Neubauer Civic Scholars: Putting an MBA to Work in Public Service

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People sometimes ask why, as someone working in government, I’m pursuing an MBA—at Booth. When they do, I generally offer three responses.

For one, government agencies are large and complex organizations whose product is generally a service and which need people in order to operate effectively. This could describe thousands of private-sector firms. Each sector is subject to some unique restraints, but both require leadership, decision-making, operational functioning, and any number of other basic aspects to succeed. Booth’s focus on these fundamentals means there is significant crossover.

Second, many public entities achieve goals (e.g. delivering a service) through the private sector under contract. The two often don’t speak the same language, even with many core functions in common. Immersion among those in business, and learning new frameworks from a business perspective, equips those in government to bridge that gap.

Third, the Chicago Approach—focused in rigorous inquiry leading to new insights that ultimately deliver impact—describes work in the public sector as much as in the private sector. The definition of impact may differ a bit, but the search for new approaches, guided by data, that lead to discoveries that make change for the better, is a necessity for both. The culture is embedded at Booth.

The Civic Scholars Program provides a unique environment of peers and experts to reinforce this thinking as it moves into practice, and to benefit from those who have encountered similar challenges in the past and solved them. The program has already been a rich resource for me as I work to apply business-rooted frameworks in the public sector.