Student Profile

  • Theresa Finney Dumais

    Theresa Finney Dumais

    There’s probably nothing SCS administrators would rather hear from a job-seeking graduate than “Exactly what I’ve been wanting to do. Success!”

    And that’s what the Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program heard from 2011 graduate Theresa Finney Dumais.

    In September Finney Dumais started working as a policy analyst with the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities in Washington, DC. CLPHA represents the country’s most urban public housing authorities through advocacy, research, policy analysis, and public education. Finney Dumais is doing advocacy work on Capitol Hill, conducting housing research, writing policy briefs, tracking legislation and appropriations, working with coalition groups, commenting on regulations, and helping with congressional testimony.

    In other words, she says, her perfect job: “It’s exactly what I’ve been working toward. I get to advocate for programs that help the lowest-income people in the country secure safe, decent, and affordable housing.”

    And her Northwestern MPPA degree, she adds, “gave me the platform to compete for it.”

    Finney Dumais, who has an art history bachelor’s degree, “was found” by the nonprofit field when she went to work for Habitat for Humanity in Michigan. After three years there she decided she needed a master’s degree because she wanted to move from implementation of affordable housing locally to advocacy and policy work nationally.

    She looked at different public policy programs and chose Northwestern’s because of its “real-world applicability and flexibility.” She could do the degree online and continue working full-time at Habitat, and the MPPA research requirements could be honed to her interests in affordable housing and community development.

    Finney Dumais believes she couldn’t have made the career switch without the MPPA degree, but she didn’t rely on it alone to open doors. She had a plan with a goal, and she “networked like crazy.” Knowing that she wanted to work on national-level policy, she moved to Washington, the center of action, two days after her June graduation. She took a policy and advocacy internship with the National Low Income Housing Coalition over the summer. There she was “able to get the lay of the land of all the national affordable housing advocacy and policy organizations, to network, and to begin to make a name for myself.”

    Her efforts paid off in three job offers for policy analyst positions. She chose CLPHA’s because its issues are those she is most passionate about.

    Having taken a risk with both her own career and her husband’s by relocating, Finney Dumais feels fortunate about their current lives. Her husband, Steve Dumais, found a job as a software developer. “We took a calculated risk moving to DC; some of our friends and family were worried, given the national job market,” she says. “But our decision paid off. We both love our new jobs and are thoroughly enjoying our new city.”