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Q&A: How MPA Michi Slaughter gained relationship building skills in pursuit of career growth

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Michi Slaughter has worked for the City of Los Angeles in various positions for nearly 20 years. She has spent most of her tenure with the Los Angeles Police Department, most recently as a Senior Systems Analyst.

Because of her background in information technology, she was concerned about a lack of a policy regarding data and strategic planning as it relates to local government. Slaughter discusses why this drew her to the USC Price Master of Public Administration online, the most important skills she gained in the program, and how as a parent and professional she knows first hand that it is never too late to invest in your education.

Q:  What factors motivated you to further your education? Did something change in your career, work, environment, or field?

A: I’d been working for the city for almost 15 years before I decided to pursue my education. I went back to college to obtain my undergraduate when my daughter went to college, so during the pandemic I received my undergrad. I decided to push myself a little further and go for the USC master’s program.

Before starting the program, I was accepted into the USC Safe Communities Institute’s (SCI) Public Safety Executive Leadership Certificate program. That program was amazing, and it further solidified that I really needed to pursue getting my Masters of Public Administration with USC. 

Q: How did you first hear about the program? 

A: I heard about the MPA because of the [certificate] program I took with the SCI, which really pushed me to explore the MPA program. I did some research on other schools, but USC pretty much led as a top school in that field. So, I definitely wanted to learn from the best.

Q: Is there a reason you chose the online modality over an on campus program?

A: I chose the online modality because of the flexibility it offered. In addition to my full time career with the City of Los Angeles. I’m also a full time on-site property manager for a 32 unit apartment complex in Los Angeles, which keeps me very busy, and I’m also a parent.

Q: What were your outcome goals and desires for the program?

A: Most of my background is in information technology, and I was really concerned there was a lack of a policy regarding data and strategic planning as it relates to local government. So I wanted to do this program to help in that area. I also wanted to stretch myself out of my comfort zone. Public speaking isn’t my best skill, but in the program you’re working with so many teams, so you’re going to have to learn to communicate with others and work in teams. I really feel that this program allows you to exit your comfort zone while learning about practices and principles that can help and elevate your career. 

Q:  Tell us about your experience in the program so far. 

A:  My experience has been great in the MPA program online. I like that the curriculum is catered to real world situations that you can use in public administration. From the simulations to the various projects, I know that I can apply what I’m learning into my career.

Q: How did you get accustomed to the online modality? 

A:  My experience has been great with the online modality. I obtained my undergrad in the online format, so I was very familiar with how to discipline myself with assignments and interact with other students virtually. 

Q: How do you balance the demands of study with your life, both personal and professional?

A: Well, I have to admit when I started the program I didn’t balance it correctly. It was very challenging for me. I noticed that I kind of shunned away from hanging out with family and friends, and I don’t recommend doing that because you need to spend some time with family and friends just to decompress. So I think, just with the time management piece, learning how to overcome that challenge at the beginning of the program helped me succeed. I’m in a much better space now. I know what days throughout the week I can dedicate to family and friends, along with my assignments and exams, and make sure I meet with my group members.

Q:  How is your interaction and experience with your fellow students?

MPA Michi Slaughter talks about how she gained relationship building skills in the program. Here, she is at a restaurant with her cohort.

My interaction with my fellow students is great. Before I officially started the program I was trying to get my books, and I logged into Yammer, which is a great online community where you can meet with other students and teachers. One student was actually gifting the book that I needed, and he was so kind to meet with me on campus and show me around. His name is Alex, and I tease him to this day for being my very first MPA friend. He also invited me to a mixer that the USC Price alums and his cohort were having. I got to meet some of his cohort and they let me know that everything is going to be okay. 

In my cohort, I have a close knit group of ladies and we make sure that we’re all holding ourselves accountable, and we’re helping each other throughout the program. I truly believe that if I did not have this network I would not have succeeded in this program.

Q: How has your interaction and experience been with the MPA online faculty? 

A: My experience with the faculty has been amazing. I can tell that the faculty really wants all students to win. They want them to succeed. They’re readily available, even though I know they have a heavy load with other courses. When I email I get responses fairly quickly. So I’m just very thankful that the faculty wants to help us, and especially when challenges occur. They’re willing to work with us if we need a little extension due to a family emergency which really helps students, so I’m very grateful for that. 

Q: Is there a specific class that you want to highlight?

A: I would highlight the collaborative governance class. That was a very interesting class because it also intertwined with information technology, which is my background. So I found that class to be very interesting.

Q: Are there any specific skills you’ve learned that can be impactful in your career, and have you already been able to apply them?

A: The main skills that I’ve learned in this program are relationship building and communication. This has helped me with moving forward on any challenges that involve conflict. 

I feel that [all] the skills are immediately applicable. For example, we do a lot of memos in our coursework, and I’ve already been able to apply that in my career by writing for my commanding officer.

Q: Would you recommend the MPA degree online to a prospective student? 

A: Absolutely! If you’re trying to challenge yourself and grow in your career, if you have a passion for public service, this is the best program. You’re connected to the elite Trojan alumni network, so it’s amazing. I haven’t even finished the program yet, and if I go somewhere with my sweater or my jacket there’s so much support.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention about USC Price? 

A: I took advantage of the Price Career Services center, and they offered me a mentorship program that was 3 months long called the Price Professional Mentorship Program. My mentor was VP of Lewis Holmes. I have a background in property management so to get a feel for the industry was great as he pointed me in the right direction. 

Q: What advice would you give a prospective student?

A: Be patient with yourself and take advantage of all the resources, whether it’s on campus resources, career services or tutoring resources. Even if you’re out of state, there are so many virtual resources available. If you’re willing to work hard, you could definitely succeed in this program. And it’s never too late to pursue your education. 

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