MPA graduate begins Peace Corps service in Ukraine

Michelle Heiman

Karisa Erwin, a 2011 graduate of the UMKC Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, will begin her service in Ukraine on March 13.

She said she has always wanted to join the Peace Corps, and applied in September 2010, about halfway through her MPA degree.

When she told her family and friends about her plans, Erwin said no one was surprised.

“A couple of them guessed it before I could spit it out,” she said. “They’re sad that I’ll be gone for a few years, but excited for me too.”

Erwin’s undergraduate degree is in marketing, and she once worked in advertising.

She then made the switch to working with nonprofits.

“I wanted to do something with a bigger impact,” she said.

During her first three months in the Ukraine, she will live with a host family to fully immerse herself in the language and culture. Then, she will be sworn into service and assigned to a specific community, where she will live and work with locals for two years.

During her time at UMKC, Erwin said her favorite part of the MPA program was the hands-on aspect.

“We worked with executive directors from organizations in the community and learned from them real-life financial analysis,” she said.

Dr. David Renz was Erwin’s adviser.

“My emphasis was nonprofit management, which was his specialty,” she said. “I learned so much in his classes.”

Erwin said the Peace Corps chose Ukraine as her destination.

“I didn’t really know much about the Ukraine before,” she said. “Initially, I probably would’ve chosen a warm weather location. But now that I’ve done some research on the people and lifestyles in the Ukraine, it’s probably where I’ll fit in the most and do the best work.”

Erwin isn’t sure what she wants to do after her Peace Corps time is up. She said she definitely wants to stick with public administration – she just doesn’t know if that will be with a nonprofit or with a local or national government agency.

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