July 9, 2019

The Balcony vs. the Dance Floor

  A Reflection on the EMPA Experience from Madrienne Salgado, EMPA ’19

On the morning of commencement, I woke up excited and with a sense of satisfaction. I was thrilled to walk across the graduation platform with my 10 month old son in my arms. My husband and I were both so happy that this day had finally come. 

I thought back to the day I made the decision to apply to the EMPA program. I was curious to see if it would fit with my professional development goals and objectives. I called the Evans school to speak to the EMPA staff about my work and to see if I was a good match for the program. After speaking with them, there was not a doubt in my mind that this was the right program for me. They eased my nervousness and encouraged me to apply. So I did! And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

Knowing that it was the right decision for me didn’t make my first day of class any less nerve-wracking though. I was a bit overwhelmed. I thought, “What did I get myself into this time?!” 

If I could go back, I would have reached out to my professor in advance to get a better understanding of his expectations for class. But as I went along during that first week, I got a better concept of what was expected and how I needed to structure my school work.

Finding that structure was tricky. I had a lot to balance as a working professional and student. I’m a manager for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe’s Public and Government Relations Department, and I’m a very family and culturally-oriented person. Finding enough time to balance my responsibilities and the things that were important to me was tough- it is for every working student.

But I had somewhat of a unique experience. I became pregnant with my first child a couple of months into the program. I also became engaged! So on top of my regular work schedule, I had to balance pregnancy (and eventually motherhood and nursing), wedding planning, and school work throughout the entire length of the program. But I loved it! I’ve always said that I’d rather be busy than bored.

And I’ll say: if I can do all of that and thrive throughout school, then anyone should be able to succeed in the Evans School EMPA program. 

Between my then fiancé (now husband), my wonderful cohort buddies, and the EMPA staff, I had an amazing support system. My husband was there to nurture our son while I was reading or writing for hours at a time. I attended several study groups which helped tremendously with analyzing and discussing course content. And when I needed a place to pump, the EMPA staff graciously established a lactation room. These things and many more contributed to my success in the program.

I’ll always remember the support our cohort gave one another and the feeling that we were all in it together. We cheered one another on, offered advice, expertise, and opinions to each other during the program. That sense of community definitely enriched our learning.

So by the time graduation rolled around and I prepared to walk across the platform, I understood the full impact of my time at the Evans School. I had gained a better understanding of our public administration landscape, and tools for approaching my work more holistically.