Featured Alumni

Jen Muzia spent many successful years working in high tech, but after 9/11 she reconsidered her career path.

“I wanted to do more,” she recalled. “I thought, I should do more.”

Jen did more than think about a change, though; she resigned her marketing position and applied to the Evans School.

“I wanted to pay my dues, not skip any steps,” she said. “I really wanted to learn about nonprofit management.”

She did so by focusing on program development, budgeting, and grant-writing courses during her time at the Evans School. After graduating with her MPA, Jen joined the Girl Scouts of Western Washington as a development associate. She later progressed to Chief Strategy Officer.   

“Our big task was figuring out an answer to the questions, ‘How do we resonate with the girls of today? How do we recruit volunteers?’” she recounted. “What I learned from our many attempts was this lesson: Be willing to take risks.”

In an attempt to determine what the girls who participated needed, Jen and her team convened a State of the Girl Summit, bringing together stakeholders such as business people, elected officials, and policy experts. The group realized they needed more information and conducted a research study aimed at informing what type of support all girls need to be successful. Only then did Jen realize she had reached a point in her career where the next step was running an organization. She had volunteered at the U-District Food Bank on the recommendation of a fellow Evans School student, and learned about food security (and its flip side, food insecurity). That knowledge led her to the Ballard Food Bank, where she serves as the executive director.

“It’s a well-run operation that uses a unique ‘grocery-store’ model,” Jen explained. “But we wanted to grow, to become a hub of resources for the community.”

Doing so required strategic planning, involving the numerous stakeholders (think clients, places of worship, housing groups), that took three to four months. The process began in 2015 and is only the start of a three-year plan for the food bank. However, changes have already been implemented, including ways to strengthen clients’ access to nutritious foods and to community resources and partners. The food bank also partners with WorkSource for employment assistance; Veterans Affairs for the many homeless and hungry military vets; and WithinReach, a nonprofit that provides access to food- and health-assistance programs.

Juggling the numerous agencies, regulations, and overlapping nonprofits takes skill. Fortunately, Jen’s time at the Evans School prepared her well.

“I see an MPA degree as a tool that provides the foundational skills to operate in the world of social capital,” Jen concluded. “We’re in the business of running public services.”


More Alumni Stories:

  • Jeanne Bourgault (MPA '90): Jeanne is CEO of Internews, an American nonprofit working to empower local media worldwide to give people news and information.

  • Jingjing Chen (MPA ’13): International student, Jingjing, discusses her decision to retire from elite athletic competition and pursue an MPA at Evans School.

  • David Cook (MPA ’12): David discusses his decision to return to the Evans School's MPA program as a midcareer student.

  • Dani Fumia (Ph.D. ’13): Doctoral student Dani Fumia explains why she chose the Evans School to study social inequality issues related to income in educational attainment across different minority groups.

  • Efrain Gutierrez (MPA ’10): Efrain grew up in Capilla de Guadalupe Jalisco, Mexico. Exposed to the struggles of poverty at an early age, he wanted a career in which he could be a catalyst for social change and came to the Evans School to turn these aspirations into reality.

  • Jon Hickey (MPA ’08): Jon, freelance videographer and web designer, shares his thoughts on the value of an MPA and the future of digital media in public policy.

  • Shayna Higa (MPA ’08): Shayna Higa, a recipient of the Governor Gary Locke Endowed Fellowship during her studies at the Evans School, shares her thoughts about her Evans School education and its application to her state legislative work.

  • Brian Hoxie (MPA ’09): Brian chose to pursue an MPA at the Evans School to learn how to solve public policy problems. Forging his own path, he created an individualized specialization in national security.

  • Rachael Katz (MPA ’11): Rachel talks about her time at as an Evans School student studying environmental policy and as a research assistant for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship program.

  • Alicia Kinne (MPA ’09): Alicia reports on finding sustainable funding for higher education through her MPA degree project.

  • Mark Mullet (EMPA ’08): Washington State Senator Mark Mullet shares his advice to prospective Executive MPA students.

  • Nicholas T. Muy (MPA ’12): Nicholas, a recipient of the Governor Gary Locke Endowed Fellowship during his studies at the Evans School, accepted a position as an associate with Strategic Operational Solutions, Inc.

  • Abel Pacheco (MPA ’12); Abel discusses how his Evans School courses have prepared him for his career as a communications and program specialist with the Seattle Police Foundation.

  • Chris Rule (MPA ’12): Chris describes how his degree from Evans School has shaped his career in local government as an associate planner for Sound Transit.

  • Chris Runyan (MPA '03): Chris Runyan, director for African Affairs on the National Security Council staff, discusses how his MPA prepared him for his career in international development.

  • Bett Schlemmer (EMPA ’07): Bett Schlemmer, Executive MPA alumna, talks about her time in the program and how it has helped her move forward in her career.

  • Preston Thompson (EMPA ’08): Preston Thompson, Executive MPA graduate and retired director of The Boeing Company, discusses his Evans School experience.

  • Mario Trevino (EMPA ’07): Mario Trevino, City of Bellevue fire chief (retired), discusses the value of an Executive MPA.

  • Anna (Annie) Von Essen (MPA ’09): Anna discusses how receiving funding through the Nancy Bell Evans Fellowship opened connections for her current work.

If you know of someone in the Evans School community who has a great story, suggest a profile.