as well as write policy briefs and engaged stakeholders.

“My graduate assistantship gave me firsthand, real-life experience that I think a lot of students don’t get,” Gallagher said. “Combined with my coursework, it helped me better understand program management and public policy.”

Those applied lessons helped Gallagher excel as the director of communications and legislative liaison with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

“Having practical experience helped me understand how and why the government should act in certain ways, particularly when it comes to program management,” Gallagher said. “Furthermore, having studied public policy and the research that spurs it helped prepare me for many situations I’ve encountered professionally.”

Gallagher helps write grants and run numerous programs, which comes relatively easily to him due to his experience and education in qualitative and quantitative research analysis, as well as in program management. Furthermore, in his work with the state legislature, Gallagher produces data-driven policy recommendations to reshape regulations and better grow agriculture in West Virginia. In all of these areas, Gallagher’s public administration education has proved of vital importance.

In addition to administration and legislative work, Gallagher also engages in outreach, which he said is the most meaningful aspect of his position.

 “I am involved in telling a lot of the stories about West Virginia agriculture, as well as the stories of our programs and daily work. Through this process, I think we have been really successful at reshaping the attitudes around how we engage the public and how the public perceives the work we are doing,” Gallagher said.

The combination of advocacy and outreach helped propel Gallagher to the Generation Next: 40 Under 40 award. Gallagher was surprised by the award, particularly because he has lived in West Virginia for only five years.

“Because West Virginia is unique in a lot of ways, and because a lot of people view the state in a negative light, people tend to be more cautious of outsiders,” Gallagher said. “Still, I guess what we’re trying to accomplish here must have caught some notice, and it’s an honor to be recognized for my effort to make a difference.”

The April reception featured a keynote speech by fellow Ohio University alumnus Rachael Peckham, who teaches creative writing at Marshall University. Gallagher also enjoyed meeting the other awardees present.

“Those people are doing great things,” Gallagher said. “It goes to show that although we are often told that young people are leaving West Virginia, there are plenty of us who have stayed to try to make things better.”