Master of Social Work Graduate Pursues Master of Public Administration to Maximize Public Service
We all are on a path, so to speak, to find our passion and purpose in life. Something truly magical occurs when one decision creates a spark and causes a chain of reactions, greatly impacting so many lives.
In this case, Sheria Howard, a nontraditional student, wife and mother, chose to come to the KU Edwards Campus with the goal of earning a degree that would allow her to pursue her passion of serving others and extend a helping hand to communities in need. Howard achieved this goal and graduated in May 2018 with a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.).
“My M.S.W. opened the door to so many opportunities and relationships that I would not have otherwise had,” Howard said. “I came into the program with big ideas, and the social work staff really helped me put those ideas in motion. My practicum experiences and assignments were tailored to me as a professional, not just as a student, which ultimately led me to my current employer.”
She chose the Edwards Campus because it was closer to home, had high-quality KU courses and instructors, and offered a small campus feel. The program also boasts national prestige. Each year, U.S. News & World Report ranks KU's M.S.W. program among the nation's top 20 at public universities.
“The KU Edwards Campus allows working parents and busy professionals, who are committed to continuing education and professional development, the ability to get a top-notch education,” Howard said.
Little did she know her decision to pursue an M.S.W. would ultimately turn into pursuing another highly ranked graduate program at the Edwards Campus. Combining her learnings from M.S.W. classes with her first-hand experience serving as a strengths-based case manager for many years, Howard kept noticing the biggest barrier keeping social workers from achieving their desired outcomes was funding.
“Through my role as a case manager, I learned that everything revolves around policy and red tape. I started to follow events that took place in the community and how they related to policy,” she said. “I remember a lightbulb coming on for me in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown when Attorney General Holder opened an investigation into the City of Ferguson highlighting corrupt policies that led to poverty in the city. From this time on, I never looked back; I was hooked. I then decided that social work and public administration were a perfect match.”
Howard is currently pursuing her second master’s degree at the Edwards Campus – a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.). What keeps her going is seeing how government actions can affect social change, from funding decisions to the structure of services.
“The combination of an M.S.W. with an M.P.A. really complement each other in one’s ability to deliver services, design new services and present to your policy-making body a pathway that will sustain current and/or new programing and services,” said Gordon Criswell, assistant county administrator for Wyandotte County. “With the right opportunity and experience coupled with learning about the community in which one serves, I believe that Ms. Howard is well positioned to chart her pathway into an executive leadership position in any public organization.”
Howard dreams of eventually becoming a local government manager where she can impact policy and funding affecting populations in poverty and minority groups, and help guide the formation of equaling the playing field across program structures, specifically, in government.
“I’m a policy wonk, and I am proud to be from the “Show Me” state,” Howard said. “Show me why, how and/or why not. I believe in equality in social services and in policy. I think policymakers should encompass fairness, equity and understanding.”
What drives this go-getting graduate student (times two) looking to change the world through offering a helping hand? Her motivation for her graduate aspirations remains close to home - her family. Her husband, children and family are her support system and biggest cheerleaders.
“I think anything, especially education, is possible with determination and support from family and the chosen school,” she said. “The support of helping hands makes everything easier and the load lighter making any and all possibilities limitless.”