MPA Pilots Professional Development Grant

A young woman types on her laptop

Over the past academic yearUNC MPA piloted the Student Professional Development Grant program. This initiative provideup to $250 to every student for professional development expenses such as conference attendance, professional meetings, workshops, or professional organization membershipThis funding is in addition to program-sponsored professional development like registration for the North Carolina City and County Management Association Winter Seminar and School of Government courses. 

During the pilot year, the program had nine students apply for and be awarded funds. Students used the funds for experiences ranging from leadership summits and registration costs, to travel expenses for conferences. To receive funding, students must apply for development opportunities, discuss how the experience fits with their professional goals with Allison Binkley, the Associate Director of Career Services & Professional Development, and then reflect upon the experience afterwards. The sponsored experiences provided tremendous value for the students and a few shared their thoughts on the experience: 

I was able to network and meet with alumni, learn about skills needed for MPA students, and attend coaching sessions with current managers. – Shane Digan  

Prior to the conference, I knew almost nothing about the structure and behavior of a budget office. The conference sessions introduced me to concepts like zero-based budgeting and participatory budgeting. The sessions were helpful, but nothing compares to connecting with budget professionals from across the state. – Scott Powell  

I attended presentations ranging from the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, regional artists, and community development advocates, to public art funders. I also networked with arts administrators from across the South. Some of my takeaways include: grant processes for public art (specifically focusing on the story to be told with the art rather than the artists' resume. Start with a letter of intent before accepting full proposals), considerations for equitable pay for guest artists from near and far, and how to engage communities who have been impacted or will be impacted. These takeaways were important to me as I consider foundation funding, leading proposal reviews, and equitably building community through the arts. – Lauren Duncan ‘22 

After a very successful pilot year, the MPA program is excited to continue to continue this initiative for a second year and encourage professional development relating to students’ unique interests.