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MPA-DC Program Celebrates 5 Years

News Type Public Address

MPA-DC graduate Brian Nguyen Le, second from right, legislative director for With Honor Action, poses for a photo at the Special Competitive Studies Project’s Ash Carter Exchange on Innovation and National Security with (from left) Rye Barcott, co-founder and CEO of With Honor Action; Daniel Rogers, legislative assistant; Gen. Mark A. Milley (ret.), 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Tom Seaman, legislative director.

By Joan Slattery Wall

Because of his financial circumstances when he was an undergraduate student, Brian Nguyen Le never had the opportunity to take on an internship in college­ — until he came to The Ohio State University.

“Through the Glenn College’s MPA-DC program, I was forced to make the leap and move to D.C. and secure a job, a risk I dont know if I would have taken otherwise, and the Glenn College was nothing but supportive,” he said.

The Master of Public Administration, Washington, D.C., program, now in its fifth year, gives students the opportunity to blend the first-rate curriculum of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs’ MPA program with real-world internship experience in the nation’s capital.  

“Students spend their first year learning the analytical and managerial skills necessary to succeed in Washington and supplement that knowledge with on-the-job training in their second year,” said Chris Adams, Glenn College director of student services and programs. “The program was designed to serve as a pipeline into federal government service or other leadership positions in Washington.”

As a 2019-2021 MPA-DC student, Le found an internship working for With Honor Action, a cross-partisan organization whose mission is to strengthen democracy by fighting polarization in the U.S. Congress with principled veteran leadership. After graduation, he parlayed that position into a full-time job, now serving as the organization’s deputy legislative director.

“By its nature, public policy work is not usually flashy,” said Le, “but I’ve had the opportunity over the last several years to engage in some of the most exciting work on artificial intelligence and emerging technology as well as hot regions like Afghanistan, Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel.”

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He is most passionate about his work to find solutions for more than 76,000 Afghan allies who were evacuated to the U.S. upon our troops withdrawal in 2021 but who have no viable path to permanent residency.

“They cannot return to Afghanistan, and they cannot bring their families who, in many cases, are being persecuted by the Taliban, to the United States,” Le said. “Part of my work has been to engage Congress on providing the adjustment of status to our Afghan allies, thousands of whom fought alongside our service members.”

Like Le, more than 70% of MPA-DC graduates have remained in Washington, D.C., to pursue federal nonprofit or public service careers, many with the organizations with which they interned while pursuing their degrees.

“Thanks to the support of generous donors, we are able to provide financial assistance to participants of the MPA-DC program,” Adams said. “Since the program’s launch, over 85% of MPA-DC participants have been recipients of scholarships from the Glenn College that help offset a portion of the program's cost. However, to grow the program and ensure equitable access, additional funding is needed.

An ‘existential challenge’ 


Glenn College doctoral graduate Vivian Witkind Davis established a fund to support MPA-DC students dedicated to climate change solutions. 


Sarah Holbert, Glenn College Washington programs manager, received the Charles R. Wise MPA-DC Scholarship, established by Wise, professor emeritus and founding director of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, for students pursuing a career in the federal government. Holbert, who completed her degree in 2021, interned with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, where she discovered how much she enjoys working with different community members to produce beneficial results.

“Now, I work with students, alumni and employers to ensure a robust experience for all MPA-DC program participants. Helping students find what drives them requires innovation, persistence and empathy — all skills the Glenn College instills in its graduates,” Holbert said. “The MPA program gave me the connections, confidence and skills necessary to navigate D.C. and help others find their passion.”

MPA-DC 2022 graduate Irene Lewis presents her capstone project, which examined food security in the United States. (Credit: Majesti Brown)

The Glenn College, Holbert said, particularly benefits from its internship partners across sectors in D.C.

“From nonprofits to federal agencies, our partners allow students to explore different career paths and find where they can make a difference,” Holbert said. “The placements students secure — such as Pathways internships with federal agencies — allow them to be at the center of the action while providing a stable and educational environment.”

This experience creates an intensive living and learning experience for students both inside and outside of the classroom during their year in D.C.

“There are very few MPA programs across the country that offer an internship experience in Washington, so the Glenn College’s MPA-DC program is unique,” Adams said. “This is amplified by the fact that our program allows students to study public policy and management in a state capital during their first year and in our nation’s capital during their second year. The experiences students gain through this program are truly unrivaled.”

Hear about these experiences from two MPA-DC graduates:

Brian Nguyen Le

MPA-DC 2019-2021

Deputy Legislative Director, With Honor Action

While my undergraduate studies in American political theory and international political studies formed a sturdy foundation, I sought out the MPA-DC program at Ohio State to bolster my understanding of the policymaking process at the federal level.

More than the things I learned in the classroom, perhaps what drew me the most to the Glenn College was the strong network of Buckeyes across the country, and particularly of Glenn College alumni in Washington, D.C., at all levels of government and public affairs, that you can rely on as a support system.

It’s such a cliché thing to say, but Washington, D.C., truly is a networking city, and the MPA-DC program helped kickstart my network in a city where I had only known a handful of people. Not every relationship you make will help you land your next job, but on occasion, it is helpful to get insights into the Farm Bill from your roommate who is an agriculture lobbyist or get real-time feedback on primary election results from colleagues who work with election data. For the very motivated people, which most of us are, who move to Washington, D.C., this program is unparalleled in connecting you with future friends and colleagues with whom you will have the opportunity to start and progress your careers.

Gabriel Jackson

MPA-DC 2021-2023

Tribal Relations Specialist, USDA Rural Development (Innovation Center) 

As a youth I decided my dream is to become the mayor of Columbus, Ohio, one day. It was the direct result of seeing disparities within my community and life within inner city Columbus.

I was hired on full time from a Pathways Student Trainee (the Pathways Program provides federal internship and job opportunities for current students and recent graduates) to a tribal relations specialist. I still have career aspirations on the local level, yet I now have a unique opportunity to pursue a long-standing career in the federal government with Career SES (Senior Executive Service, or federal employees who serve in the key positions just below the top presidential appointees) as the end goal.

I was able to get my master’s degree while completing a year of federal service. This worked wonders for my starting GS level and promotional capacity.

I learned about the complexities of “power” in real time. Instructor Mark Gaspar and Professor Charles Wise made sure this was on top of our minds. I am better able to navigate Washington, D.C., by understanding what power I have as an individual, department and agency within the federal government as a whole.

Whether I eventually transition to the local level in Columbus or remain within the federal space in D.C., I will be content with my life since I know I will be connecting people in need to resources throughout my entire career. 

Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.