Mike Horgen is a great example of how hard work, perseverance, and a solid education can take the dream of public service and put it into action.
He set out to achieve his goal of a career in government through a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Capella University. His hard work was recognized when he was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow. Keeping his passion for public service alive, Horgen is now pursuing his dream in Washington, D.C., where he works full-time in the U.S. Department of Treasury.
He shares the story of his path to success.
Q. What was your first job in public administration?
A. I worked for four and a half years within the Federal Veterans Affairs offices in St. Paul, MN, on veterans’ disability claims. As a disabled veteran myself, I enjoyed helping vets find and use VA benefits.
Q. What prompted you to explore a career in public administration?
A. I have always felt the desire to work toward meaningful outcomes for the greater good of my fellow Americans. I feel that there is too much divisiveness and not enough effort to help make our society and the world a better place to live. My chosen career in government administration is my way of giving back.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue an MPA through Capella?
A. Education has always been highly respected and admired in my family. My father has a PhD and is a retired superintendent of schools and now a professor at Capella. My mother earned her master’s in social work, and my brother has a master’s in psychology. It was natural for me to work hard at learning more to allow me to give back more!
Q. What did you find was most valuable during your MPA program?
A. Student interaction and follow-up discussions with people outside my area (regional viewpoints) were extremely valuable in my learning. It made me think about how others approach solutions to problems. The diversity of the student body is definitely a benefit!
Q. Can you tell us a little about your Presidential Management Fellowship? How did your MPA help in this journey?
A. The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program is a program developed by the federal government as a way to prepare future executives to run and manage government programs. PMF is a 2-year training program and provides robust classroom learning along with mentoring from senior government leaders. The goal is that a PMF will be prepared to enter into a senior leadership role upon completion of his or her training.
The expectation in the program is that you can handle people well and lead them in many different roles within government. One week there is a 2-day program at the White House, the next week we have training at Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and so on. I’ve been present in small groups of invited governmental professionals listening to the Secretary of Defense at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony, senior brass at the Pentagon, CFO at OPM, etc. They all want you to succeed, help the government do well, and make life better for people, which is what my end goal is, too.
A candidate must have a graduate degree at a minimum to apply for the PMF. Capella’s MPA program allowed me to work, raise my kids, and study on nights and weekends so that I could prepare myself to enter the PMF program.
The MPA was a great experience and equipped me with critical thinking methods, quality research tactics, and familiarity with the APA writing style.
Q. What resources do you tap frequently in order to stay updated and relevant in your field?
A. PMF leadership training is continual and set up by different agencies government-wide, so it’s essential to keep up on relevant information that can be used across many government divisions. I frequent GovLoop.com and the Washington, D.C. newspapers for information. I also engage other agencies on similar goals so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time I think of a possible solution to a current problem.
Q. When you think about the future, what do you image your next steps to be? What is your dream?
A. Ideally, I’d like to drive policy and make things happen for the greater good of my country. If this ends up being within the CIA, Treasury, or Department of Veterans Affairs, I’m fine with any of these options as long as I have a meaningful impact.
Q. What advice would you give to people thinking about getting an MPA?
A. I feel that it’s all about taking the first step, saying to yourself, “I really want this.” Then, you realize the only way to get from point A to point B is to develop new ideas and skills you can offer future employers. Today, I feel you need the credibility of a master’s or doctorate to open the doors to senior or management positions within government.
I hope anyone willing to make the effort to become knowledgeable in his or her field and who has a fire in their belly to make things better takes the next step towards a graduate degree at Capella. They’ll be glad they did!
The prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program seeks eligible graduate students every year who want to make a difference through public service. Five Capella students were selected as finalists for the PMF class of 2015 (300 semi-finalists were chosen from a nationwide applicant pool of 17,000). Finalists are hired by federal agencies to solve domestic or international issues in areas including public administration, engineering, and health.
Learn more about Capella’s online MPA programs.