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Q&A: How MPA Veronica Frazier is chasing her goal of starting a nonprofit organization

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Veronica Frazier was a small business owner in Texas who was interested in starting a nonprofit organization. Now, she is a 2023 Master of Public Administration program online graduate ready to take on that challenge. Frazier discusses how the program provided the skill set, flexibility, and knowledge she needed to move forward in her career goals.

Q: What factors motivated you to further your education? 

A: I always wanted to get my master’s, and [I] knew it was going to be somewhere within the public sector. Knowing that I was going to move forward with starting an NGO, I just didn’t have the experience and some of the knowledge that I knew was going to be necessary to make those bigger leaps forward with my personal career goals. So, an MPA was the perfect experience and knowledge that I needed to do that.

Q: How did you first hear about the program and what drove you to pick the MPA online over other graduate programs?

A: I heard about the program from personal research. I had a really good friend that also did an MPA program. Looking into what that entailed and just researching the best programs throughout the United States, USC just kept coming up over and over. I wanted to shoot for the moon and go for a program that was going to be one of the best in the country. It was a no-brainer. Doing the online program made a lot of sense since I have kids and needed something really flexible.

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

A: Some of my goals and desires after finishing the program [are] to move back into the NGO nonprofit space and get a little more experience with the behind-the-scenes and what that looks like from an implementation standpoint. I’m hoping to set up a social impact NGO that utilizes private capital and serves minority women, and [I] have already started the process with what that looks like from a business side.

MPA online alum Veronica Frazier is chasing her goal of starting a nonprofit organization

Q: How is your experience in the program?

A: My experience in the program has been great. It’s really flexible. I have kids, so it makes it easy when a lot of the classes are at night. There are several on-campus components to the online program. So it’s nice that we still get to go and be in LA and on campus; it’s so beautiful, and we get to meet people within our cohort and within the Price School.

I’m also on the GPAC board, which is the Graduate Policy and Administration Community. It’s a small, student-registered organization. We plan a lot of events for the Price School. I’ve gotten to be on campus quite a bit just for various events and Price prom. It’s very flexible, and it’s great.

Q: How do you balance the demands of study with your personal life?

A: Balancing home and professional life is definitely not easy. I have my kids every other week. The weeks that I do have them, I am up really late at night and get a lot of my homework done, reading, research, or writing at all hours of the night. So it’s stressful, but this is what I signed up for. As stressful as it is, it’s also equally fulfilling. 

Check out Veronica’s Day in the Life vlog to see how she balances her personal and academic life.

Q: How is your interaction and experience with your professors in the program?

A: My experience so far with the professors has been really great. My expectations for a graduate professor were pretty high, and they exceeded my expectations. I’ve gotten to meet most of them on campus so far, at either the residencies or other events, and they are all incredibly intelligent, articulate, and impressive. Dr. Dora is the head of the online MPA program, and I personally think she is a genius. I have nothing but respect for all of them.

Q: How has your interaction and experience been with your fellow students?

A: My interaction and experience with my fellow students in the online program has also been really rewarding. I, within my cohort, have a tight-knit group of friends. We are all still chatting on a weekly basis. We’ve gotten to meet each other either for the residency or other events on campus. I made a lot of lifelong friends just from the program. It’s a great network.

There is a lot of group work and group projects within the MPA program online. It has been incredibly beneficial. It does prepare you for real-life experience within the workplace where you would normally have to collaborate and learn how to work with different people on a daily basis, and some people that you get along with, some people that you might not. I was nervous going into it, thinking that I didn’t have a lot of experience working closely with other students because, prior to this program, I had owned a small business and had just worked for myself. This program has taught me how to collaborate with other people, get along, and have an end goal that we’re all working towards.

Q: Is there a project you’ve done in the program that you’re particularly proud of? And how do you think it has helped prepare you for the future?

A: Our capstone project. I had a team of three other people, and we were working as research consultants for the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council. They wanted a strategic implementation plan on moving membership into the EU. We were tasked with trying to figure out what the landscape looked like in the EU as far as environmental policy, green chemistry in general, and how to collaborate with international nonprofit organizations within the EU since there are so many different member states. It was really challenging and really fast-paced, but it was incredibly rewarding. 

Our capstone project really did help prepare me for the future because it focused on environmental policy and trying to collaborate with public and private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, and nonprofits. That real-life experience, researching, and all the work that it takes to figure out how to form those collaborative partnerships is very much what I’d like to do in the future.

Q: What have you learned so far that you think will be most impactful in your career?

A: Understanding leadership styles, the ins, and outs of what an administrator would look like working in the public sector, and how to mitigate those convoluted partnerships and relationships that you’re going to have with various other entities working for the government or in the nonprofit area. This program really does prepare you with that knowledge and a lot of those theories to help you be a better leader within the public sector.

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

A: I highly recommend the MPA program online to a prospective student. There’s just so much flexibility. You’re getting the same education, still getting to network with a lot of working professionals that go to USC, and you’re still getting to meet a lot of on-campus students if you apply yourself. 

Q: What advice would you give a new student?

A: Make sure that you’re taking as many notes as possible on everything that you’re learning and reading. The accessibility that USC has to offer as far as reputable sources, research, articles, et cetera, is just invaluable. Really apply yourself if you can. 

Be as involved as an online student as you want to be. Joining GPAC gave me [the] opportunity to be involved with a lot of the other Price graduate programs and a lot of on-campus students. Network building is out there if you seek after it. Don’t take it for granted. You won’t regret it.

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