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Clinton School alumni Jack Lofton has continued to make public service a priority after graduating with an MPS and concurrent law degree in 2013, whether it’s through his work as a consumer advocacy attorney, documentarian, filmmaker, or efforts on the board of the Arkansas Cinema Society.
“My primary job is working with the Johnson Firm and Attorney Group,” Lofton said. “That’s the law firm and consumer advocacy organization that helps those who are injured by other people’s actions – primarily mass torts. At its core, my practice is about helping people. And helping people who have been injured by a drug or medical device, and might not otherwise have access to justice, is a particularly important opportunity for service.”
In addition to his legal work in Little Rock, Lofton owns and operates his own film company, Mudroom Films. His roots in cinema run deep – Lofton was an Executive Director of the Little Rock Film Festival and currently sits on the board of the Arkansas Cinema Society, founded by filmmakers Jeff Nichols and Kathryn Tucker.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., Lofton spent most of the first 10 years of his life in Dallas, Texas. His father worked in real estate before moving the family back to Hughes, Ark., after inheriting a family farm. The move was positive, Lofton said, as it balanced his early life in Dallas – a city with a metropolitan population of more than a million – with life in a small Arkansas community.
“I had to learn how to communicate with people from different backgrounds,” he said. “The people and personal skills from the totally different environments helped me, in addition to the values and cultures of the two areas. And as a kid at the time, I was in heaven. I got to shoot my BB gun when I wanted and fireworks!”
One interest that preceded the move was theater. He acted in his first play, “The Wizard of Oz,” as a second-grader in Dallas. By the time he had moved to Hughes just a couple years later, he and his five sisters were writing and acting in their own plays on their family’s farm.
His first real taste of the stage came from a community theatre just 30 minutes away in West Memphis, Ark. Performing in musicals and plays like “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Our Town,” he was allowed to explore a natural curiosity and step into his character’s shoes.
“I enjoyed the process,” Lofton said of what initially drew him to the stage. “You have to understand the story of the play – the different acts, what happens, what each character is thinking and doing – and then you have to look at your own character and see how they are a part of the overall story.”
His passion for theater continued into high school, and eventually paved his way to college. Lofton attended Lyon College on an acting theater scholarship, graduating as a double-major in theater and political science with plans of becoming an entertainment lawyer and agent.
Those plans were put on hold, temporarily, when shortly after graduation he and his sister were cast as stand-ins on Walk the Line, the Academy Award-winning film about the life of country music legend Johnny Cash that was shot in Memphis.
“My sister and I went to the audition, both of us got called back without them knowing we were brother and sister, me as the stand in for Joaquin Phoenix and she as the stand in for Reese Witherspoon,” he said. “It was a great experience for both of us.”
Lofton moved to Los Angeles shortly thereafter and tapped into the network he established while on set for Walk the Line, finding work on several independent films. It was there he noticed his skill for finding talent or stories and helping to get them made and began to tap into his skills as a filmmaker.
He returned to Little Rock to attend the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and pursue a career in entertainment law. The plan was to spend a year in Little Rock and transfer to the University of Southern California or New York University, two law schools with concentrations in entertainment law.
It was then that he first learned about the Clinton School of Public Service, becoming one of the school’s first students to pursue a concurrent degree.
He credits the Clinton School with advancing his sense of service and duty to others, noting, “… it helped me find myself and find certain ideals that interest me.” He passed on numerous local law clerkships to help build the Little Rock Film Festival because “that’s where my interests were.”
“That’s what I was passionate about,” Lofton said. “I was helping create a local industry about art and film culture, a lot of which we didn’t have in Little Rock at the time.
Serving as the festival’s first executive director, Lofton championed much of the major expansion and big-picture ideas, including branding the event as a southern festival. He left the Little Rock Film Festival in 2011 and made “All About Ann,” an HBO documentary about the former Texas governor featuring interviews with President Bill Clinton, Willie Nelson, Tom Brokaw, and Nancy Pelosi among others.
