Hamline News

'Do All the Good You Can': Alumni Career Paths Follow University's Guiding Principle


On the first day of her Foundations of Public Administration class, Kristen Norman-Major ’87, associate professor and chair of public administration programs at Hamline University, asks her students to name something they did that day that wasn’t affected by public policy.

Invariably, a student says, “I woke up.”

Norman-Major isn’t fazed. “Do you have an alarm clock that uses electricity?” she asks. “That’s provided by public utilities. Did you sleep on a mattress? It complies with flammability standards. Did your toilet flush? That’s likely connected to a public sewer system and can affect public health.”

Her students soon get the point. We tend not to think about the hundreds of public services (and the policies behind them) that we use every day, all of which are managed by public servants working in the interest of the common good. From public safety to public health, from roads and food safety to education and social services, we rely on the public sector to keep our lives running smoothly and to make our communities great places to live.

For thirty years, Hamline has been a leader in educating the people who implement the policies and administer the services that affect our lives. The university’s Master and Doctorate in Public Administration programs, founded in 1983 and 1996, respectively, boast more than 900 graduates. Ninety-three percent of those alumni still live and work as public servants in the Upper Midwest. Even more public administrators benefit from continuing education and certification programs in Hamline’s Center for Public Administration and Leadership, which opened in 2011.

Hamline’s Master in Public Administration (MPA) program was the first of its kind in Minnesota—other master’s programs at the time were focused on public policy or political science. It was designed for early- to mid-level practitioners to enhance their skills so they could move into leadership positions, says Professor of Law Larry Bakken, a founder of the MPA program.

“We wanted to provide an advanced education that was practice-oriented with a theoretical background for administrators working in local and state government,” Bakken says.

Hamline continues that theory-to-practice approach in public service education, with students learning from faculty members currently working in the public sector or with lengthy experience in the field. Hamline also recognizes the relationship between the public, private, and non-profit sectors, all of which have programs under the School of Business so that students can take advantage of cross-sector learning.

“Part of our mission is the practical application of knowledge and the building of a collaborative learning community,” says Jane McPeak, associate dean of academic affairs. “We know that the lines dividing business, government, and non-profit management are becoming practically non-existent and by providing opportunities to learn across sectors we’re preparing better leaders in each sector.”

Hamline magazine asked a handful of public administrators to reflect on their careers in public service.

Bob Hume ’03, political science
Deputy Chief of Staff for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

Bob Hume has been a go-to guy for Minnesota Democrats needing communications help for nearly a decade, using his talents in political strategy to assist state and local legislators ever since he left Hamline with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

“I didn’t know it while I was at Hamline, but developing a rock solid set of critical thinking skills as opposed to expertise in one particular area has been helpful to me throughout my career,” Hume says.

That career began with a stint as a communications associate on U.S. Senator Tom Daschle’s 2004 re-election campaign. Hume also has directed communications for Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. He was a communications advisor for Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a DFL-endorsed candidate for the Minnesota governor’s seat, and a consultant on Chris Coons’ successful bid for U.S. Senate in Delaware.

Today, Hume is one of three deputy chiefs of staff in Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s communications office. It’s Hume’s job to communicate the governor’s and state department’s messages to the public. Mostly that entails media relations, but underlying the communications work is a great deal of strategic planning and coordination among state agencies.

That’s when his liberal arts education from Hamline comes in handy, he says. “There’s no question that the ability to synthesize diverse data sets into something that makes sense and to communicate in terms that people understand are skills I learned at Hamline and ones I’ve based my entire career on.”

Melanie Ault JD ’87, MPA ’88, CAPA ’96, work completed in DPA
Director of Human Resources, Anoka County, Minnesota

Melanie Ault has a penchant for learning. She enrolled at the Hamline School of Law at the age of 20, and it was there that she was drawn to the idea of working in the public sector. During her third year of law school, she started as a student in the Master in Public Administration program, earning a JD and MPA degree just a year apart.

Minnesota’s revisor of statutes—a state government official responsible for the compiling, editing, and publishing of all laws enacted during each legislative session—visited one of Ault’s law classes, and she was instantly captivated.

The visit motivated her to seek out an internship with the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she helped the chair of the Local and Urban Affairs Committee use the results of constituent surveys to draft public policy.

Ault then worked briefly conducting surveys for a public-policy think tank and trained the members of an association of sixty-six metropolitan municipalities in lobbying before landing a job as the City of Richfield’s administrative aide for airport issues.

When she became the City of Richfield’s human resources manager, she headed back to Hamline for more education, auditing MPA and law classes related to HR issues.

Today, Ault is the human resources director for Anoka County, Minnesota’s fourth largest county. She oversees recruitment and hiring, employee relations, and labor relations for twenty county departments that employ 2,500 people.

“I enjoy exploring different alternatives, coming up with recommendations on how we can best manage our workforce within an affordable means,” Ault says. “I define that as being a good steward of the taxpayers’ money and giving policymakers—our elected officials and department heads—options.”

Richard Stanek MPA ’89
Hennepin County Sheriff

As the chief law enforcement officer for the Upper Midwest’s largest county, Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek seems remarkably at ease, considering his highly stressful job of protecting 1.3 million residents.

“I enjoy dealing with the ever-changing challenges of public safety,” he says. Stanek’s office provides comprehensive public safety services for the county, including responding to 911 calls (about 750,000 of them per year); investigating gangs, narcotics, and violent crimes; running the county jail; serving warrants and civil process, such as foreclosures; and operating a full-service crime lab.

“I have the best job in the world in an honorable profession,” he says.

After earning a degree in criminal justice from the University of Minnesota, Stanek began his career in law enforcement as a police officer on the “dog watch,” or overnight shift, in Minneapolis’s fourth precinct while at the same time earning a master’s degree in public administration at Hamline. He rose through the ranks of the Minneapolis Police Department, eventually becoming commander of criminal investigations. He was elected five times to the Minnesota State Legislature and chaired the House Crime Policy and Finance Committee. He is currently serving his second term as Hennepin County sheriff and holds leadership positions with several national organizations.

While he relies on “faith, family, and friends” to keep him balanced, Stanek says he’s touched when citizens approach him in Target or the grocery store to thank him for his service or to compliment his employees. “It means a lot when I hear that someone was treated with dignity, compassion, and respect,” he says, “or that something I said gave them a new perspective on a particular issue. That makes the stress worth it.”

James Morrow
Senior Judge and Professor of Law, Hamline University School of Law

One thing that comes through clearly in talking with Hamline Law Professor Jim Morrow is his love for the classroom. He has had a long and successful career as a U.S. federal prosecutor and trial judge, but what he’s most passionate about is teaching law students, practicing attorneys, and judges something he’s done for more than thirty years.

Morrow came into a law career by default, he says. Raised by a single mother who was bipolar, he got into trouble as a young man, spending time in jail and becoming addicted to alcohol. Morrow discovered his love of teaching as an Al-Con drug counselor, a job he took after sobering up.

“I believe in second, third, and fourth chances,” he says. He took advantage of the additional chances he was given by eventually graduating magna cum laude from William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul.

He became a trial lawyer, working as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Five years later, he became a judge, a role he takes seriously. “I know my decision is tremendously important to the person on trial,” Morrow says. “I want them to know that I followed procedural fairness—I listened, I heard, I did my homework, and I made a thoughtful decision.”

Morrow has imparted those lessons to students as a faculty member, first at William Mitchell and now at Hamline School of Law, where he teaches courses on evidence and trial advocacy.


—Marla Holt