Communities become great places to live when people care about them and nurture their growth.
That was one of the lessons that Seth Kauffman*, a Capella University master’s student, learned a decade ago while working for a civil engineering firm in South Dakota. The firm designed new subdivisions, and Kauffman used software to generate land development maps. “I began to understand the complexities of local government,” Kauffman says. “I saw what you could do with a parcel of property. From there, I began to think about community development. What if that parcel was the entire region? What could you do with it? What would you do with it?”
Right Place, Right Time
His interest in planning and community development moved him to seek out internships at government agencies and—eventually—to pursue a Master of Public Administration at Capella.
“I always thought that online learning was best for me, and I liked that Capella allowed me to focus. I could be in class for 10 weeks and then move on to the next subject,” Kauffman says. “When I had to juggle multiple classes as an undergrad, I always felt a little unfocused.”
Shortly after starting on his MPA, Kauffman landed an internship with the City of St. Cloud in central Minnesota. A series of promotions led to a part-time and then full-time job. That’s when good fortune struck: “I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Kauffman says. “The city clerk of 30 some years retired and they promoted me to that position.”
A Job with Public Service Impact
The job of city clerk varies by municipality. Kauffman’s duties include managing an office of three people that oversees licensing (everything from liquor sales to dart boards), handles insurance claims, and administers elections. “It’s quite a process to get all 28 different precincts on the same page come election day,” says Kauffman, who assumed the duties of clerk in spring 2017.
Ultimately, Kauffman hopes to work as a city administrator, a role that can have a great impact on a community. He cites the success of a previous administrator who initiated discussion on the benefits of building an aquatics center in St. Cloud. Today, the completed facility is a jewel in the city’s infrastructure crown.
Education Mirrors Experience
Kauffman won’t finish his degree until next year, but he says the education has already come in handy. Recently, he found himself in a discussion about strategic planning that mirrored some of the coursework he’d done just days before. “It was interesting to be able to use ideas from the course in the actual process,” he says.
Being able to apply his education to his daily work has energized Kauffman. He says he’s eager to see how he can advance both his career and his community in the years ahead. “I really enjoy the idea of public service and creating something that lasts and that people enjoy,” he says.
Learn more about Capella’s online Master of Public Administration program.
* Actual Capella learner who agreed to appear in promotional materials for Capella.