Currently, he is working on a pair of documentaries: “The ‘Vous” about a world-famous Memphis barbecue restaurant, and “Kings of Tort,” which showcases big-league trial attorneys and mass torts players who wage battles against corporations for consumers.
Both documentaries contain a sense of his education in public service. “The ‘Vous” touches on the social issues of the restaurant, which opened in the 1940s, and serves as a history for the city of Memphis as a whole. “Kings of Tort” looks to showcase the personalities and talents of the attorneys advocating for consumer justice. By showcasing the attorneys as people, “… You’ll likely see the importance of embracing consumer rights,” he said. “These are the Davids fighting every day against the Goliaths.”
Lofton is active in the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association, American Association for Justice. He is an Arkansas Business “40 under 40” honoree and has been listed as a “Top 40 under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers.
Kristen Raney (Class 9) will start the Ph.D. program in business administration with a management concentration at Arizona State University in the fall. Raney has worked as as assistant director of MBA Programs at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, since December 2015, where she has been instrumental in implementing the Clinton School’s concurrent MPS-MBA degree program.
Zack Huffman (Class 12) has been announced as the new director of development with Teach For America Greater Delta – Arkansas.
Evan Brown (Class 11) is now working at Heifer International as a Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning (MEL) Field Analytics Lead.
Ashley Brooke Moses (Class 10) and Eric Rietschier celebrated the birth of their daughter, Althea Cole Rietschier.
Jay Thompson (Class 3) has worked for City Year, an organization dedicated to helping students and schools succeed, for 14 years. Thompson has served as a Regional Vice President for City Year since November 2014.
Marsha Scullark (Class 11) is pursuing her interests in public health and policy in a position with the American Lung Association. As a Health Promotions Specialist for the American Lung Association in Arkansas, Scullark provides technical assistance with policy writing in addition to providing education and resources on tobacco cessation products.
Tatiana Riddle Hendrix (Class 9) currently works in Washington, D.C., as a Program Officer focusing on combating wildlife trafficking for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Hendrix’s position with USFWS, which she calls her “dream job,” is the latest stop in a life’s worth of interest in wildlife conservation.
Alumni in the News
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently took a look at the opening of ScholarMade Achievement Place, where Clinton School graduate Derrick Rainey (Class 6) will serve as director of Ivy Hill Academy of Scholarship for grades K-2.
The Miami Herald offered a look at a United States operation that included work from Clinton School graduate Fernando Cutz (Class 6), who spent last year working at the White House. Cutz was recently announced as Acting Deputy Chief of Staff for USAID, and was previously senior director at the National Security Council.
The Jackson Free Press profiles the work of Jordan Butler (Class 10) as a project leader with Refill Cafe, a nonprofit workforce development cafe opening in Jackson, Miss.
The Honors College Path Program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, led by Clinton School graduate Xochitl Delgado-Solorzano (Class 11), announced 22 new students for its program in July.
The Center on Community Philanthropy at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service has received a major grant totaling $600,000 over three years from the Racial Equity in Philanthropy (REP) Fund. The REP Fund, based at Borealis Philanthropy, was created by the Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation to catalyze a strategy for advancing intersectional racial equity throughout the philanthropic sector.
“We believe this will further the work of the Center to assist individuals, institutions, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations to understand that strengthening communities requires a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Dr. Charlotte Williams, Director of the Center on Community Philanthropy. “We are excited about the partnership with Borealis Philanthropy, Ford Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. We know this work is challenging, but the rewards are well worth the investment.”
This funding comes as a part of the ongoing effort of The Center to prioritize and promote philanthropic approaches that stem from leader assets, emphasizing concepts that often are misunderstood, ignored or mishandled such as race, privilege and implicit bias.
