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A second-year student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Liz Reich is currently in Quito, Ecuador, working on a combined International Public Service and Capstone Project with Novulis.
A business providing healthcare through mobile and stationary clinics on job sites, Novulis is working to bridge the gap of access to preventative healthcare services in Latin America.
Reich, who grew up outside of Chicago in Forest Park, Ill., used her connection with childhood friend and Novulis CEO Greg Krupa for the basis of her work.
“With the Clinton School project, I just gave him a call,” Reich said. “I asked, ‘Hey, I have to do an international project, what do you need? Is there a place for me?’ He said, ‘Of course. What’s your dream project?’”
Reich’s first-year experience at the Clinton School was different from the majority of her classmates. At a time when most were just beginning to research potential organizations and destinations for their IPSPs, she was securing long-term strategies for one connected project.
Making it even more unique, she postponed the start of her IPSP – typically a summer project – until the fall in an effort to improve her Spanish. She even considered picking up shifts at a local Cuban restaurant before enrolling in language classes.
“I knew going into the Clinton School that I wanted my project to be based in a Spanish-speaking country, because living in Austin, Texas, Spanish is so necessary,” Reich said. “I’ve always had a foundation for it but it needed some improvement.”
How did you know your IPSP and Capstone plans so early?
I grew up with Greg, who has been in Latin America for about 10 years. He founded a mobile health clinic, specifically focused on mobile dental health. It travels to rural areas in Ecuador‘s Andean highlands. I’d been discussing coming down here for a while to get involved in something with him, but the timing was never right.
I told him I was really interested in reproductive health but thought that he mostly focused on dental work. He said that they’d been thinking about trying to expand their core services and they’d seen a huge need for reproductive health.
What was the planning process like for this project? You knew what you wanted to do months before most students.
It was based on this conversation with Greg, which took place in September of my first year at the Clinton School. I immersed myself in research related to Ecuador’s indigenous populations, reproductive health outcomes, family planning, and trying to design my dream project. That was really neat.
I knew I didn’t want it to be just an IPSP. I’ve worked abroad before, and I know how difficult it is to get good work done and to really learn the context of a place. I spent a solid year researching everything—all my work for Dr. Bavon’s class was program planning for my actual program which made the stakes a bit higher. It was going to take some time to get used to things and feel comfortable.
Part one for me was sort of the research side of things, a formal needs assessment. Additionally, I knew I would be working with people and talking about really sensitive topics. I knew I was going to have an intern that was a local person who spoke Spanish. I didn’t want to be that person that just goes to a place and relies on someone else to do everything for them, so I decided to postpone my project even further and take a lot of Spanish classes over the summer in Texas. I just tried to find any opportunities I could to become stronger in conversational Spanish.
It was difficult. Originally there was this Cuban restaurant in my neighborhood in Austin. The guy was really nice, so I told my fiancé, “I’m going to get a job at the Cuban restaurant.” He was like, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I need to learn Spanish. I will wash dishes, I’ll do anything I just need to hear it all day long.” But this Cuban restaurant closed out of the blue, and my plan was foiled.
I went the more formal route and went through a language school. Through the school, I met a girl from Colombia that was learning English. She and I started having exchanges weekly, in addition to the classwork.
The school was great. My teacher was really supportive, and she knew I needed as much experience as possible. She would take me on little field trips around town. Her daughter came in from Mexico to visit, so she would take me out to lunch and introduce me to other native speakers to give me that extra experience outside of the classroom, which was super helpful. It certainly didn’t make me fluent or close to fluent, but it gave me more of that knowledge base.
What are some of the specifics of your research?
We did it in three phases. For the first part of our work, we did in-person surveys because literacy was a concern. We wanted to make sure that all the surveys were delivered orally, and we did just over 300 surveys across six farms. That included questions about health access, family planning methods, and some demographic information, such as number of children, their age, whether they want to have more kids, what that timeline looks like, and what their perceptions of the public health services are.
The last question was if they would be willing to talk to us in the future at greater length, knowing that their employer had agreed to it and of course they could change their mind if they wanted to. We got quite a few people who agreed, many more people than we could actually interview!
For the second part, we went back and did 56 in-depth interviews. We got into the specifics of what the communities were like where the people were living. The interviews were definitely more personal and sensitive in nature, so we made sure people knew that before they followed through. That was probably one of the most useful parts of the research, just getting some of the anecdotal qualitative data about peoples’ lives.
For the third part, we actually visited the public health services that people in those regions use. We would show up to the public health services and observe things, like how many people were in the waiting room, what the wait times were like, the process in general, if you could make an appointment right then, and how long would it take to get an appointment for a pap smear.
