When a car wreck derailed Erin Monahan’s college and career plans, she learned a valuable lesson: Prepare yourself broadly for the future.
That’s a main reason she is pursuing a Master of Public Administration, in the public humanities and the arts track. “It can be used in so many ways,” she says. “It doesn’t lock you in.”
Monahan took the trades route through high school and worked in several positions in the automotive industry before deciding to pursue an academic interest in child psychology. She left that program to recover from the accident, then worked in other fields, including a job with a nonprofit organization. “All rewarding experiences,” she says, while noting that she liked the nonprofit world best.
When she was laid off by the nonprofit in 2013, Monahan set about earning an associate’s degree in fine arts from Middlesex Community College, then a bachelor of liberal arts from UMass Lowell, where she graduated with honors in 2017. Next step: a master’s degree.
Like others who have enrolled in the public humanities and arts track of the MPA program, first offered in fall 2016, she finds value in the core courses that teach the fundamentals of nonprofit management, while also learning principles applicable to a wide range of arts and humanities-based organizations.
Also, “I get to get my geek on!” she jokes, adding that she loves research papers. “The program is helping me synthesize what I’ve learned through my nonacademic and academic experiences.”
She expects her master’s degree to prepare her well for either a leadership position in a nonprofit or for a Ph.D. program.
Monahan is getting professional experience as an archivist through an internship at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods, where she started under a fellowship through her undergraduate program. The Institute’s mission is, in part, to promote author Henry David Thoreau’s contemplative approach to life.
“It helps me reconnect with deeper meanings,” says Monahan – which could also be a way to characterize what the MPA program is providing her.