“We very much appreciate the support from the REP Fund to enhance the work of the Center on Community Philanthropy,” said Clinton School Dean James L. “Skip” Rutherford III. “The work of our Center educates and inspires individuals on how they can contribute to change in their communities and within their organizations.”
Racial Equity in Philanthropy (REP) The REP Fund is a donor collaborative based at Borealis Philanthropy and currently includes support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The REP Fund builds upon the work of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Strong and Effective Sector portfolio and the Ford Foundation’s Philanthropy portfolio with its own grantmaking strategy.
Launched in 2007, the Clinton School Center on Community Philanthropy is a groundbreaking venture focusing its teaching, research and leadership development exclusively on the emerging field of sharing and giving in a community context.
“One of my passions is health policy and health advocacy,” Scullark said. “Getting people access to care to prevent chronic disease and controlling chronic disease have always been passions of mine.”
As a Health Promotions Specialist for the American Lung Association in Arkansas, Scullark provides technical assistance with policy writing in addition to providing education and resources on tobacco cessation products.
Currently, she is helping to implement a new policy from the United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) banning smoking in public housing nationwide. The HUD rule was published on December 5, 2016, and became effective on February 3, 2017.The policy goes into effect July 31. It states that no smoking will be allowed within 25 feet of any public housing or inside any buildings.
“I’ve been traveling all around, meeting with residents, informing them about the policy and educating them on tobacco cessation,” Scullark said. “I jump in where I am assigned. Our big focus is tobacco.”
The federal ban will save public agencies an estimated $153 million in annual costs related to health care due to secondhand smoke, as well as repairs and losses from preventable fires, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Along with promoting the health benefits of not smoking, HUD hopes the new rule will also “create healthy environments that encourage people who smoke to quit or attempt to reduce smoking,” the agency said.
Scullark is a self-described “tobacco wonk,” and maintaining a working knowledge on Arkansas’ tobacco regulations is an integral part of her position. She also stays in close contact with the Americans for Non-Smokers Rights.
“I have to understand how to draft a policy, what a policy means,” she said. “Just helping people in the community decipher what it means to be smoke-free, what it means to be tobacco-free.”
For Scullark, health education and promotion are deep issues of concern. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was a teenager. From that point forward, she was always interested in disease and “helping people get better.”
“I helped her with understanding what it meant to have breast cancer. We grocery shopped together and I gave input on the right foods to eat to keep herself healthy and active at that time. She succumbed to her disease,” Scullark said. “That’s what sparked my interest in public health and health in general.”
Scullark graduated from Hendrix College with a degree in biology. At one time she considered a career in medicine but was more interested in public policy by the time she graduated from the Clinton School. She says she still uses skills learned from the Clinton School in her current job.
“We did a project in Dr. Standerfer’s class and I was the lead facilitator for a couple of our groups,” Scullark said. “Going out in the public, I’m now more comfortable with public speaking and giving people a chance to give me feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. I can definitely see how those skills I learned in her classes translate into what I’m doing professionally now.”
Her field service experience at the Clinton School included work with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (Practicum), evaluating the impact of the Arkansas Meals for Achievement Pilot Grant program. Her capstone project evaluated how religion fosters community philanthropy.
Her International Public Service Project took her to Liverpool, Australia, to work with the Center for Health Equity Training, Research, and Evaluation (CHETRE) to create an evaluation plan to analyze the impact and results of CHETRE’s Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement for Australia.
Scullark originally chose the Clinton School because of her interest in public service and desire for career development.
“I have friends who completed the Clinton School before me. I knew you could do so much with it. I went into it with the mindset of being open. I knew I wanted to advance my career.”
University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service graduate Jay Thompson (Class 3) has worked for City Year, an organization dedicated to helping students and schools succeed, for 14 years. Thompson has served as a Regional Vice President for City Year since November 2014.
“The most important part of my role, and every person’s role at City Year, is helping the students and schools we serve be as successful as possible to keep students in school and on track to graduate,” Thompson said. “Every year there are thousands of City Year AmeriCorps members and Impact staff members working very hard on the ground – they are the ones partnering with teachers to help move the needle with students every day.”
