Allyson Watson is a member of Marist's online MPA Class of 2013. She received a BA in Economics and Political Science from Rider University and is currently the Executive Director of Downtown De Pere Inc.
Tell us about your work history before Marist, including years of experience, industry, companies, and positions.
I entered the Marist College MPA program immediately after my undergraduate coursework – I knew that I wanted to enter the public sector and earning a degree specializing in that field seemed to be the perfect step forward.
What are your career goals?
I’d love to work in a more formal economic development role or in a planning capacity. My present career has offered me a world of opportunity in marketing, business recruitment, event planning, master and community planning as well as municipal experiences.
Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Marist?
Marist College is in the county I grew up in throughout middle school and high school (Dutchess County, NY), and is known regionally and nationally for the caliber of their programs. I was unsure if I was going to stay in New York (I ended up relocating to Wisconsin) and the hybrid MPA program was a perfect fit for me – it offered the quality I sought but the flexibility I needed.
Tell us about a project or course that was particularly meaningful to your professional development.
The position I am in now is directly related to my work at Marist College! For my graduate thesis, I wrote about the experiences that Downtown De Pere was undergoing as they sought to implement a special assessment district in their commercial district to help fund revitalization projects. As I was an intern within the city government locally, I was in the perfect position to research the effort and look to other communities as examples of how these districts worked (there are over 80 in Wisconsin). By the time my internship drew to a close, my thesis was effectively a well-researched master plan for the next two years in the downtown district. This project helped me to stand out from other candidates when the Executive Director position within the organization became available.
How has a degree from Marist and your course work enhanced your career?
Despite being fresh from my undergraduate experiences when entering Marist College, I felt that the diverse classes I completed helped fill in some of the gaps that a more experienced public sector candidate might have on their resume. I got to learn and explore public budget processes, strategic planning and the benefits and challenges of information technology and information privacy in the public realm. I feel that I am a well-rounded candidate because of my degree.
What advice would you give to a student considering pursuing their master’s degree at Marist?
I would suggest to any student that they strongly consider their schedule and flexibility to commit to the program. I pursued the program over two years, and definitely felt the pressure of taking four courses in a semester at times. The potential for burnout with the challenges of daily life and balancing a career can be a threat to your success – so be certain that you pace yourself and complete your studies on your timeframe – and with a time commitment that works with your lifestyle.
If you took an online class or had online learning as part of a regular course, tell us about your experiences – any tips or suggestions to pass along to future students?
I completed the Marist College MPA program exclusively online and found that this learning style demanded a great deal more independence on my part and commitment to logging on and accomplishing my weekly requirements in a timely fashion. The temptation with online learning is to not set aside the 3+ hours each week that you might have been sitting in the classroom. Don’t fall for that temptation – treat an online class just as you would an on-campus class, and set aside time and a location without distractions to commit to your studies.
Profile Tags:Profile Type: Alumni
Major: MPA - Public Administration
Academic School: Management