Community garden idea prepares MPA students for careers and wins first place in political competition

MPA students Ikeoluwa Akanmu, Melinda Roell, Jennifer Morgan and William Golden

Four students from Georgia Southern University used the concept of a community garden to enhance their education in public administration and won first place in the University of Georgia competition. Georgian Student Policy Competition for Public Administration 2022.

For the competition, Masters of Public Administration (MPA) students Jennifer Morgan, Melinda Roell, Ikeoluwa Akanmu and William Golden were tasked with developing nonprofit solutions to a relevant policy issue in their community. Their project focused on food shortage in the community and a solution – Boro Grown, a community garden and food security initiative for Statesboro.

The community garden concept was introduced to the team by Roell, who has worked at various nonprofit organizations in the Statesboro and Bulloch County area. Through her work with the OutReach Center — a building near the Bulloch County Health Department that houses several local nonprofits — she noticed a vacant location on the west side of Statesboro.

“As I drove into town from where we lived, I passed several overgrown vacant lots in neighborhoods where I knew many customers lived,” she said. “One day, the idea of ​​a community garden in these grounds came to me. I’ve been thinking about this project on and off for almost 20 years. Last semester, in our nonprofit management class, our end-of-semester project was to design a nonprofit organization. So I pulled out my garden idea, dusted it off, and used it for my class project. It just so happens that the idea for the garden was the one chosen by the team to be used in the competition. »

The competition allowed students to put theory learned in the classroom into practice through a high-impact learning experience, said Trent Davis, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Public and Nonprofit Studies and director of the MPA program.

“It’s an important step in their career development. The MPA program is a professional management program where students develop the skills needed to take on leadership roles in the public and nonprofit sectors,” he said. “This politics competition was a great opportunity for these students to put what they learned in the classroom into practice and build real-world experience directly applicable to their future careers.”

Morgan, a native of Savannah, Georgia, is in her final semester of the MPA program and is grateful to get a glimpse of what her future might look like.

“That experience was great for career preparation,” she said. “As future public administrators, we will probably experience situations where we will have to present our ideas for public policies or public programs. This competition was exactly that.

This was Georgia Southern’s first year competing, Davis said.

“As a program and department, we continually seek competitions, internships, internship experiences, and professional development requirements to prepare our students for their careers,” Davis said. “This preparation is especially important for our pre-service students who have little or no work history in government or nonprofit organizations.”

The student team entered the competition just days before the late January deadline and prepared their final submission in just over a week.

“The competition helped us practice how to make, present and organize the practical elements of a proposal in front of a panel of strangers,” said Golden, a freshman MPA student from Savannah, Georgia. “It helped me feel more ready to present concrete initiatives in my future career.”

Akanmu, who is from Nigeria, is in her freshman year and semester at Georgia Southern. She enjoyed the team experience and looks forward to more from her MPA education.

“We were thrilled to take first place in the competition,” said Akanmu. “We have formed a great team, sharing ideas and knowledge, which has made us exceptional. Creating initiatives that impact people has been one of my goals. I believe there is more to come.

Georgia Public Administration Students strives to help University of Georgia Public Administration and Politics students build social and academic networks. By fostering friendship and professional development within our diverse student body, we hope to encourage students not only to learn their chosen profession, but to form lasting bonds with their peers, faculty, staff and the community.

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