Thompson oversees City Year’s largest regional portfolio of sites, which includes Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York City, Providence, and Manchester, New Hampshire. He directly manages the site’s executive directors, helping them “think about how to be successful now while positioning their sites for growth and increased impact in the future.”
“I directly manage and support these impressive executives who are running the show in their local markets,” Thompson said. “Really, the crux of my job is being a resource and strategic partner to help these sites be successful.”
Thompson’s time with City Year began shortly after graduating from the University of Rochester in 2002. Following a year of service as a City Year AmeriCorps member, he worked for four additional years at the City Year office in Philadelphia.
His work with City Year resumed one year after he earned his Master of Public Service from the Clinton School. Thompson moved to London for eight months in October 2009 as Startup Deputy Director of Program and Service, developing City Year London’s service, evaluation, and corps member development strategy.
He moved on to City Year positions in Milwaukee, Wisc., and Jacksonville, Fla., before becoming City Year’s Senior Director of New Site Operations in June 2013. Thompson oversaw site operations during final preparation and initial launch periods in Tulsa, Dallas, and Kansas City.
Thompson’s time at the Clinton School included a Practicum project with the Governor’s Task Force on Afterschool and Summer Programs, where he and his team members created a constituency for collaborative after-school programs in the Pine Bluff area. He traveled to Kolkata, India, for his International Public Service Project with Loreto Day School Sealdah and completed his Capstone project with the United States Public Service Academy in Washington, D.C.
He and his wife, Monica, live in Annapolis, Md., with their two children, Nikhil and Asha.
How did you first become involved with City Year?
I joined City Year right after college. I got exposed to AmeriCorps while I was in college, and I had in my head that it could be an interesting one-year plan after college, most likely before graduate school.
I grew up in central Pennsylvania. I’d never heard of City Year at that point, but I saw that there was a City Year AmeriCorps program in Philly. As I read up on it, it sounded like a really interesting opportunity to serve full-time, give back, and help out for a year as I figured out where I wanted to go from there.
What brought you to the Clinton School?
I mentioned that City Year was a one-year plan. Before I knew it, it had become a five-year plan.
I always knew that I wanted to go to graduate school. To that point I’d mainly been looking at graduate schools for education, but I’d also heard a little about the Clinton School through City Year. I started looking at the Clinton School more while I was looking at graduate programs and the more I read about it, it sounded really interesting. It sounded like one of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I’m passionate about public service, and I was especially intrigued by the International Public Service Project piece. I just went for it and applied, and when I got the opportunity it was simply too good and too unique to pass up.
Are there any specific skills from the Clinton School you still use today?
I felt that the leadership class in particular was really valuable. I still use some of the concepts and reading materials from that class in my own job and in professional development for the people I work with. The different leadership theories, approaches, and frames resonated then and are still helpful today.
I think another big takeaway for me, and it mainly it came from the International Public Service Project, was the idea of how to enter a community that you’re not a part of – how to humbly enter, try to add value, but do it in that humble way where you’re recognizing it’s already a great community that you’re going into. You’re just trying to figure out how you can be a supplemental resource in a particular area. I had always tried to do that in the past, in my previous jobs, but the level of immersion that was involved with the International Public Service Project was something that led to a deeper level of reflection. It’s definitely something that has helped me a lot in my job.
What is it about City Year that has allowed you to be a part of the organization for almost 15 years?
The organization’s mission and values line up really well with what I think is important in the world. A large part of what City Year does is it connects young adults who are talented, idealistic, and willing to commit full-time for a year or two with students who are at risk for falling off track, but who also have this unbelievable talent and potential.
