Jessica Kitchner is passionate about English literacy. She spent years teaching English in Japan and Russia, before working with immigrant and refugee families with the Genesee Intermediate School District. She was making a difference, but her bachelor’s degree in political science meant she lacked the formal credentials to be a teacher in Michigan.
Jessica knew her positive impact on literacy could be made greater by working for a non-profit that focused on systemic solutions to English literacy education. But without skills like grant compliance, volunteer management, or fund development, how could she gain a position that fully realized her passion?
The Master of Public Administration at UM-Flint provided Jessica with the knowledge and opportunities to take her career in a new direction. After earning her MPA in 2016, Jessica became the Operations Manager at the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network (FGLN), which works to improve the life outcomes of local children and families by improving literacy levels in Genesee County. The Network’s Executive Director, JaNel Jamerson, is also a UM-Flint graduate.
“Every class in the MPA program could be linked to my passion of literacy. You can connect whatever your interests are to the curriculum in this degree,” Kitchner says.
In her first year of the program, Jessica was researching literacy rates in Genesee County for one of her classes. This research led her to attend public meetings, where she would make the connections to eventually be hired by FGLN. Jessica is a self-professed introvert, but she came out of her shell with the opportunity to apply an interest in literacy to her MPA coursework. It also helped that her professors were always open and available.
“I had a standing weekly meeting with my statistics professor. He probably thought I was crazy, but he always listened and made time for me,” Kitchner says.
Jessica sees the opportunity to utilize her learning on a regular basis at work. Outside of the standard curriculum, Jessica believes the MPA program shows students more than what’s in the textbook.
“The MPA program introduced me to the possibilities of Flint. Your classes are taught by people who are leaders in key fields. They talk about their real-life experiences and they bring in community partners. I didn’t know about most of these opportunities before coming to UM-Flint.”
MPA Program Director Kim Saks-McManaway, sees the opportunities that Jessica took advantage of as standard for UM-Flint MPA students.
“Whether it is within a specific content-based course, an independent study, or our practicum course, students are exposed to the real work of public administration from their first semester to their last,” Saks-McManaway says. “Students like Jessica can take advantage of those opportunities to change their career paths in a way that provides them with experience and credit toward their degree.”