Rachel Gentry was a successful civil engineer at the Tennessee Department of Transportation when she came to a fork in the road, career-wise, like many engineers.
Would she pursue a master’s in engineering or one that prepared her for a leadership-management role?
With a passion for public service and a desire to make a positive impact on society, Gentry chose the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She wanted to capitalize on her strengths in coordination, collaboration and managing teams of people and projects.
The MPA program at UTC—designed for working professionals like Gentry—was the perfect fit. She could continue working full-time while earning her degree and was able to tailor her coursework and academic projects to her work at TDOT in real time.
“I was able to use my assignments in my day-to-day work, which made the program feel integrated and seamless,” she said. I chose to get my MPA rather than my MBA because I do work in public service. I work in state government and plan to stay in state government.”
Dr. Christopher Horne, the MPA program coordinator at UTC, was “fantastic” and provided Gentry with valuable guidance and support along the way. She said she learned the most in Horne’s program planning and evaluation class, which helped her understand how to make data-driven decisions and evaluate public policy initiatives.
As part of her capstone project just before completing her master’s program in 2021, Gentry wrote a comprehensive guide—including scope, schedule and budget—for a particular development process in transition at TDOT. She said she learned a lot about her own organization while writing the guide, which presented an opportunity to apply her newfound knowledge and skills.
The MPA program also provided Gentry with the opportunity to take electives in engineering management at the College of Computer Science and Engineering at UTC, broadening her skills and deepening her understanding of the intersection between engineering and public administration.
“I chose public service because there’s just something really exciting about working directly for the people.”
Click here for more details about the Master of Public Administration degree at UTC and how to apply.