We have a term, “Near Peer.” What I think works about City Year is we put these Near Peers – they’re not the students’ teachers but they’re also not their friends – we put them with students and they form relationships and get the students to buy in to their academic and social and emotional development on a different level and in a different way. It’s something that leads to impressive growth and change; you can see it in the students’ faces when they start to fully realize the potential that they have. It’s awesome and it’s inspiring.
Also, you can add the element of luck. I’ve been fortunate to be in the right time in my career and my life to be able to say “yes” when some cool opportunities with City Year came along. I’ve gotten to lead a startup site. I’ve gotten to move to London for eight months to help start an international site.
Opportunities like that are amazing, especially when it’s with an organization you really believe in.
Clinton School student Kirby Richardson (Rogers, Ark.) is currently in Yangon, Myanmar, for his International Public Service Project with Winrock International. Below is a reflection, written by Richardson of his first two months in Myanmar.
I was lucky enough to be accepted for a position with Winrock International as part of a project in Yangon, Myanmar. My job this summer has been to support the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) team with the Value Chains in Rural Development project, which seeks to provide knowledge and technical assistance to domestic farmers and processors in order to develop value-additive linkages within the supply chain for five target crops: coffee, soybeans, ginger, melons, and sesame. These linkages are designed to maximize smallholder farmer access to finance, technology, agricultural best-practices, and market access in order to improve cash flow and socioeconomic equity. Other objectives are improving knowledge and responsible usage of pesticides and herbicides, developing climate change resilience amongst rural communities, developing rural infrastructure, and promoting investment into sustainable and environmentally-friendly agriculture.
While I have traveled extensively, for pleasure and for study, no experience can adequately prepare you for working abroad besides the actual act of working abroad. It did not seem like it would be such a different experience from studying abroad for a semester, but it certainly is. Life moves differently within the professional context, and I suspect that that is true regardless of where you are. Interpersonal relationships matter in different ways. Communication takes on a different form, often more practical than cerebral. Consequences for mistakes can be more severe. Expectations are often higher. And time is often in much shorter supply. Add those stresses to the stress of having to engage with a new culture, a new context, and a new set of expectations; that is what it is challenging about working abroad.
Myanmar has challenged me more than any other nation, and often in ways that caught be my surprise. I arrived in Myanmar on May 14 after almost 30 hours of traveling. Upon stepping off of the plane at almost 11:00 PM, I was immediately struck by the wave of heat that I was expecting to feel, but which no amount of travel or prior knowledge can really prepare you for. However, I briefly forgot the heat when I was greeted at the airport by the eternally delightful Mr. Myo Min and his infectious laugh and smile, who immediately became a friend.
My first week was spent in Taunggyi, the capital of Southern Shan state in North-Central Myanmar, with my friend (and boss) Julio. Shan is home to a number of Winrock’s interventions with ginger, coffee, and soybean farmers, so I was able to witness an extension training about responsible pesticide usage and accompany the ginger technical team on a site visit to a local ginger farming village and demonstration plot. Myanmar is such a diverse nation, even just in terms of topography. Rolling hills and mountains in Southern Shan, marshland in Naypyidaw, roaring rivers in Yangon and Ayeyarwaddy, beautiful beaches in Rakhine, rainforest in Northern Shan, Kachin, and Sagaing – they all lend to a breathtakingly beautiful landscape.
Luckily, the monsoon hit around week three, so the temperature dropped slightly. The tradeoff is massive amounts of rain. You see, the monsoon in Taunggyi means temperatures in the low 70s and an hour or two of moderate rainfall. The monsoon in Yangon, however, looks and feels more like that scene from Jumanji wherein Robin Williams fights the crocodile.
Myanmar was under military rule (in various forms) for almost 50 years, with some semblance of democracy having returned to the nation in 2011. Everywhere you look, you can still see the memories of that time period in Yangon, from abandoned military buildings to signs along the road reminding citizens of the mandatory evening curfew. Old military barracks have been converted into apartment complexes or markets, still complete with their brick walls rimmed with broken glass and barbed wire. As one moves downtown, however, one sees a different set of reminders of the Myanmar peoples’ past confinement – colonial architecture. I cannot deny that it is beautiful, but juxtaposed with the abandoned military installations, it paints a grim picture. However, there is also something poetic about the way that these colonial and military buildings have been reclaimed by local people and transformed into something useful for the community.
