To understand just how significant the Clinton School of Public Service’s impact was on Arkansas native Spencer Lucker (’12), one needs only look at his educational journey to that point.
“I wanted to be a foreign diplomat and join the foreign service,” he said. “That was 100 percent my goal. I minored in European studies, and I had a fellowship that allowed me to study abroad every summer. I basically worked my way across southern Europe learning and experiencing and contributing to my studies in that way.”
He chuckles. “Obviously, I got diverted a good bit while at the Clinton School.”
When the time came, the Clinton School was one of several graduate programs Lucker applied to, and an outlier at that. But the more he weighed his options the more he saw the advantages of the school’s unique curriculum and approach.
“I was really intrigued by the field service component,” he said. “The Clinton School really sold that hands-on experiential learning throughout the curriculum and throughout the course of the program. That’s very much how I learn even today and that really excited me.
“It was also intriguing to me to have the opportunity to build an International Public Service Project and that I was able to build in IPSP and Capstone abroad.”
All that said, Lucker said the Clinton School took some getting used to, but in a good way. Having only attended large educational institutions up to that point, he was now exposed to the more intensive small-school environment.
“Being able to build that community was really powerful for me, rather than being in a program where I was one person among 250,” he said. “I was intrigued by the idea of this small, tight-knit community that the Clinton School builds amongst its two classes every year of, max, 75 people.”
Within this framework, Lucker learned valuable lessons about consensus-building through community engagement. He said this has been particularly useful as he moved into jobs that looked to improve communities in meaningful ways, from boosting economic development through the federal Delta Regional Authority to workforce development for the City of Detroit.
“One of the key skills I gained was the importance of focusing on what the community is saying it needs, rather than what I might initially think makes sense or what my academic career might tell me,” he said. “The Clinton School really instills in you, and forces you, frankly, to practice community listening and using community input to drive decisions.
“I learned at the Clinton School the value proposition of being on the ground, working with the people you are designated to serve, and lifting up their voices in the planning and execution of projects.”
Lucker also said he learned how to base decision-making on data to create programs that were sustainable.
“The balance between decision-making on quantitative and qualitative data is incredibly important,” he said. “You can design a program using a bunch of numbers, saying this research report tells me we should do it this way, and it might look good when you build it and launch it. But it’s probably not going to be sustainable if you’re not taking into account the longer-term trends and needs of the community you’re working with.”
Lucker’s latest role is building the brand-new workforce development and talent component of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
“We are the part of the business attraction and retention team that makes sure we’re pitching Michigan as a great state for talent to employers considering Michigan, and then executing on those promises by working with local and regional workforce development systems,” he said.
“My role specifically is developing a long-term strategic approach to building a vibrant talent ecosystem in our state to create a great talent pool to tap into. We’re working to help ensure there’s a clear pipeline of workers from early childhood and pre-K all the way up through higher ed.”
Last summer, Lucker earned the opportunity to serve on the inaugural Clinton School Dean’s Advisory Board. Composed of leaders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors from across the country, the 21-member board held its first in-person meeting in Little Rock last July. The board discussed ideas on the Clinton School’s strategic vision and future and offered their insights on ways the school can enhance its mission of social impact. Lucker provides a unique and important perspective as the lone Clinton School alum serving on the advisory board.
"It is an honor to represent our diverse and accomplished alumni on the Dean's Advisory Board,” Lucker said. “The presence of a graduate in these strategic conversations is necessary for the Clinton School to leverage the amazing alumni it has cultivated over the past two decades into a strong future for the school. In this role I strive to help ensure the alumni experience is understood by the board and empower alumni to invest in our school's future and opportunities for the next generation of Clinton School changemakers."
From building the departmental team to knitting together various workforce programs and educational institutions, Lucker said his Clinton School education comes into play daily.
“The Clinton School taught me how to build diverse networks by really lifting up the value of partners coming together towards a common goal,” he said. “There’s real value in being able to build coalitions of partners who may not always agree with each other, but who can support each other to improve things for the entire community.”
Spencer Lucker, a 2012 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service, is currently the Director of Strategic Talent Initiatives for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Story written by Dwain Hebda.
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