Image of Ralissa Jones. Rallisa Jones had been out of the academic world for many years before she decided to pursue a master's degree. She dropped by the Department of Government's office to find out more about the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program and left determined to be a part of it.

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Undergraduate Degree: Building Science
Concentration: Community Development

On that visit, she heard about "the extensive and diverse curriculum of UAB's MPA program, the continued full accreditation of the program, the accessibility of resources offered by the new state-of-the-art facility, the location of the campus in the heart of a thriving urban community, the incorporation of faculty with 'real world' applications to academic theory, and the range of professional options available to their graduates . . . I was hooked."

Back to School

Signing up for classes, lectures, homework, and group projects after a long absence from college can be intimidating. Rallisa gives the following advice to students returning to the fold after years in the private or public sectors:

"Speaking from the voice of someone who had been out of touch with academia for 15 years, my advice would be to follow the MPA curriculum as outlined by the program. The core classes are designed to lay the foundation for your graduate studies. The methods you learn to tackle research are needed as you progress through the courses. Specialization classes are geared toward your specific interests; however, you will gain a deeper understanding of their purpose if you progress toward them and not take them on a whim."

Memorable Experiences

Rallisa was not disappointed once she joined the program. She especially loved her interactions with her classmates.

"I would have never imagined that I had so much in common with 23-year-olds or that I could learn something from their perspectives on theory and policy. Class discussions, blogging, field trips, and even group projects provided opportunities for open and candid discussion. Many of them I will never forget; some of them have permanently been etched in my life script."

Aim for a Career

Her experiences helped her realize an important thing about herself – she wanted to pursue a profession that has a purpose for others. In doing so, she says, "you will gain a significant lifelong career and not merely a job."

As a senior manager for a general contractor, Rallisa was trained to be profit driven. The MPA program offered her a new perspective.

"Profit can also be the rate of return on an economically sustainable community or municipality. . . . I envision using the skills and abilities I have learned in the MPA program to make me a better public servant."

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