Myanmar and her people have been very good to me, but this trip has been very challenging as well. The scenery is beautiful, the cultures are rich, the food is diverse and interesting, and the people are extremely friendly; however, this trip has reminded me of just how much of a burden expectation can be. For the first month of my service here, I felt as though I was failing to integrate myself into my group of Myanmar peers. I felt as though I needed to be more direct and intentional about forming relationships with my coworkers that transcended the “colleague” level. I invited peers to dinner, to go see movies, to hang out – all to no avail. When I am not spending time outside of work with expatriates, usually Julio and his wife, Kimberly, I am alone here. However, from thinking about this phenomenon, as well as discussing the issue with Julio, I have realized that I have not failed to integrate into Myanmar social circles, but rather that I have been imposing an external image of what a social circle should look like upon my relationships with Myanmar people. Hanging out with work colleagues, going out to eat, going to the theater for some evening entertainment – those things are not rooted in Myanmar culture. There is a strict divide between work life and personal life.
I have learned a great deal of technical knowledge from Julio and the rest of the VCRD team this summer, but I feel that the most impactful lesson that I have learned is that we must sometimes let go of expectation, embrace ambiguity and a dash of chaos, and be flexible, because that is the reality of working with people. They are often unpredictable, even if in the most amazing of ways.
A 2015 graduate of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Tatiana Riddle Hendrix currently works in Washington, D.C., as a Program Officer focusing on combating wildlife trafficking for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Hendrix’s position with USFWS, which she calls her “dream job,” is the latest stop in a life’s worth of interest in wildlife conservation. She grew up on her parents’ farm in Guy, Ark., an Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary, which has offered a refuge for elephants for nearly 30 years.
The sanctuary exposed her to not only different types of animals, but also to people from across the world who traveled to the sanctuary to visit or learn from the elephants.
“We had lots of researchers who would come, both locally – i.e. a few from Hendrix College and University of Central Arkansas – as well as internationally for research studies or to learn how to better manage elephants,” she said. “It was a huge opportunity for me to meet so many people who were working in elephant management on the conservation side as well as the research side.”
She began working with USFWS in 2012 as an undergraduate at UA Little Rock. Hendrix, who started with USFWS as an intern, would travel to Washington D.C. in the summers while working remotely during the school year. She continued to work with USFWS when she enrolled as a student at the Clinton School in 2013.
“I continued working with USFWS while I was at the Clinton School knowing that I wanted to work there after I graduated,” Hendrix said. “The Clinton School offered me the flexibility to maintain my connection to wildlife conservation.”
Her time as a Clinton School student saw her spend three months in Indonesia working on the Aceh Sustainable Development Caucus for her International Public Service Project. She went on to complete her Capstone project with USFWS and the Division of International Conservation.
I connected with USFWS through a contact of my mother, who has worked in Asian elephant conservation for the last 30 years. Through that person I was introduced to the agency, and I joined a program that is now called “Pathways”, which allows students to work with the federal government while they are in high school or college.
What was it like growing up on your parents’ Elephant Sanctuary?
It was a dream. As kids we didn’t even pay that much attention to the elephants. It was mostly all of the other animals – dogs, cats, horses – and the ability to run around on a huge farm in rural Arkansas. We did have some interaction with the elephants but only when our parents were there.
The interesting part, in addition to the animals, is that I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, including North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. We hosted two-week courses for elephant management, and week-long veterinary workshops. We also hosted Elephant Experience weekends where the general public could sign up to come experience and learn about elephants. Over the years there were a number of visitors to the sanctuary including conservationists, researchers, and elephant enthusiasts.
How did it impact your career interests?