What does Novulis plan to do with your research?
Novulis is hoping to expand to other public health services and reinvest any profit into more mobile units. Right now, they have one big mobile unit. They also have some stationary clinics at some of the larger farms.
A lot of the farms that Novulis works with are fair-trade farms. A lot of them are interested in providing their workers more than just the work experience. They want to be socially responsible and help their workers. They use the fair-trade certification to do that.
Novulis also offers services to workers that are partially subsidized by the employer. With dental, the employer will cover the cost of preventive services, so a routine dental checkup and cleaning, the employer will pay for 100 percent. Depending on what follow-up work is needed, the employer can subsidize part of that and the worker pays for the rest of it over a period of up to six months. It’s a really cool model and ends up being really affordable.
It’s really high-quality care that’s brought to the workers at the job site, so they don’t have to ask for the time off work and deal with the rigorous process of dealing with the public health services. Not that the public health services are bad. They’re just not ideal for people who are working full time.
What my research found was that the same thing is true with dental as it is for routine reproductive healthcare. These are things like annual gynecological exams for women and any sort of testing around STDs or STIs. Generally, I found that the workers feel like if they don’t observe a physical problem, they don’t see the reason to go and get tested.
What I’m doing now is helping to create a pilot program that will expand Novulis’ services to bring routine preventive reproductive health care, specifically cervical cancer screenings, gynecological exams and some basic health assessments and screenings for common STDs and STIs.
I don’t have immediate plans to return to Ecuador, but I know that I will return and I look forward to that day. It’s such a neat country that is not on many people’s radars—but it should be!
I know Greg and his organization well enough to know that they’ll take everything I’ve done and run with it and everyone is enthusiastic about it. Thanks to modern technology, I’ll always just be a call away as well.
The project is still in formation right now, but whatever shape it takes, something interesting is going to come from my research. That’s a really cool feeling, because I invested a lot of myself into the research. A lot of early mornings and late nights reading clinical articles that were slightly above my knowledge base! Everyone’s like, “Are you a doctor? Why are you interested in this?” It’s hard to not be a clinician but have the interest in promoting something like this.
I’m super interested in public health and program design and program planning. This experience has been really useful. At times I’ve felt like, “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m designing a real program.”
Like many students at the Clinton School of Public Service, Joshua DeBruyn entered the school with strong interests in foreign policy and a year of professional public service experience on his resume. Unlike most, DeBruyn’s college education began on a path to medical school.
“I started by undergrad career as a biology major planning to go to medical school,” DeBruyn said. “I wanted to study neurodegenerative disorders. Then I got to organic chemistry and thought, ‘Maybe I don’t love medicine as much as I used to.’”
He went on to earn his degree in psychology from Grand Valley State University. He was still considering a career in medicine as his undergraduate experience was ending.
“When I was studying for the MCAT, I decided that I didn’t really want to go into medicine anymore.” DeBruyn said. “I took a year off. I did some traveling in the Middle East and Northern Africa, got my head straight, and figured out what I wanted to do.”
After his experience abroad, DeBruyn decided to take the State Department’s Foreign Officer Test. While taking a year to study, he applied for AmeriCorps and landed a position in Austin, Texas, doing literacy training for students in Spanish schools.
It was there that he first heard about the Clinton School and, specifically, how its international component could help him work toward a career in foreign policy.
Can you describe your time abroad in Africa and the Middle East?
I started in Turkey, stayed for a couple weeks, and then I moved on to Egypt. From there, I went to Jordan and to Morocco. Then I came home.
The main reason I went abroad was because I had friends who were doing Peace Corps. They had just finished their service in Botswana and were traveling through Africa. I thought I would do a solo trip by myself in Turkey and then would meet up with them in Egypt, go to Jordan, fly to Morocco, and then they would go somewhere else and I would go home.
It was really nice. I love the Middle East. It’s the area I want to work in when I finish here.
I came back to the U.S. and decided to do a service year in AmeriCorps while I studied for the State Department’s Foreign Officer Test. I put my application on the AmeriCorps website and got a gig in Austin, Texas, doing literacy training for students in Spanish schools. I thought this would give me an opportunity to improve my Spanish, live in a new place, meet new friends, and get a new environment to cleanse myself.
How did you hear about the Clinton School?
While I was there, Alex Thomas (Clinton School Director of Admissions) was giving a speech at the University of Texas at Austin about graduate school applications. I went to the session and we met up afterwards. He asked me what I wanted to do after AmeriCorps, and I told him I was looking at graduate programs.
