Jason Keller is passionate about the importance of building strong communities. That passion prompted him to major in sociology as an undergraduate and then pursue a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) degree at Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies. He now holds the position of economic development director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. For Keller, the key to building vibrant communities is helping local organizations, government agencies, financial institutions and other community-development practitioners develop a greater awareness of the benefit of strong community investment.
Keller credits the online master’s degree he earned from Northwestern in giving him a competitive edge in securing his current position. It helped him learn what makes for good public policy and administration and has enabled him to focus more effectively on results-driven, flexible community development programming that ultimately benefits us all.
“The ability to think about government’s action or inaction in addressing societal problems has given me a better understanding of how issues reach — and fall from — government agendas,” he says. “Before enrolling in the MPPA program, I hadn’t fully comprehended how dynamic the public policy–making process truly is. You aim for the greatest good for the least cost, and that’s a complex endeavor.”
While enrolled in the program, Keller also polished his strategic thinking and writing skills through what he describes as “the right mix” of readings, research, case studies and group projects. He was pleased to find that courses like The Legislative Process and Elements of Public Finance consistently linked theoretical ideas to current real-world events. A diverse, experienced faculty and student body also contributed to his experience.
“I researched other distance learning programs but was drawn to Northwestern because it attracted accomplished policy professionals from across the country,” he says. “They brought experience not only from many years of teaching the policy-making process, but from living through it. I also learned from students from all over the world who had worked in a wide array of public and private fields at the national, state and local levels”.
Keller’s favorite course was Foundations of Leadership. What he learned nicely complemented his experience and passion.
“I now have a better idea of who I am, where I have been and where I want to go,” he says. “I feel better positioned to pursue advancement in my organization, but I’m now more marketable as a public policy practitioner as well.”