I got to college and I knew that I wanted to work internationally because it was an interest of mine and I had already gained some experience traveling abroad. My mother grew up in Switzerland and her side of the family lives in Europe so we traveled there a lot as kids. I was also really interested in working on wildlife, given my upbringing and my family’s background in elephants. My mother traveled to Asia a lot when we were kids and I was able to learn from her about different conservation issues, giving me a perspective that I wasn’t going to be able to find at a university. It definitely had an impact on my selection of a career choice. I just felt like I couldn’t really go any other way.
I saw it as a place where I was going to be able to get an education on social change and community engagement, which are both key to conservation because so much of wildlife conservation is working with people and trying to develop community-based approaches to conserving wildlife and the natural environment.
I wanted to be around people who were working on women’s issues, education and international development, so I was really seeking that broader perspective on social change and public service.
I saw it as a way for me to get a broader perspective, but also tailor the different projects that I had more control over, like IPSP and Capstone, to be wildlife conservation oriented. The Clinton School definitely gave me the education and experiences that I was looking for, and that have directly supported me in my current career with USFWS.
The University of Arkansas Clinton School’s Master of Public Service degree program enjoyed another strong year in the classroom. With the graduation of its 12th class in May, the program boasts a graduation rate of nearly 90 percent.
With a vision of professional public service at the forefront, the Clinton School of Public Service values both the acquisition of knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge to solving real-world problems, blending a core set of coursework with field service projects and elective courses for a program grounded in distinct principles, but also tailored to individual interests and pursuits.
“The careers our alums pursue highlight the ways in which what they learn at the Clinton School can be applied across a broad array of professions,” Associate Dean Susan Hoffpauir said.
Clinton School graduates continue to thrive in a variety of professional fields, including government, education, and nonprofits, as well as sectors like business development, entrepreneurship, and fundraising.
“A lot of the skills from the Clinton School – the design thinking, committed analysis, all of that – were very present in the work that I did. I am a firm believer that the Clinton School made me better at what I do,” said Kim Caldwell, a 2011 alum who trains the next generation of women political leaders at Annie’s List in Austin, Texas.
In the classroom, Clinton School students learn the concepts and skills necessary to become agents of positive change. They take those lessons and apply them in the field, putting them to action in order to improve their abilities as public servants while making a positive impact on the communities and organizations with which they work.
Brandon Treviño, a 2018 graduate and concurrent Juris Doctor student at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, spoke about applying those skills during his International Public Service Project.
“I literally could tell you about specific skills from every class that I put to use in the field,” said Treviño, who completed his IPSP with Awamaki in Ollantaytambo, Peru. “In our field research methods class, we learned how to do interviews, surveys, and data collection. I did all of that with my surveys, and I did a couple of interviews. When we talked about program planning and evaluation, we went over logic models and how to plan these programs. I set up empowerment workshops and created logic models for my organization to use after I left. I used sustainability plans that I learned in our program planning class, and I actually made those for my organization. Even some soft skills that I learned through our global development class and other courses applied in the field. That was really cool to see.”
Through the core courses, students and faculty debate, discuss, and study public service issues surrounding communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, professionalism, law, and ethics, among other topics – issues that translate across all types of organizations, businesses, and walks of life.
Students often learn new lessons or acquire new skills through the core curriculum that provide insights into different types of service work that, prior to the Clinton School, might have been unfamiliar.
“Finding program evaluation as a branch of applied research, I didn’t really know that existed before I came to the Clinton School,” said Andrew Forsman, a 2016 graduate working as an internal evaluator for a group of early childhood education programs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “Having such a hands-on, multi-disciplinary approach to research that was all about helping people learn and do good, better, was a perfect match for me.”
The MPS program provides a firm grounding in critical analysis, policy formulation, and problem solving, as well as an opportunity for immersion in outstanding service organizations for students to gain competency in the principles and nuances of public service.
