Posted on August 15, 2021 by Amanda Cerreto

August 16, 2021 — When Chris Anderson graduated with his undergraduate degree in 2006, he searched for a professional setting that would align with his interest to do more than just work for a living, but to make an impact. Anderson's post-baccalaureate positions had a broad range, and he knew he hadn't found the right fit, so he researched graduate programs and decided to enroll in the Master of Public Administration program at UTSA.

Chris Anderson Anderson knew almost immediately that he had found the right place. Despite not having experience with the public sector, much less local government, he found he was easily able to ask questions and grow from both his professors and classmates.

"A lot of my professors had already been in the local government field, and some were working for the City of San Antonio," Anderson said. "I was able to learn from their perspective, because up to that point, I hadn't had exposure or that type of professional experience."

It wasn't long before Anderson found a way to earn that experience for himself. While taking a housing policy class, his eyes were opened to how policy decisions can remove barriers to opportunity and he took an internship with the San Antonio Housing Authority. That internship led to his first job in the public sector as a Family Self-Sufficiency Case Manager.

“The MPA program really helped me focus on a career path, because you don't know what you don't know,” he said. “Career preparation in high school is much different. Being able to understand the experiences the professors had, and kind of unpeeling that onion…was immensely helpful.”

His internship experience was so valuable that Anderson will now strongly advise any younger student to do two things he wished he'd done in college: study abroad and work an internship or two. While he acknowledges that many members of the MPA program begin their studies with relevant professional experience, this wasn't the case for him - but he never felt ill-prepared to apply concepts of theory because of his professors and his internships.

Shortly after graduating from the program, Anderson was selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants to serve as a Management Fellow in the City Manager's Office for the City of San Antonio. This experience furthered his knowledge of the ins and outs of city government and the components required to make it run smoothly.

Anderson is now the Strategic Planning and Innovation Officer for the City of Corpus Christi. This position serves as an internal consultant for all city operations. “It involves looking to see where things are broken or where they’re disconnected,” he explained. “It's looking at how processes can be improved and benchmarking against other municipalities to understand innovative solutions that can be applied at the City of Corpus Christi.”

This kind of creative problem-solving is exactly up Anderson's alley, and he suspects many other public administration graduates would fit into a role like this nicely. “The local government workforce cannot be a one trick pony,” Anderson said. “There is a lot of nuance and future leaders must approach their roles with an inquisitive nature.”

Anderson credits several of the courses he took in the MPA program as helping to build the foundation for his success. “In this role in particular, statistics is pretty crucial,” he said. “I'll be the first to tell you math is not my strength. But in the MPA program, I used statistical analysis software to use data to make those causal links and tell the story.”

Anderson encourages students with an interest in giving back and serving others to enroll in UTSA's MPA program, regardless of experience level. As a student with little government exposure under his belt, he came out of the program well-versed in policy, practice, and statistics, and he knows the program and professors provide value to every student that walks through the door.

— Amanda Cerreto