At the time, I was looking at the University of Washington in Seattle and Columbia University in New York. He told me about the Clinton School program, and he told me about the international projects and some things I could get out of it if I wanted to go into foreign service or policy work. I thought about it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt because there were no application fees. I sent in my application and here I am.
What has the Clinton School experience been like for you so far? Has anything surprised you?
It’s classroom heavy at the beginning, and then they kind of let you go (into the field work), which I’m starting to appreciate more and more in terms of preparing me to do work outside of academia. I’ve mostly been in academia up until now. It’s nice to be more grounded in practical skills.
The first semester was a lot heavier on theory and classroom work than I thought it would be. We had the field-oriented aspect with Practicum, and I know that starting this summer it’s going to be the International Public Service Project and Capstone, which are two field projects.
Did your lack of professional experience concern you when you started the program?
I knew I wanted to do something related to policy work in an international setting, which is why I wanted to go to the State Department. However, I thought about it, and when you’re doing foreign service work for the State Department you’re not really doing anything policy related. You are implementing policies that have already been decided.
I thought, “If I disagree with U.S. foreign policy, do I want to put myself in the position where I have no say in whether or not I agree with it? Or do I want to put myself in the position where eventually I’ll be able to make policy decisions?”
That’s why I thought I should continue my education in some sort of policy field or public service field, where I can make connections and broaden my skill set, so that when I graduate I am able to put myself in a more advantageous position to get a job where I can eventually have some sort of policy say.
Originally, I thought I was going back to the Middle East. I had a very tunnel-vision approach to it. But I’ve had trouble finding organizations that either have the capacity or the need for student volunteers.
One of the reasons I came to this school was to do the international portion. Yesterday, I got an acceptance from the European Community Organizing Network. They want me to go work for them and build up their capacity in Budapest, Bucharest, and Slovakia. That’s most likely what I’ll be doing this summer.
Did your foreign policy interest start with your time abroad? Or did something else spark your interest?
I would say that my foreign policy interest started before my trip overseas. I’ve always been somebody who’s been interested in international politics. I’m a big history buff. I’m interested in the dynamics between countries; that’s something I’ve been studying since high school. Working in that field is where I’ve wanted to go since I decided that I didn’t want to go to medical school.
It started before my trip overseas. My international trip kind of flavored the perceptions that a lot of people have about U.S. foreign policies, especially in the Middle East. That just further incentivized my decision to go into foreign policy.
Do you have anything that you want to add?
The thing that I’m most curious about in terms of doing public service in a government capacity is that oftentimes the whims of the current administration and the current set up of the government have a major effect on the sort of programs that I’m looking to go into.
One of my major concerns, when I think about going into government work, is that it’s so volatile depending on who’s in office, what their agenda is, and whether or not I’m comfortable being a civil servant regardless of my highly political views and my outspoken nature on certain issues.
Also, whether or not I’m okay going into a system where you’re expected to be a professional and carry out your duties regardless of your moral standings. That’s something I’ve considered further as I look at the job landscape next year. I have time. I still have a year before I graduate. That’s something I’ll be considering further when I look at what sort of career I want as a public servant.
Supervisors: Susan Schempf and Andrew Carberry
The team is developing a strategy for the Wallace Center at Winrock International in local food and agriculture work in Arkansas. The work starts by analyzing the organization’s historical programming and role in food and agriculture in the state, cataloging current programming, and identifying core competencies to contribute to this work. Then, the teams looks outside the organization to conduct a landscape and gap analysis, focusing on the programs and players in local food and agriculture in Arkansas. Based on findings from these internal and external assessments, the team provides recommendations to the Wallace Center at Winrock International staff to help develop its organization’s strategy for food and agriculture programming in the state.
Mission: The Wallace Center supports entrepreneurs and communities as they build a new, 21st century food system that is healthier for people, the environment, and the economy.
“Having a Practicum team develop a systematic way to gather input from our partners and carry out interviews has been a huge help. We look forward to hearing their recommendations for the Wallace Center’s strategy for supporting local food systems development in Arkansas.” – Susan Schempf, Wallace Center Program Officer
Supervisor: Cory Biggs
This project is designed to support long-term academic partnerships between area middle schools and community institutions. The Clinton School practicum team is conducting best-practices research on successful school-community partnership models from around the United States to help craft a structure for each school to engage with partners, and to help create a long-term vision for such partnerships. The project will result in a toolkit with action steps for implementing formalized partnerships, beginning in spring of 2018.
Mission: ForwARd Arkansas is a public-private partnership established by the Arkansas State Board of Education, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to improve equity and increase student achievement and economic prosperity for Arkansas.
