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Q&A: MPA and LA County Analyst Godfrey Gozos on leadership effectiveness

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Godfrey Gozos, budget analyst for the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department, explains how local government leaders inspired him to pursue the USC Price Master of Public Administration online and how he completed the program while working full time.

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

A: I came in with an open mind and a yearning for knowledge, and I looked at local leadership within LA County government and saw a common thread among the leaders – they all had a Master’s in Public Administration. So that’s what throttled me to be motivated to join a program and see what’s out there.

Q: How did you first hear about the MPA program online and what drove you to pick USC’s Master of Public Administration Online over other graduate programs?

A: I first heard of the Master’s of Public Administration online program through my personal research. But in general, working for Los Angeles County, I hear about programs that are closely linked with our local government, which intrigued me. As I did research I found that the USC program was something that I wanted to join and wanted to be part of.

Q: Is there a reason that you decided to go with an online program over an on-campus program?

A: Yes. I chose the online program because of the flexibility and accessibility, especially with the work schedule that I had. I was able to work on [my degree] on the weekends while working a 4/40, which is four 10-hour days throughout the week, so I’d have Friday through Sunday to be able to focus on this program.

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

A: Throughout the program my main priority was to learn how public administration leaders lead effectively, even through many political and red-tape obstacles, and learn how to create public programs that positively affect the lives of those within my local community.

Q: Can you tell us about your experience with the MPA, both the online modality as well as the in-person residencies?

A: My experience with the online program was great. It made acquiring a degree very accessible, being at home. And also mentioned before, the flexibility to work on the degree after work hours made it so the balance between the two was a possibility. The online discussion forums with students were amplified with live discussions and group projects that helped make the program feel more like a classroom setting. The in-person residency portion was a great opportunity to meet with the cohort more intimately and get to know one another. [You] get to really see what the professors were about, how learning was going to be throughout the program, and what the expectations were at USC.

Q: Do you think that the program was set up in a way that was beneficial for working professionals?

A: Yes. The program really works well for professionals because when we do have live lectures, it’s usually in the evening, especially 6:00 to 9:00 PM. This is after work hours on Pacific Time, which we call Trojan Time, and it really helps us get a sense of the difference between work life and student life. Even though we’re already working professionals, we still have that student atmosphere and engagement after work.

Q: What was your interaction and experience like with your professors?

A: My experience with the professors was excellent. Even though lectures were held virtually, the tight-knit class size made conversation with professors more intimate and helpful. It felt like professor hours were always open. And with my fellow students, the experience was challenging at first, but eventually very rewarding. After working closely together throughout the two year program, my cohort kept in touch and we even celebrated graduation together. So it’s really nice to build a network in the program and still have the USC network available for us whenever we need it.

Q: You talked about the Trojan Network and Trojan Family. Can you elaborate a little bit on that and how it’s impacted you since graduation?

A: There are multiple programs and clubs within USC, regardless of major. For example, GPAC, where you can meet with other students or alumni and see them in networking events. Being able to talk to them in person when we’re usually online, it’s a breath of fresh air. So you can actually meet other students and alumni who went through the program and learn what they had to do to be successful, which is really helpful.

Q: What was your capstone experience like? Tell us a little bit about your project, the client, and what your key takeaways were.

A: My capstone focused on the small business issues in the City of Fremont, California, which is in the Bay Area. My cohort and I worked on finding recommendations through speaking to business owners, stakeholders, citizens within the community to see what would make the City of Fremont better for small businesses and how they can thrive.

The capstone project was a fun and really eye-opening, and really helps in my professional experience today. It was a great stepping stone into effectively working from home during the pandemic. Who would’ve thought that creating such a huge project with group members hundreds of miles away, to create recommendations for a Bay Area town’s small business issues, would help in real-time? When I essentially had to execute, for example, budget recommendations for my local government department from home, for almost two years.

Q: How soon were you able to directly apply the skills you learned into your professional role, and what knowledge or skills that you learned in the MPAOL were the most impactful to you?

A: I believe the skills I learned helped me in my professional role in the real time. For example, creating a strategic plan for a class project helped me become a subject matter expert in brainstorming activities at the workplace, for our own strategic plan. Intensely studying the “Six Hats of Critical Thinking” helped me to be aware of the importance of every stakeholder, both internal and external. So I think the major skill that was the most impactful for me in the program was the ability to understand that every decision we make as public administrators has an effect on anyone and everyone in the community.

Q: Now that you’ve graduated, how has the MPA online helped further your career?

A: Now that I have graduated from the program, I recently accepted a supervisory position in the budget unit at Child Support Services in Los Angeles County. And I have the MPA to thank for preparing me for such government level positions. In addition to the skills and knowledge I’ve received, I think I gained the confidence to lead.

Q: Would you recommend the MPA online to a prospective student, and what advice would you give them?

A: Yes, I would recommend the MPA online to prospective students. If someone in public service wants that spark in their career, the online program is a great path towards new opportunities. The USC network is also a very large community that is great in supporting fellow Trojans, regardless of field of study. So this program was an investment in me and I think it shows.

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