Being a Master in Public Administration (MPA) may not sound glamorous, but many of today’s high-profile public figures are just that.  Whether they’re politicians, policy-makers, or just interested in public service, these five people have used an MPA degree to invigorate their careers and expand their personal potential.

1. Ban Ki-moon

Ban ki Moon

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Shiro524

Ban Ki-moon began his South Korean diplomatic career after university. After some time in D.C., he pursued his MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In 2007, Mr. Ban was elected Secretary-General of the UN, and was unanimously re-elected in 2011. Secretary Ban has used his public policy education to guide him on difficult issues like Darfur, global warming, peace in the Middle East, and LGBT rights. As Secretary-General, he has been praised for his firm, yet understated approach and his ability to deftly analyze political situations – something his teachers at Harvard noticed as early as the 80’s!

2. Ashley Judd


Ashley Judd

The daughter of Naomi Judd, Ashley Judd came into the world with a showbiz pedigree, and is best known for her acting career. However, after belatedly receiving her Bachelor’s in French from the University of Kentucky, Judd chose to enter Harvard’s Mid-Career-MPA program (though another viable alternative for busy professionals is to pursue an MPA online). She used her degree to become a global ambassador for YouthAIDS. Her travels further inspired her to promote awareness of global poverty, women’s issues, and animal rights.

3. Felipe Calderón

Felipe Calderon

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Scanyaro

Before he ever set foot into politics, Felipe Calderón had received his MPA from Harvard. Coming from a family of politicians, Calderón joined the PAN (a large Mexican political party that his father founded). He served under Vicente Fox and followed him as President. His most popular policies implemented universal healthcare and a price cap on tortillas to insulate Mexico’s poorest citizens from rising global corn prices. An intelligent politician, President Calderón enjoyed high approval ratings throughout his term of office.

4. Ray Kelly

Ray Kelly

Image via Wikimedia Commons by David Shankbone

Ray Kelly, the longest serving Commissioner of the NYPD, received his Mid-Career-MPA in 1984 after already serving in the NYPD for more than 20 years. When tapped as Police Commissioner, Kelly participated in outreach programs aimed at minority residents and advocated for strong community policing (partially credited for NYC’s decreased murder rate in the mid-90s). His second term as Commissioner saw Kelly push counter-terrorism initiatives, and spotlighted him as potential Secretary of Homeland Security.

5. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Image via Wikimedia Commons by Martin H.

In 2005, Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first elected female head-of-state in Africa. In the 60’s, she pursued an American education, and received her MPA from Harvard. Sirleaf has worked with the U.N., OSIWA, and as a visiting Professor in Ghana. Her presidential policies prioritized Liberian education, freedom of information, and debt reduction. In 2011, she was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize due to efforts to include African women in peace-making processes.

An MPA on its own won’t grant you an amazingly successful life; these five exceptional individuals made public administration an uplifting career through their hard work. Should you choose to pursue an MPA online or in the classroom, know that the path ahead of you was paved by unique and dedicated public figures – people who have truly made a difference in our world.


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