“We’ve been very impressed by the work of the students and are thrilled to partner with the Clinton School in support of the Little Rock School District on this important work. As an alumnus of the Clinton School, this experience has been especially rewarding. I am so pleased to see the quality of field service work continue to improve year after year.” – Cory Biggs, ForwARd Arkansas Associate Director
The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service will enroll 34 students in the first-of-its kind Executive Master of Public Service (EMPS) degree program this spring. The first day of classes for the online program is March 2.
“We had projected 25 students in the first class,” said Clinton School Dean James L. “Skip” Rutherford III. “With 34 students, we have exceeded that number and look forward to watching this program grow and expand.”
Academic Dean Susan A. Hoffpauir will teach the first class, “Foundations of Public Service,” which covers the history, contexts, and practices of public service. The course will explore the various roles public servants play and the various contexts in which they practice public service.
“It’s exciting to offer our curriculum in the new online format,” Hoffpauir said. “We look forward to reaching working professionals who previously were unable to come to the Clinton School.”
The new two-year program is offered entirely online, giving professionals the enhanced knowledge, skills, and network, they need to advance without relocating or giving up their current employment.
The inaugural class includes representatives from Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, China and Mexico.
The class features professionals working in various industries and career fields, including banking, education, healthcare, law, nonprofit management, and philanthropy among others.
Grounded in critical analysis and the formulation of program and policy options, the EMPS teaches students to build strong communities and organizations.
The new EMPS builds on the success of the school’s traditional Master of Public Service (MPS) degree, which graduated its first class in 2006.
For more information on the EMPS, visit ClintonSchool.uasys.edu/EMPS.
The Clinton School Student Government Association will be at Loblolly Creamery from 5-9 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27 to help with “Scoops for Good.” A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to Arkansas Women’s Outreach.
The event is the first of several with Loblolly. Each event will benefit a different local nonprofit.
Currently based in Washington D.C. as a Situation Unit Leader with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Kathryn Hisek recently spent nearly two months deployed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to assist with the relief efforts for Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“I had just started my new job when I deployed to Puerto Rico. I was only a couple of weeks into it, and it was like drinking from a fire hose,” Hisek said. “But I’m very excited. I’m very lucky to be able to do a job that I love.”
Hisek came to the Clinton School with more than her share of disaster response and recovery experience. After earning her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Central Arkansas, she spent a year in AmeriCorps that took her to disaster response situations on the East Coast (Hurricane Sandy) and the Midwest (Oklahoma City Tornados).
Having worked with FEMA since July 2016, she was previously based in Oakland, Calif., and deployed as a Situation Unit Leader to places such as Honolulu, Hawaii, for Hurricanes Madeline and Lester and Carson City, Nev., for response and recovery to winter storms and flooding.
Her recent stint in Puerto Rico offered her the chance to work with her mother, who lives in Hot Springs and deploys with the USDA Forest Service. The El Yunque Forest was heavily affected by the hurricanes, and brought many Forest Service responders to Puerto Rico, as well.
What does your public service interest of disaster relief stem from?
I think it probably started with Hurricane Katrina. I’m from Hot Springs, and we received a few survivors that left New Orleans into our community. Most of the evacuees were minors, whose parents sent them away so that they could recover from the disaster back home. I think that seeing how communities came together after a disaster was a factor in my interest.
Then, when I had the chance to do AmeriCorps after I graduated from college, it was through a partnership with FEMA. I got to actually respond to some disasters, including Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma City Tornados. I think that was probably what cemented it, my AmeriCorps year.
Definitely. I knew it after my AmeriCorps year was up at the end of 2013. But I wanted to also look into working in recovery and preparedness. After that, I worked with the Red Cross in Houston, doing some preparedness work but mainly in the house fire response program. I also interned with the Red Cross during my final semester at the Clinton School working on an evacuation plan for an earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
I had heard of the Clinton School, because I went to UCA, and a few of my classmates at the time had gone to grad school there, but I think it kind of got back on my radar when I was looking at grad schools that would match the AmeriCorps education grant that we received. The Clinton School was one of them. I looked into the field research component and was excited about the amount of time I could spend in the field. I knew that I could really find a worthwhile project internationally that I could focus on and receive more disaster recovery experience.
Was your experience in the Philippines your IPSP?
I was able to combine my IPSP and Capstone, and spent about seven months in The Philippines. I was working with a Philippines-based international organization, Children and Family Services International, (CFSI). At that point it was around a year and half after Typhoon Haiyan hit and many communities were still recovering.
