Hello, blog readers! I’m Lindsay, and I am a full time employee of the City of Albemarle and full time student at MPA@UNC, the online version of Carolina’s MPA program. I am completing my professional work experience at, well, work! The City of Albemarle has been my home since birth and my employer since 2009.
Albemarle was incorporated in 1857 and is the county seat of Stanly County. Our city’s growth was driven by the textile industry, an industry that is now just a memory, but a more diverse economy has taken the place of the textile mills. With a population of just over 16,000, Albemarle is big enough to avoid “blink and you’ll miss it” status but small enough to see someone you know every time you go to the grocery store. It’s a good place to be.
Albemarle is close to major highways and interstates, and we have an airport just down the road. Charlotte and the Triangle are just an hour or two away, and we are equidistant from both the beach and the mountains. We are located in a wonderful area for outdoor recreation, as we are in close proximity to Morrow Mountain State Park, multiple lakes, and the Uwharrie National Forest. These features gave rise to the tag line in our new branding: Water. Air. Land. Opportunity.
Hopefully you are still with me after that brief history lesson and economic development pitch! Now, for some information on my MPA practicum, completed in June of 2016. As a current full-time employee of the City of Albemarle, I had to find a substantial project outside of my normal duties for the experience. For me, that meant work with the City of Albemarle that my supervisor approved because it was not feasible for me to miss work for my internship. For my fellow students finding themselves in the same situation, I would advise you to be realistic about your goals and transparent with your supervisors about what you seek to learn. That is, if you work in an environment receptive to this type of open conversation, which I certainly hope you do!
Although I worked in finance, I did not plan to stay in finance for the whole of my career. Fortunately, my supervisor was supportive of me expanding my experiences beyond finance, and she shared my goals with our administration with the hope that a suitable project was out there for me. Ultimately, administration assigned me to assist in project management for a new city initiative, Clean Communities Campaign, aimed at engaging youth in efforts to improve community appearance as well as reviving our Adopt a City Street program.
I referred to prior coursework for this initiative, including Professional Communications for guidance on creating marketing materials and writing memos and emails, as well as Public Administration Analysis and Evaluation for guidance on holding focus groups. So, if you have not already found your coursework valuable or have not had an opportunity to apply what you have learned, rest assured, it is valuable when the rubber hits the road!
I was excited for the opportunity to participate in community outreach and organizing, to work with coworkers outside my usual circle to accomplish a common goal, and to gain experience in communicating with the public.
Our efforts were ultimately successful, and we have handed the initiative over to Albemarle Middle School to continue educating our city’s youth about pride in community appearance.