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I am Arts and Sciences: Elizabeth Hendrix

  • September 21, 2022

Elizabeth Hendrix earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration in 2016.

Elizabeth Hendrix earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration in 2016. She went on to a successful career with the U.S. Department of Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service, and she was recently selected for the prestigious Commissioner’s Award for Values in May 2022. The College of Arts and Sciences interviewed Hendrix to learn more about her time at UAB, her current career, and her award.

Elizabeth Hendrix. ARTS AND SCIENCES: Why did you choose your UAB major(s)?

HENDRIX: After earning my PhD in Instructional Leadership at the University of Alabama in 2007, I became an assistant professor in Missouri. After four years of outstanding evaluations in every area on my yearly evaluations and a work schedule that did not leave me with work/life balance at all, I decided that I had to do something else that paid more and gave me a much better quality of life. I was accepted into law school, but soon I discovered that my law school peers who were passing the bar exam were struggling to find good jobs with good pay too.

As I shadowed my second cousin, Cynthia Lee Almond, in Tuscaloosa City Council meetings to decide whether I wanted to run for elected office in Alabama and to determine how I might use my law degree, I met Walt Maddox, the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. I discussed the career issues facing students who complete their PhDs and/or JDs with him and Cynthia. Walt recommended the MPA program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He said that degree and skillset really helped him. He also noted that it was nationally ranked and accredited too (unlike some other MPA programs in the state). After that, I started studying jobs available for people with administration degrees, and there seemed to be more of those jobs available and with higher pay too. Afterwards, I chose to apply for the UAB MPA program and stop my law classes. I am so happy that I did! I made the right decision then. I am truly grateful for that advice I received from Walt and Cynthia and for my UAB MPA. That decision, based on their advice, led me to a much better career and life.

ARTS AND SCIENCES: What does being a UAB alumna mean to you?

HENDRIX: My MPA degree increased the quality of my life dramatically. One of the UAB taglines (when I was in school there) was, “Knowledge that will change your world.” My experiences at UAB and with my MPA changed my entire world and helped me create a far better future than I could have even imagined. As a small child, teen, or even young adult, if you asked me what my dream was, I never would have responded with working for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. However, it really is my dream job and career. I love it! It is the best job that I have ever had. Being a UAB alumna makes me feel honored and humbled simultaneously to be a part of a remarkable group that truly is making a difference and who are change catalysts creating a better world (whether it is through improving health care services, creating better policies, or leading where others would only follow).

ARTS AND SCIENCES: How has the knowledge and skills you attained at UAB/CAS helped you in your career?

HENDRIX: Before the MPA program, I had never heard of the prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. My UAB thesis chair, Dr. Akhlaque Haque, encouraged me to apply for it. Without his encouragement, I never would have become a PMF. The knowledge and skills that I attained at UAB/CAS helped me make the cut from over 6,000 Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) applicants to approximately one of 200 who became a PMF alumna in the Class of 2016. My MPA and my work experience serving as the program manager of UAB Health Services Administration’s Doctoral Programs helped me start my dream job, improve my work/life balance, and almost double my salary in less than four years. It gave me the skills I needed to succeed in my new career. After my first year in the PMF program, I earned a promotion. Then just two years later, I earned a competitive promotion as well. Without the MPA classes at UAB, I would not have been able to get my federal job as a PMF nor succeed in it. My life would be far worse without a good work/life balance and financial struggles. UAB/CAS helped me find my dream job, better financial stability, and even my bliss.

ARTS AND SCIENCES: Is there a professional accomplishment you would like to highlight/share?

HENDRIX: In May 2022, I earned the prestigious Bureau of the Fiscal Service’s Commissioner’s Award for Values. This award is only offered once a year, and many lifelong federal employees never earn an award like it. Winners must be nominated for it by their peers and/or senior leaders, and there is a cash prize for it. Thus, it is highly competitive. This special act award is intended to recognize employees who consistently exceed expectations and have made a significant contribution towards achieving/supporting the Bureau of the Fiscal Service (FS) strategic goals or values, ultimately improving the functions, operations, and services.

I won the Commissioner’s Award for outstanding support of the FS values for creating a more equitable and safer FS.

ARTS AND SCIENCES: Is there any advice that you would like to offer to students as they plan for life after graduating from UAB?

HENDRIX: My advice as students plan for life after UAB graduation is to get out of their comfort zones. This may include leaving their hometowns or developing entirely new skillsets. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, to listen to the UAB professors and advisors, and to be honest about needs and weaknesses. This is how one can truly obtain the necessary help to shoot for the stars and launch their journey towards their dreams. Also, study job descriptions carefully to ensure that you develop the necessary skills and experiences to set yourself up successfully in your career. Practice saying “yes” to as many opportunities as possible while you are a student. Find a problem to fix in the community, culture, processes, operations, or policies. Take advantage of the UAB Career Center too. They can help you find a job or internship as well as help coach you through that process. They helped me practice mock interviews and polish my resume. Each day as you work on developing yourself, remain hopeful and grateful. When you are really struggling, find one thing each day that you are grateful for, one thing that you are hopeful for, and strive to find joy in your storms. You can conquer any challenge, and you can find a career that is fulfilling for you and your family. Stay tenacious in your pursuit of your dreams!