I was able to complete a program evaluation on CFSI’s livelihood recovery program. I was able to use many of the great skills we learned in Field Research Methods and Data Analysis.
What is your new job?
I worked with FEMA directly out of the Clinton School. My job at the time was on a regional Incident Management Assistance Team in California. Basically, if a disaster occured in California, Arizona, Nevada, or Hawaii, my team would deploy immediately and set up the initial disaster operations structure. My new job that I just started in October of 2017 is the same position, but I live in D.C., and can respond to any disaster in the country now. I’m on a national team.
My specific position is the Situation Unit Leader, which means that it’s my job to track the current situation, collect information, manage the information, analyze it, and push the information to leadership so they can make decisions on what the next steps are for the disaster operations.
I definitely want this to be my career path. As of right now, I’ve only worked in response with FEMA. Being in D.C., I will be able to explore more of the other programs FEMA has to offer.
I’m not sure what five years from now looks like, but it’s definitely going to be with FEMA.
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service student Domenick Lasorsa of Cape Cod, Mass., has published an interactive story-map; “CDBG and HOME: Essential Grants for Mid Sized Cities“, that can be used by city officials throughout the nation. Lasorsa, who will graduate in May with a Master of Public Service degree, worked with the National League of Cities (NLC) to highlight comprehensive research on the benefits of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership grants in mid-sized cities.
This story-map provides a close look at how mid-sized cities, like Little Rock, are using federal CDBG and HOME grants to benefit their residents and communities. The map also features case studies with video interviews of city leaders around the country.
This research comes at a critical time for cities. On February 12, the Trump Administration released its budget proposal for 2019, that proposes a $3 trillion in domestic cuts over ten years. Those cuts include the sweeping elimination of many federal grant programs – including CDBG and HOME—grants that cities of all sizes use to rehabilitate and build affordable rental housing, repair and improve infrastructure, promote economic development and provide essential services to low- and middle-income people.
“This project is a key tool for cities like Little Rock to show the very real ways in which we leverage these vital federal dollars to augment the impact of the work we do improving the lives of the citizens we serve,” said Mayor Mark Stodola, one of the city leaders interviewed for the project.
Lasorsa’s research graphically displays Little Rock’s use of CDBG and HOME grants and showcases how the funding is being used to effectively meet the community’s development and housing needs, such as the World Changers Housing Rehabilitation program.
“This information is important for city leaders making difficult decisions in the face of federal funding changes. Cities are using these funds to meet the needs of their citizens in a variety of capacities, and this research supports the need for flexible grant funds,” Lasorsa said.
The project is the final of Lasorsa’s three fieldwork projects as a student at the Clinton School. Lasorsa is in his final semester in the school’s Master of Public Service degree program.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Dom in the mayor’s office, as his professor, and now at the NLC,” said Stodola, current President of NLC and adjunct professor at the Clinton School.
After graduating in May, Lasorsa plans to continue working at NLC as the Associate for Veterans and Special Needs, where he supports the organizations work on the Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness and technical assistance for veterans in cities.
Amie Alexander, a second-year student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service from Waldron, Ark., has been named to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Next Generation Delegation for the Global Food Security Symposium, set for March 21-22 in Washington D.C.
Alexander is one of only 27 students selected from colleges and universities throughout the United States and around the world. She is the only student representing an Arkansas college or university.
“It is an honor to be selected as one of the 27 Next Generation Delegates to the 2018 Global Food Security Symposium,” Alexander said. “Growing up on a small farm, I have always believed in the power of agriculture to transform and empower lives. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recognizes the importance of advancing global food security and nutrition in the face of challenges such as urbanization, climate change, and new technologies. As a delegate, I look forward to working with and learning from students, speakers, storytellers, and innovators from across the world who believe in agriculture’s promise to feed an ever-growing population.”
The two-day event will be hosted at Atrium Hall in the Ronald Reagan Building. Prior to a full day of presentations and a report release on March 22, the Council will offer solution sessions to engage in dialogue with global partners. The events will be live streamed through the Council’s website. Live video and features will also be posted to the Global Food and Agriculture Program Facebook page.
Last summer, Alexander traveled to Tokyo, Japan, for her International Public Service Project with the Foreign Agricultural Service, which links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security. She is completing her final Clinton School field service project with the Association of Arkansas Counties.
Alexander earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture, food, and life sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She is currently pursuing a concurrent juris doctor at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
She is the 2017-18 recipient of the B.A. Rudolph Scholarship. This scholarship is annually awarded by the B.A. Rudolph Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based charitable nonprofit whose mission is to advance and benefit young women interested in public service through educational, financial, and professional support.