In August 2014, I set off on an epic journey in the Masters in Public Administration program at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Setting off, I knew the road would be hard, full of late nights and rigorous work. However, like the Fellowships setting off toward Mordor, I joined my cohort and ventured into the unknown, walking with strangers who would one day become close friends (Cue epic journeying music from Lord of the Rings)..
Here I am, 20 months later. After a far more challenging Capstone project than I expected, and some additional adventures, and many, many late nights completing assignments, I feel like this:
As in any hero’s journey, I have grown in this adventure and changed. I am not the same person who came here. I have learned so much – best practices for nonprofit management, accounting standards, Excel wizardry skills, basic economics principles, program evaluation procedures, team development, government budgeting, and more. My skills have been honed and my world has been broadened.
During these two years, I embarked on a plane for the first time in my life – I never had a need before. Since that first journey to Phoenix, I have traveled to Washington D.C. and San Antonio, TX in search for the elusive grail called a career. I have met national and state leaders in nonprofit and government organizations. I have made strong connections and, like Lucy walking through the door of the wardrobe, discovered doors and worlds I did not know existed.
I have learned to take risks and be bold. If we have to take leaps and risks in order to grow and succeed. Some of my jumps have ended with me smacking my face into a wall. However, I’ve taken a step back, reevaluated the jump, and tried again.
I have learned to know what direction I want to go in, but to also look for unexpected side-paths along the way. For example, I had my capstone planned out during the middle of Fall semester, but, at the end of the semester, I was offered a paid project for my capstone. I was able to hand-off my original project to a friend and learn a lot from my unexpected opportunity.
I have learned the importance of enjoying the ride, even in the midst of dark hours as a looming deadline charges toward you. It is important to pause and look out, enjoying the moment, while still charging toward the future. I’ve had many opportunities to deepen my friendships with new and old friends through taking a break to have some fun and enjoy this experience.
Just as any hero cannot walk alone, I have been lifted by others along the way – my classmates, my faculty, my family back home and my family here, my long-time friends here, and the new friends I have gained. Each group has been there to be my Sam and help carry me when I am exhausted, and I have tried to be there for them. I have made many great and remarkable friendships which will last a long time.
To be a BYU MPA is to be a part of a fellowship which spans beyond my graduating class to current and future alumni. It means to gain the skills to serve the public, to know how to lead governments and nonprofits to support the common good and make the world a better place. It means I’ve had the privilege of attending school and working with some of the hardest working, kindest people you could ever meet.
And now, this great journey comes to an end. I stand here with my friends, preparing to part ways and venture off to our next adventures.
So, like Frodo, Gandalf, and Elves leaving for the Gray Havens while Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to The Shire, I leave having grown and changed.
P.S. I want to thank everyone in the blogosphere who’s kept coming around and visiting while I’ve been on this epic journey. I’m hoping to be around more often over the next few months.
Side Note: Below are links to the previous steps along this journey.
Side Note 2: I’m also super excited about this because SPACESHIPS!!!!!