OCTOBER 30, 2020 — UTSA is preparing the next generation of leaders tackling society’s grand challenges. This is the case of Branden Dross ’16, M.P.A. ’18, an alumnus of the newly founded College for Health, Community and Policy.
Before attending UTSA, Dross was working in food and beverage management. He was enjoying a steady career with good pay but said he felt something was missing.
“I knew I wasn’t going to change the world in this career,” Dross said. So he looked for a career path where he could do just that and found his home with the Department of Public Administration.
Despite coming in as a student with established work experience, he fit right in with his fellow students, faculty and staff and earned his bachelor’s degree in public administration in 2016. Upon graduation, Dross realized the vital role of community involvement and joined community boards, including the San Antonino ISD Blue Ribbon task force.
“The classes I took at the undergraduate level really set me up for success,” Dross said. “The program helped me understand city management and urban development. The graduate program helped me understand policy and theory in a way I had never thought about in local government.”
Dross, who earned his M.P.A. in 2018 from UTSA, encourages all public administration students to take full advantage of all the opportunities the university provides to network, even in the current climate of the pandemic.
“Get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Be a communicator and take risks. That’s how I got to this position [of city manager], and I am indebted to UTSA for the foundation I received.”
He credits his professors for pushing him to work to his full potential, particularly Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration.
“He tore up my thesis pretty good and said I could do better,” Dross said. “So I did.”
“Branden has long had a deep commitment to public service,” said Sanders. “The public administration faculty sought to develop both his skills and his capacity for self-reflection and analysis, pressing him to fully realize the potential we saw in him.”
Recently, Dross accepted a position as city manager in Herington, Kansas.
“I never had plans to leave San Antonio,” Dross said, noting that his wife still lives in the Alamo City as a member of the San Antonio Police Department. “But I fell in love with the city [Herington], and I had to take a chance.”
Dross is currently splitting his time between Herington and San Antonio in order to spend time with his wife and son. Although it’s not the ideal situation, he said his family has been supportive and they all agreed it was a step they must take.
As city manager, Dross oversees a budget of $8.5 million and eight departments. There is more to the job—and to city management—than many realize.
“People don’t always realize,” Dross said, “how much we rely on local government for things like the clean air we breathe, the streetlights, the streets we walk on—everything.”