Government's workings, role in society intrigued grad to seek MPA degree

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Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

The workings of government and its role in society fascinated Abdulkadir Abdi enough to pursue a Master of Public Administration degree, and Arizona State University was the place to do it.

Abdi, a native of Somalia, was impressed with ASU’s School of Public Affairs.

“The School of Public Affairs has a big reputation for providing a quality education,” said Abdi, the school’s fall 2021 Outstanding Graduate. “SPA has a good relationship with local governments in Arizona. Many city officials came to our classes and gave presentations about local government. I gained significant knowledge from those officials.”

In addition, several of Abdi’s family members live in the Phoenix area, and ASU offered the most affordable tuition of three schools recommended by a trusted undergraduate political science professor.

The master’s degree curriculum taught Abdi much about the power of local governments in the United States.

“What surprised me was how much responsibility local governments have,” said Abdi, whose U.S. hometown is Buffalo, New York. “Local governments provide all the essential services. I always thought state and federal governments provide all the services that citizens need. Now, I work for a government consulting firm. We help local governments streamline their service delivery. We also consult in economic development and in parks and recreation.”

Abdi could not study at the school library due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, he did so at home, accumulating plenty of time each week: three hours for every credit enrolled.

“I asked my professors how many hours I should study for a class. They said nine hours for each three-credit class each week,” Abdi said. “I worked part-time and studied at least nine hours for each class.”

Abdi’s firm helps local governments in economic development, parks and recreation, software and human resources. Abdi plans to return to Somalia and work to help local governments there.

Read on to learn more about Abdi’s ASU experience:

Question: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

Answer: Cynthia Seelhammer and Zhiyong Lan taught academic and real-life lessons. I had conversations with them after each class. They advised me about career choices in local government. These two professors have vast knowledge in many areas of local government. Their advice changed my perspective toward public and private jobs. There are so many ways that students can add value to their communities. I did not regret coming to Arizona and studying for my MPA at the School of Public Affairs.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I enjoyed every moment I was at school. I met new people and made new friends. I am not the same person that I was two years ago. I know more than I knew yesterday. I would advise every student to sit in the front seat and engage with the professor. Students should always ask questions. There are no stupid questions.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: College tuition is expensive and there are many immigrant students who cannot afford to go to college. They do not want to borrow money and some of them have big student loans. I would pay their debts or pay their tuition. I arrived in the United States alone, and most of my immediate family lives in Somalia. I know how difficult it is to work and go to school. Student loans prevent immigrants from buying new houses or having new families.

The School of Public Affairs is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Mark J. Scarp
mscarp@asu.edu