We are pleased to present this guest post from our corporate sponsor 2U. “2U partners with top tier colleges and universities to create the world’s best online programs” including the MPA@UNC, which is highlighted below and may be of particular interest to lawyers.
An Assistant District Attorney with six years of experience as a prosecutor, Mike Silver was ready to take his career to the next level. Although his law degree prepared him for the courtroom, it did not give him the multidimensional skills he needed to become an effective manager and leader within his community. By enrolling in MPA@UNC, an online Master of Public Administration program at the UNC School of Government, Silver gained strategic skills from leading experts in the field.
Here, Silver discusses his motivations for earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree and the real-time benefits he’s experienced in his career so far.
Why earn an MPA degree?
As an attorney, people often assume that you have a skill set that you don’t actually possess. People often give promotions simply because you’ve done well in the courtroom, but doing well in the courtroom does not translate into being an effective leader or manager. MPA@UNC gave me a chance to learn many of the skills that a lot of people think I have, but I didn’t actually possess coming out of law school.
What was it about MPA@UNC that most appealed to you?
I’ve been a prosecutor for six years now, and I’ve acquired significant responsibility and a mortgage. I wasn’t interested in quitting my job and moving out of my home to go back to school fulltime. I was looking for a program that would give me the flexibility to continue my job, which I really care about and am passionate about, and still gain the education and skills that would make me a better leader within my office.
What did you look for in an MPA program?
If you work in public interest, or if you do public interest law like I do, everyone knows that the UNC School of Government is the premier institution, not just in our state, but nationwide. I wanted to be taught by all the scholars from all the books we read and the publications they produce. Also, it’s good to have that name brand to say, “I was taught by these professors, and I’m affiliated with the UNC School of Government.” And so when I was looking at schools, I wanted to have the credibility of the Carolina name and the Carolina brand. That really made the difference for me.
How much have you been able to take from what you’ve learned?
Every single class I’ve taken has been immediately useful in my field of work. For example, as a result of my communication class, my press releases have significantly improved. I did an interview with the news, and the first thing I did was send a link to my professor saying, “Hey, I was in the news, check out this link.” She responded, “Yes! You nailed it, and you used the strategies we talk about.”
How I manage people has also changed, and I’ve heard that my management style has improved. The people I supervise say, “Hey, Mike, we really like that you’re in this program because we think that this is a good style of leadership.” My leadership style also rubs off on my other coworkers and peers. So it’s not just that I’m getting the benefit, but I think holistically our office is improving because I am learning effective strategies that other people can emulate. So I think it’s a win-win, not just for me, but for my entire office as well.
When I first signed up for this program, my boss and I had an agreement that this program would not interfere with my work. He said, “Mike, we trust you. You have a lot of responsibility. Don’t lose focus of your job while you’re taking this program.” We were talking last week and he told me, “Not only has this not affected your work, but it’s actually enhanced your work.”
MPA@UNC improved my work within the DA’s office and on the boards I sit on as well. I took a financial management class, and now that I understand finance, I can sit on the financial subcommittee and bring good strategies and try to implement good policy. MPA@UNC has allowed me to branch out and take on new roles, so I think everyone has noticed that this program has benefitted me and is benefitting everyone else too.
What are your career goals?
My goal is to be an elected official—such as an elected DA. To do this, you need to have many different skills sets. You need to be an effective manager, you need to be a leader, you need to know how to do a variety of things fiscally and socially and interpersonally, and those were the skill sets I didn’t have. Carolina and the School of Government allowed me to feel confident in my education and confident in my abilities. MPA@UNC taught me things I didn’t know before and made me look at things in a different way. And that’s why I enrolled in the program, and I’m a huge advocate of the program, because I really feel like it’s benefitted me personally.
Why is MPA@UNC a good degree for lawyers?
When I went to law school, a lot of what I learned was legal theory—that was the primary focus. But what I did not get in law school was management. I didn’t get budgets. I didn’t get actual leadership. I didn’t know how to manage a staff of attorneys or deal with interpersonal dynamics and make it work for my office.
Those are things that you don’t get in law school, and that is what MPA@UNC gives you. It gives you this knowledge and this education of how to deal with all of the collateral things that law school doesn’t teach you, yet you are expected to do and do well on a daily basis.
That is the beauty of MPA@UNC—it supplements your legal education with so much information and so much knowledge, and it gives you a good resource base. Being taught by nationally renowned professors makes you an immediate authority on the spot when people have questions, because they know you were taught by leading experts.
Want to know more? Learn how MPA@UNC can impact your career.