“Personally, my time at the Clinton School and the nimbleness and adaptability that we learned while there – getting thrown into projects starting day one – has played a role in how I’ve led Schlep to approach each new hurdle with an attitude of teamwork and a desire to create,” said Hunter Riley, a 2009 graduate who co-founded Schlep, a tech-enabled local logistics and delivery company in Chicago, Ill.
The Clinton School curriculum is enriched by its renowned speaker and distinguished lecture series, which gives students unprecedented access to leaders in government, politics, business, foreign policy, journalism, and philanthropy addressing issues in public service.
The Clinton School enrolled 34 students in the first-of-its kind Executive Master of Public Service (EMPS) degree program in March 2018. 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.
Wesley Prewett (Russellville, Ark.) is spending his summer in Cape Town, South Africa working with Zoona, a mobile technology company developing financial products including money transfers, savings accounts, and credit products for underserved consumers in Zambia and Malawi.
Prewett, who majored in finance and economics at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, entered the Clinton School with public service interests in international development, economic growth, and financial inclusion among others.
This International Public Service Project is Prewett’s second journey to Southern Africa in three summers, following his work in Mozambique with an undergraduate study abroad program in 2016. Prewett conducted economic impact research on a Mozambique chicken farm through the Global Community Development program at UAF.
That trip, Prewett said, helped show him how to turn his degree in economics and finance into a service-oriented career. “That’s when I really decided that economic development and international development were things that I was passionate about,” he said.
Pronounced “Zona,” Zoona was started by two brothers who had a vision of a cashless African economy. Without cash, they thought, the economy would be much safer, faster, and effective for people across the socioeconomic spectrum. The pair created a system within Zambia to provide cheap, safe, and effective ways to move cash from one place to another within the country.
How did you become interested in public service?
I knew going into college that whatever I ended up doing was going to be something service-focused. That’s always been something that interested me – ways that I can use my skills and talents to make the biggest difference possible in the lives of people around me. No matter what I decided to study, I wanted to tie it to service.
Really, I came into economics and finance serendipitously. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. I always thought of myself as a generalist who was interested in and knowledgeable about a lot of different things. I started college as a biological engineering major, but I realized I didn’t enjoy engineering. I felt like it was stifling.
I switched to the College of Business, took a finance class, and really enjoyed it. I decided to major in finance, but after I got into some of the upper-level finance classes I worried that I wouldn’t be able to turn a finance degree into a service-oriented career.
Then, I went to Mozambique and did economic research and saw that there were places around the world where the financial sector was underdeveloped. There are places around the world where people don’t have access to financial services, and those financial services can be transformative for them.
Was there a catalyst for your service interest?
No, I wouldn’t say there was a specific catalyst. It’s just something that I feel like I have been interested in my entire life. I don’t really have an answer – there’s no specific moment. I just have always felt that I owe the public more than to just go out there and do a job to make money. People who have talent and the ability to help people have the obligation to.
There was never a specific moment, but probably one of the biggest turning points was going to Mozambique. That’s when I really determined that economic development and international development were things I was passionate about. Global economic development is the way to make the most effective use of resources to affect the most people.
I probably could have told you that I would have considered the Clinton School before I could have told you that I was going to graduate with a degree in finance and economics.
What drew you to working with Zoona?
When I was an undergrad, I became really interested in the idea of financial technology as a means of large scale economic development. I thought it was really interesting that technology is becoming increasingly prolific in the developing world and has the power to reach so many people. Increased access to technology could be used as a means to help people out of poverty.
When I was looking for my IPSP, I knew that I wanted to do something related to financial inclusion work in a developing economy. I started looking for organizations by looking at the top investors in the field, people who knew a lot about financial technology and inclusion and I looked at who they were investing in.
A lot of the big investors that I was really impressed with had relationships with Zoona. That caught my interest. I also really wanted to spend an extended amount of time in Cape Town and it just felt like the right fit for me.