Chante’ Gunter is Administrative Analyst with the Office of Training and Professional Development Center in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. Looking to advance professionally, she enrolled in the Executive MPA (EMPA) Program in 2013. “My colleagues admire my achievement, “ said Gunter, who noted that advanced degrees are valued in her department.
Ms. Gunter was in the fifth cohort of the EMPA program alongside other students who worked in a range of areas including state agencies and county and nonprofit organizations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Reflecting upon her experience in the cohort, she states, “Working full-time as a professional, attending school part-time, along with attending to family needs could be overwhelming.” Like others in the program before her, the cohort became her support system.
Going back to school to earn a masters degree can be challenging for many professionals. But not Chante’. “I was out of school for over 20 years, so it was an adjustment in the beginning,” said Chante’, adding that the cohort model of the program was key in making her decision to return to school. She adds, “Being in a cohort, made us supportive of one another and assisted us with staying on top of key assignments. We became a family! We encouraged each other during the rough times, family incidents, tough assignments, and ensured we all graduated on time!” However, her classmates not only made her experience positive — so did her family and instructors. With the support of many, Chante’ graduated in May 2015 with honors.
Mike Tracy has been working his way ‘up the ladder’ at the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden Vicinage, for the past 12 years. A 2013 graduate of the EMPA program, Mike moved into the Operations Division Manager position in 2014. As a result of completing the program, Mike believes that his education made him more driven and prepared in his pursuits to advance in his career at the judiciary.
“Working in the public sector, I wanted to pursue an advanced degree in public administration to enhance skills that would make me a more competitive candidate for advancement within my organization,” says Mike of his experience in the EMPA program. A member of the 2nd cohort of the Rutgers South Jersey program, he learned the value of earning a masters degree alongside 10 other professionals who became his support system throughout. He added, “Advancing through coursework with the same peers made the entire experience more rewarding. I looked forward to attending class each week. We quickly formed a bond among classmates that continued well after the program ended.” Mike is proud to be among the successful alumni of the EMPA program.
Like many of his classmates, Mike was concerned about returning to school. He graduated with his bachelors degree ten years earlier, so the idea of pursuing a master degree while working full-time and managing family responsibilities greatly concerned him. However, Mike was proactive in addressing his apprehensions and spoke to department faculty in the program before applying. “We reviewed my background as well as my goals, and I felt confident that the entering the program would be a great fit. Once I completed the first semester, I was confident that I would be able to complete the coursework at the level of my expectations,” reflected Mike. He also found that the hybrid format of the program was helpful in managing his time. He commented, “As a working parent, attending night classes would have been a sacrifice to my family time. The hybrid format allowed me to pursue my goal of completing my degree while minimizing time away from my family.”
When asked if he had any advice for prospective students considering the EMPA Program, Mike advised, “Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. If you fully commit, you will have a rewarding experience and will be proud of what you accomplished.”