by David Muse, MPA student
What do brown bears, flat hats, human resource management, budgets, and bull frogs have in common? For the past three years they have been my life. Like most young adults, I had a strong yearning for adventure. I wanted to travel, earn quick cash, and work in a job that would further my dream of becoming a public safety professional. One day while surfing a federal job website, I discovered a job that would allow me to do all these things -- work as a seasonal National Park Service Protection Ranger. Protection Rangers are a rare breed of people. They are problem solvers that deal with the full scope of emergency services. Their position requires them to be emergency medical service providers, search and rescue specialists, federal law enforcement officers, and in some parks both structural and wildland firefighters. This job is not for the faint at heart and requires rangers to be capable of being completely independent and isolated. As self-sufficient as they have to be Rangers also must possess flawless teamwork abilities. I sponsored myself through the law enforcement academy, sharpened my EMS skills, and got some search and rescue exposure. Before I knew it I was packing my bags and heading off to one of the busiest parks in the National Park Service, Sequoia & Kings Canyon. I spent the summer doing all four emergency service functions: law enforcement, EMS, Search and Rescue (SAR), and firefighting. The law enforcement ranged from cooler (food storage) violations, to people harassing wildlife, to people threatening each other, and arresting people for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs. The SAR opportunities were plentiful and every “mission” I seemed to be in a new role. On some missions I was responsible for taking the initial report, acting as a family liaison officer, providing death notifications, or rapidly identifying and ordering the appropriate resources needed. I worked trail blocks for SAR missions or active wildland fires burning. Each day brought with it a new experience and challenge. One of the best tools I had to tackle these challenges was my experience from Graduate School. Before I was hired to work for the National Park Service I realized that most full-time Rangers needed to pay their dues as seasonal employees, working several summers before being offered a job. This meant that I had to be willing to travel across the United States and only work for 90 days to six months at a time. Not wanting to waste any time and knowing I would someday want to return to academia and teach at the college level, I found a Graduate School program that would give me what I wanted and needed: the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program at the University of New Hampshire Manchester. What I found throughout the summer was that the MPA program had given me several things I hadn’t realized. First and foremost the MPA program taught me how to manage. While I already had a bachelor’s degree is in Justice Studies with a concentration in Crime & Criminology, I realized that the bachelors only taught me how to manage one population; criminals. The MPA submerged me in classes that highlighted management principles: Organization & Management, Human Resource Management, and Foundations of Public Administration among a wide variety of other courses. All of which have given me the upper edge when it comes to managing people and projects. Because of my organizational ability and skills I was given the responsibility of being the Cedar Grove Sub-district Emergency Medical Service Coordinator for the summer. This is something most seasonal employees did not get to do. The MPA program has also taught me how to learn. As silly as it sounds one would think that after 16 years of public education and a bachelor’s degree I would know how to be a student. My skills have only gotten me so far, however, the MPA has rewired me to learn in a different way. In the ever evolving world of technology and the globalization of information it is imperative that any public safety professional know how to access and apply information. It is not the wise person that knows everything, but the one who knows their resources well enough to be able to find the information they seek at a given time or to solve a specific problem. Each MPA class has brought with it an abundance of resources for any profession, especially those involving public service and safety. While the MPA program has taught me how to manage people it has also taught me how to be managed by people. At some point or another there will be someone on your team that you do not get along with. It could be a coworker, a subordinate, or your boss. Learning about the various management techniques and how people approach work allowed me to work seamlessly with individuals who I would have otherwise had trouble with. The professors will give you insight into the realm of work relationships and the dynamics of how and why people work the way they do. It will also give you an abundance of insight as to what motivates them. Finally the MPA program has given me the competitive advantage to stand out among my peers and has opened a world of doors to me. The program is flexible for the students that have the time and want to come into it and plow through in a year or can be completed in as many as six years for the full-time working professional. I would urge anyone one who is on the fence about it sign up for one class and give it a shot. Join us for an info session to learn more about UNH Graduate programs available in Manchester.
Connect with UNH Manchester