Karina Cruz ’14 already has a career in public administration – so why pursue a Master of Public Administration degree?
Cruz, who oversees a crew of student drivers and dispatchers as the university’s manager of parking and transportation services, says her graduate courses are giving her higher-level practical skills, including how to develop a budget, manage a diverse workforce, do research to solve organizational problems and change policy.
She loves her job at the university, and she says the M.P.A. is preparing her for upper management. She’s also learning skills that she can use in any nonprofit or government agency.
“It’s as versatile a degree as I need it to be,” she says. 
Cruz chose the justice administration track because she studied criminal justice as an undergraduate. She will take six graduate courses in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies.
“It seemed like a natural fit. I just love learning about our justice system, and a lot of the justice track themes relate to what I do at the university,” she says. 
Her career with Transportation Services came about almost by accident. As an undergrad, she got a job in the transportation hub she now manages. She found that she really enjoyed it, especially training and mentoring other students who followed in her footsteps. Shortly after she graduated, the university hired her full time.
“I love working with my students – hiring them as freshmen or sophomores and watching them grow, learn leadership skills and handle really tough situations,” she says.
Cruz also works closely with UMass Lowell Police officers – their dispatch center is right next to hers – on any safety issues involving students using the shuttles or parking on campus.
Many of her fellow M.P.A. students also work in public safety or in veterans’ services. She says their experiences contribute to interesting discussions in small classes. She also raves about the professors she’s had so far, who have considerable real-world experience and expertise.
“Listening to police officers talk about what they go through every day, people who work for the Veterans Administration, veterans and firefighters – that’s the coolest thing about the program,” she says.
“And professors Aaron Smith-Walter and Joshua Dyck have set the bar really high for the rest of my professors.”