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Thoughts on my MPA Degree

I am currently a student at The Maxwell School at Syracuse University working towards my Masters in Public Administration. I use this blog to write about my experiences at Maxwell, especially related to social media use in the public sector. You can follow me on Twitter: @pjfiorenza and please feel free to leave some comments! http://pjfiorenza.wordpress.com/

A question I am often asked is “why MPA.” I always feel like I never have enough time to really answer the question. If given enough time, I always talk about my Great-Grandfather, Nicola Fiorenza. He was born sometime in the late 1890s and passed away in the 1970s. I often think of the incredible time period he lived in. Nicola’s life extended from a priest in Italy asserting that the devil was speaking through the only victrola in his Italian village, to witnessing his son help put a man on the moon. Nicola’s son, my Uncle Vinny, was a project manager for GM during the Apollo Missions – just an incredible progression and fascinating life to have lived. Through all the changes, he was always described as someone deeply reflective, caring and passionate about his life and family. To me, he has turned into a mythical figure and someone who I try to emulate in my life. In many ways, he is the epitome of a public servant.

He moved to Argentina with his brother when he was 12 years old help to support his family – his brother was only 14. In Argentina, Nicola fell in love with a girl and was told by the girls father, “Nicola, you can have all my land, but just know, if you go back to Italy, you will live a hard life.” He did return to Italy to assist his ailing mother, and yes – he had a hard life. He fought in hand-to-hand combat battles in Ethopia for Italy and then joined the American Army during WWI. After WWI, he was a laborer and traveled back and forth between Italy and the US supporting his family. Eventually, the entire family made the move to escape Mussollini’s Italy. He did not want my Grandfather, who I am proudly named after, to fight in the Italian army. My Grandfather ultimately ended up being drafted by the American Army – heroically storming the beaches of Normandy. (This is a great photo of him in WWII, it shows him giving away his cigarettes to a Private who escaped a Nazi POW camp.) It’s an incredible history and one I have a lot of pride being a part of.

The story of Nicola that has always held special meaning to me and heavily influenced my decision to pursue a MPA comes from a conversation he had with my Aunt Rosie. He was in the process of planting a peach tree and he calmly said, ‘Rose, I may never eat the fruit of this tree, but you will.” The story has always held important meaning in my personal life and my views on family.

The meaning of this story has evolved for me over the years. Lately, I have been reflecting and can see how this story has tremendously impacted my passion for service. In past internships I performed work related to larger organizational projects and goals, which would end or begin after my tenure with the organization. I’ve learned that not seeing the fruits of labor can be frustrating, but at times it will be necessary for me to accept. It’s a small sacrifice I’ll face to continue to work towards the collective good.

A MPA certainly gives me flexibility to change careers and easily switch job sectors. Areas I comment on a lot in my blog is related to Gov 2.0 and social media. This is not only because of personal interest in the concepts, but also because I have a great opportunity to research the field with my Graduate Assistantship. I’ll probably branch out my blog posts next semester, I have a great course schedule lined up.

My path to becoming interested in Gov 2.0 is somewhat unique. I am not a programmer and lack a background in IT – but I love Gov 2.o and social media not only because I believe they present a great opprotunity to bring innovation to government, but also because they shift responsibility to a more active and engaged citizenry. These tools and applications are making our government, at all levels, more transparent, participatory and collaborative. I am a firm believer that through these applications, we can begin to tackle the complex problems faced by government.

With whatever position I obtain next year, Gov 2.0 and social media taught me numerous valuable lessons. They taught me the importance of collaboration and to never be content with the status quo. In any profession it is critical to continue to innovate and explore new ways to creatively solve problems for an organization. These traits can be used for so many applications and extend well beyond just Gov 2.0. It’s a skill set I am certainly glad I am developing and anxious to put into practice. The skills developed have certainly prepared me for the next step and be an agent of change for my community.

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Awesome post – as a 3rd generation govie, I’m with you. I wake up excited to work on issues that affect our country – and not just selling more Hormel Spam or running a blog on celebrity gossip.

Jason Pitera

After reading Mr. Fiorenza’s blog post I have to say that I felt a similar attraction that he experienced to public service. My grandfather served in a Polish labor camp during WWII and I was often told of how he escaped that camp with bullets whizzing by his ears. For my undergrad degree I decided to major in History for the only reason that the subject he appreciated the most was History. Little did I know this history degree provided me with the respect I would need to appreciate the role of government and the rule of law.

While earning my MPA degree at Baruch SPA, I felt that understanding Gov 2.0 and social media was important because that would be how the future of the US government would function from now on. Understanding and implementing this would lead to a more open and transparent government.

Pat Fiorenza

Jason – thanks so much for sharing the story of your grandfather and your thoughts about pursuing your MPA degree. You couldn’t be more right with your assessment of Gov 2.0.