TROY student Erika Barnes Ford shares her experiences with the Master's at Work MPA program, which helps working professionals earn a master's degree.
Returning to school at nearly 50 years of age has been more taxing than I originally anticipated, TROY Master’s at Work MPA Program has exceeded my expectations. It’s the perfect complement to aid me in achieving my professional goals. The structure—in-person lectures and online classes—has helped me have a more productive experience.
I began my college experience at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, straight out of high school. After several attempts—while marrying, having children, divorcing, relocating from California to Georgia to Maryland then back—I finally completed my undergraduate degree from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, nearly 18 years after I began.
It was from fellow alumni that I learned of the tremendous graduate program Troy University offered even then. Year after year, I learned of classmates and colleagues advancing their careers with graduate degrees from TROY. Nearly a decade later, I finally took the plunge and applied to the TROY Master of Public Administration program, only to withdraw my application shortly after when being diagnosed with Stage 2B – Metastatic Adenocarcinoma Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I was 40 years old. I survived. After years of treatments, months of chemotherapy, 30 rounds of radiation, multiple surgeries, a mastectomy, and latissimus muscle reconstruction, I finally enrolled at TROY, grateful to be alive, able to complete my goal of starting graduate school in the summer 2018.
I choose the TROY MPA program because of its reputation, its accreditation, program length and cost. I researched tuitions, graduation rates and reviews of other institutions offering similar programming. The tuition discount offered as part of the Master’s at Work program truly sets TROY apart from the others, as well as the structure of the hybrid program. It fits me; affordable and non-traditional!
As a campaign and political consultant, experience and credentials are essential. I am pursuing this degree to increase my earning potential, expand my personal knowledge and to obtain critical technical skills to advance my career. It goes without saying that academic validation from a reputable institution affords me endless opportunities and the freedom to expand my business and career.
What I have enjoyed most about the Master’s at Work MPA program thus far, besides the diverse faculty who are exceptional instructors, are the relationships built during the required in-house classes for the first three terms. Having weekly meetings, in my case Wednesday evenings in downtown Atlanta, allowed a reintroduction to the classroom setting I had been away from for so long and an ability to commiserate with fellow students within the program.
What I underestimated was the human element—the humanity, comradery and friendships being built—between unfamiliar people with a collective goal. Our experience was invaluable. Our ages ranged from 21-60, and we traveled from as far away as Augusta, Macon and Alabama. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all found ourselves learning from each other during this initial process.
What I thought I knew about public policy, research and methods, I quickly learned was wrong. I needed to know that I was not alone in my observations and to bounce ideas off live bodies in real time. Despite the reminders to change our expectations of support at the graduate level, starting the program with others that I could learn with was crucial for my experience. I am unsure of how successful I would have been if not for this format. Now, that I am taking online classes only, I feel the difference. Luckily, my classmates and I, who began together, have vowed to stay together, enrolling in the same classes to know at least one other student in each, holding each other accountable, until we all graduate together; an unintended consequence after a successful merger of the minds. So, the Atlanta hybrid works!
Regardless of your background an MPA is a great asset to consider. If you’re looking for a program that can be tailored to fit your schedule, with quality faculty whose standard for exceptionalism is the norm, and a degree you can be proud of, TROY’s MPA Masters at Work Program is for you.
The culture of this institution is admirable. Once enrolled you are a part of the Trojan family. The Atlanta Support Center staff and faculty are remarkably responsive and make every effort to guide you step-by-step through each process. The easy to navigate integrated web-based Trojan Web Express and Canvas systems allow students to easily communicate, pay tuition, pre-plan classes, access all forums, tutorials, and supplemental services at the touch of a finger. Issues are easily resolved. Even online you feel like a part of the TROY experience because you’re always kept in the loop regarding school activities, offers, travel opportunities, sporting events, and more. This institution exceeds my expectations and I highly recommend it.May my TROY experience inspire future Master’s at Work MPA students to be great while being exceptionally non-traditional!