MPA Alumni Spotlight – Amber Smith

Amber Smith, founder and executive director of Activate Good, graduated from the MPA program in 2012

Amber Smith graduated from NC State’s MPA program in 2012. She is the founder and executive director of Activate Good, a nonprofit that connects people to local volunteer opportunities. See our full interview with Amber below to see how her MPA degree has influenced her career!

What is your current position? What do you enjoy most about your current position? What do you find most challenging?

I am the Executive Director of Activate Good. There are many things I love about my job, but one of them is that every day is different. I get to build my skills and take on new challenges, experience different activities, use my creativity, and support a number of causes. What I find most challenging is determining how to maximize the use of my time to be most effective for our organization. We are a small team and all of us wear many hats.

What is a typical work day like for you? 

There is no such thing as a typical work day at Activate Good! We support and help promote the volunteer needs of over 400 causes, and as a result, we are constantly involved in a variety of service activities and projects all over the Triangle. One day I might be speaking to a college group about volunteerism, the next day I might be leading a team of CEOs to make-over a school.

How did the MPA program at NC State prepare you for your current position?

The MPA program at NC State gave me the practical tools I needed to do my work skillfully, from program development which enables us to design effective programs and projects to serve our community to accounting, which ensures we can keep our finances organized and stay accountable to the public.

Did you complete any hands-on experiences while in the program?

I worked as a graduate assistant with the Institute for Nonprofits at NC State, supporting undergraduate students, social media and marketing, and more. 

What was your favorite part of the MPA program?

The teachers were effective, relatable, and funny!

What do you find to be the most interesting, or challenging, part of Public Administration?

The most interesting part was seeing how governance and leadership connects to the everyday lives of human beings. Studies, numbers, or policies on paper break down to stories of people trying to get by, people trying to improve their communities, and more.

What advice do you have for students considering a career in Public Administration?

Always keep your ‘why’ in mind. Focus on the vision of how your work will help others.

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