Making a Difference with a Master's

Making a Difference with a Master's

See How AU Students Are Creating Change in Their Communities

After-school programs are more than a stopgap for parents who can't pick up their kids when the final bell rings. These enrichment programs improve homework completion rates, academic performance, and social skills development.1

American University online Master of Public Administration and Policy (MPAP) student Allyson Mason is bringing more than the average after-school programming to 13 schools in Knox County, TN with Girls Inc.—a nonprofit that offers research-based programming to support, mentor, and guide young women in an affirming, pro-girl environment.

"Once I read Girls Inc.'s mission of inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through direct service and advocacy," recounts Mason, "I just thought, 'This is perfect.'"

Girl-Centric After-School Programs

Allyson Mason is the woman leading the charge in Knox County. As a community outreach coordinator and educator, she facilitates and expands access to Girls Inc.'s programs across the region.

"We started with two schools, one program at each school," says Mason. "Now we're at 13 schools with 22 programs. We're serving over 300 girls a week in Knox County."

In just two and a half years, Mason has not only expanded Girls Inc. programming, she has also trailblazed a path in her nonprofit, working toward a position in the Office of Public Policy by obtaining her MPAP degree from AU.

Pairing Passion with Preparation

The MPAP takes more siloed degrees like master of public policy or master of public administration a step further, giving students like Mason the opportunity to gain a blend of skills from both disciplines that are necessary in the nonprofit sector.

"In nonprofit work, you wear many, many hats," she notes. "In this program, there's always something that you can take away and apply to your work. Even if you don't want to go into policy development, you can analyze policy briefs and see how they're affecting the population that you're working with if you're in public service."

From Policy Briefs to Public Service

Beyond policy analysis, MPAP students explore legal issues in public administration, program evaluation, leadership in the workplace, and more—they even get the opportunity to put their skills to work. During the program's policy practicum, students participate in a project in collaboration with an organization or agency, create real-world impact, and make connections with public service professionals.

Though Mason hasn't made it to the practicum stage in the program just yet, she's taking what she has learned and putting it into practice—all while forging connections with her fellow students.

"I get face-to-face interaction over Google Hangouts with some of my classmates," says Mason. "A lot of people think online classes are just you and there's no interaction, but there actually is. It's a good experience too, because when working in public administration or public service, you'll always have to interact and deal with people."


Create Change in Your Career and Your Community

Whether you're currently in the nonprofit sector or looking to enter the field, AU's MPAP program provides the skills and hands-on experience you need to make a difference. Like Mason, you'll be equipped with the competencies you need to help countless populations, from girls in Knox County to marginalized groups and beyond.

Learn more about American University's Master of Public Administration and Policy here.