March 22, 2019

Student Spotlight – John Payne, Online MPA Student

John Payne

John Payne has dedicated his life to serving his country. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after he graduated high school in 1998, and retired after 20 years of service. Today, he works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., as a program analyst.

“Becoming an employee of the department gave me the opportunity to assist my fellow veterans that were exiting the military,” whether for retirement or to move into civilian careers, says Payne. “It gives me an opportunity to continue to serve the veterans.”

Seeking to further advance his career in federal service, Payne began looking into graduate programs that would help him reach that goal. A fellow veteran who was enrolled in the University of Miami’s online Masters in Public Administration program suggested he check it out. After some research, Payne was sold.

The “great reputation” of the U itself influenced his decision to enroll in the MPA program, says the Orlando native. Payne shares that he has always been a Miami fan, particularly during the football team’s heyday in the ’80s. The father of three also was attracted to the flexibility of the UOnline program, which would allow him to earn a University of Miami degree from D.C. “And also, the MPA program is a direct fit and in line for career progression within my career field as a civil servant.”

Payne attended the in-person student orientation in Miami prior to the start of classes. Not only did he enjoy the warm weather and meeting his professors, he had an opportunity to meet his fellow students. “That was the greatest part, to see other students who were also in the graduate program and to build those connections and camaraderie with people who have the same goals and aspirations for their future,” says Payne. “That was a great start to the program. It made me feel like I was a part of the student body and the University.”

So far, Payne has found the MPA coursework relevant and applicable. “Every course that I’ve taken has added actual value to my day-to-day work,” he says, adding that he often goes back and uses the course materials to help him at work. “It’s provided me with a lot of insights on how to understand and deal with a lot of the red tape and bureaucracy that exists within my environment.”

While he is hard-pressed to choose a favorite course, Payne says he particularly enjoyed Special Topics in Public Administration Dealing with Non-Government Organizations (POL 696?) with Dr. Kimberly Moloney, and From Electronic Government to Digital Governance (POL 658) with Dr. Michael Milakovitch. Payne praises the accessibility of his professors, whom he calls “outstanding,” as well as their flexibility and willingness to help their students succeed.

This is clear from an anecdote he shares about Dr. Milakovitch, whom Payne calls “Dr. Mike.” “I suffered a death in the family, and during that time Dr. Mike was instrumental in helping me get through that part of my life and ensuring that I completed the material. He would send me encouraging emails and phone calls” that helped motivate Payne to finish the course.

Payne also appreciates the University’s commitment to active-duty military and veterans. There is a dedicated staff to assist these students with financial aid, scholarships, and military educational benefits, such as the Yellow Ribbon Program, Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

To any fellow veterans considering furthering their education and careers with a graduate degree from the University of Miami, Payne says “Expect rigor.” He tells other civil servants considering the MPA that UOnline’s program is “second to none.” “It’s a great institution for veterans to pursue their educational goals and dreams.”

To find out more about the MPA program at the University of Miami, call an enrollment advisor toll-free at 800-411-2290 or visit the site for more information.