Hamline News

A Hamline Degree Builds Bridges..and More

JonCurry-Story

In the fall of 2012, Jonathan Curry MPA ’15 had reached a professional crossroads.

He arrived in Minnesota unemployed, he was drifting in terms of his career track, and he was looking for positive change.

Curry knew he wanted a postgraduate degree, and had a good idea of where he wanted to go with his life and career. But coming to Hamline University to obtain a master’s degree in public administration changed those goals — and changed Curry along the way.

“I graduated from Luther College in 2006,” Curry said. “The job market wasn’t great. I had applied for probably 20–30 jobs in the Twin Cities, Madison, everywhere. But the moment I came to Hamline, things started changing.”

The first thing that changed was Curry’s mindset.

“The number one thing is that when I came to Hamline I said I’d get a public administration degree at some level to become a public administrator or a city manager, but really I ended up going the opposite track,” he said. “I thought I would work for the government but it turns out that I am working with the government instead. I build relationships with state agencies to do not only advocacy but education on products and services.”

Curry’s new track led him to several new jobs, but his two most recent positions show how an education grounded in the right principles can help serve a greater good.

One of those jobs was as managing director of the Geosynthetic Materials Association, an advocacy group representing manufacturers and distributors with a special emphasis on using sustainable and earth-friendly materials for construction.

“You have to design for the future,” Curry said. “If you’re designing a road to last 40 years instead of 20 and going through a materials selection process to be sure you’re using materials that are good for the environment.”

Curry leveraged that position into his current job as executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota.

“Now I’m on the structural side, where sustainability is more important,” he said.

“Designing and building structures to be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly is important. The people who meet governmental standards are the engineers, the folks on the front line at the design stage of every project. They make sustainability goals a reality.”

“Look at the ($1.9 billion) bonding bill the state of Minnesota just passed,” he added. “A big chunk of that is horizontal construction [roadways] but also a lot in terms of water treatment, wastewater, government buildings, and they’re all designed to meet these higher standards. The designers of those projects are the people we represent.”

But, Curry still had to learn to talk to those people. That’s where Hamline came in.

“Hamline prepared me for developing and building those professional relationships,” he said. “I engaged with other professionals working in active roles, in the public and private sectors. I got this well-rounded mix of engaging nightly with active professionals. That really helped me not only hone my academic skills, but also my soft skills. I also learned how to defend my positions in debate. Hamline’s program prepared me to do that hands down.”

That helped Curry deal with engineers, who can sometimes be a difficult group to convince on a particular course of action.

“Engineers by nature are risk-averse and are held to a higher standard in their ethics to protect safety, health and welfare of the public,” he said. “If you go into the field or are engaging with a firm, these are the folks that you need to turn to when you want to make good decisions and achieve these goals. Policy folks set those goals, but they are executed by engineers and contractors.”

Curry also had fond memories for some of his Hamline faculty. “One of the most memorable I had was David Schultz,” he said. “You don’t come across people like him very often. Kris Norman-Major and Carol Becker opened up Washington, D.C. for me. They were tremendous. Getting these real-life experiences was the most important part for me. Hamline did that tremendously well.”

To say that Curry then took the ball and ran with it would be an understatement.

“Just being able to write that I was part of a graduate program on my resume opened doors,” he said. “But I’m convinced that it (Hamline) helped me, opened doors that were not open. I was down professionally and didn’t have a job, but Hamline stepped in and empowered me to fix that.”

Learn more about the Hamline Master of Public Administration program.

10/24/2020

Written by Jeff Papas.