Transcending Silos: What Your MPPA Degree Can Do For You

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

 – Sean Veal, MPPA 2013

Earning a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree can be a dynamic credential to advancing one’s career in both the public and private sectors. It is common place for a sizable number of MPPA graduates to continue in or embark on public service careers with municipalities. Such positions may range from a role in the City Manager’s office, City Planning Department, Public Works, Transportation, Human Resources, and Fire and Safety. These job functions implement administrative prerogatives and public policies for helping operate our cities, schools, and infrastructure for the common good of our communities. However, the “public” or “civil servant’ connotation of a MPPA degree is by no means the only avenue a recipient of the degree can pursue. The dynamism of the tools gained in a public policy program provides transferable skills and knowledge that are applicable to private sector jobs as well.

As a graduate student in the MPPA program, I discovered my passion for housing policy and have dedicated my career to improving housing for our marginalized communities through learning the mechanisms that will address and alleviate the pressures of the housing crisis. Moreover, during the MPPA program I gained a repertoire of skills that have served me well to support my passion for housing policy through various public and private sector experiences as a housing researcher, city planner, affordable housing developer, and investment banker. These routes are all unique, yet facets of each role share the common thread of addressing housing, which is the fabric of our urban landscape.

In the MPPA program I learned the history, foundation, and theory of public administration and policy. Additionally, I gained skills in critical thinking, leadership, presenting, and teamwork. In concert with learning practical career skills, I was introduced to urban planning and housing policy topics that have morphed into my expertise and passion. The program gave me a sense of the duty, responsibilities, expectations, and challenges of working in the public sector. It goes without saying that all these attributes have been vital to my work in the private sector.

As private companies often form partnerships with public entities to achieve goals such as building affordable housing, knowledge of the public sphere is invaluable. For example, a public-private partnership that creates and preserves affordable housing is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program which encourages private investors to work with developers and localities in financing affordable housing developments. In exchange for financing a portion of a development these private investors receive tax break incentives. In an effort to contribute to public-private financing, the MPPA program equipped me with an understanding of how localities operate, while simultaneously imparting the principles of thinking critically and understanding an array of perspectives involved in a finance transaction. The program also emboldened me with leadership fundamentals to work with diverse stakeholders to accomplish the financing of affordable housing.

While I used my MPPA training for traditional public servant roles, I also was able to leverage that same training to buttress my path in private sector financing. We can use our MPPA skills to transcend silos in the public or private realms for the betterment our communities.

MPPA In Action Interview: Public Service Entrepreneurship


Leo Casiple

A highly accomplished alumni, Leo continues to give back through his talents and unique experiences to several organizations, rigorous competitions, and his alma mater CLU. 

1. What motivated you to start Public Value, LLC?

I have always been fascinated by the functions that connect government, business, and the community. 

I grew up under martial law. When I became a Green Beret, I worked in many countries to help stabilize internal security. I offered national level military solutions, but they were not enough. Citizens needed financial, social, and other social safety nets beyond the scope and capabilities of Special Forces Advisors. 

I was fortunate that, when I earned an MBA in Global Management, I began to understand the underlying factors and methodologies that fuel and influence global economic momentum. When I earned a Master of Competitive Intelligence™️, I learned how to uncover blind spots by looking between the lines of annual financial statements, shaded intent based on organizational structure and commitments, and indicators not found in mission statements. 

But, I was still clueless about the public domain and about how policy is negotiated, created, and implemented. After I completed CLU’s MPPA program, I became more confident that with public policy knowledge, training, and passion for innovation I will help solve – in a holistic manner – the world’s most pressing economic, diplomatic, defense, and social challenges.

As it stands today, my company can touch just about every need within a community. I am excited that in my doctoral program, I will focus on solving global water issues. Water touches every community and industry. Public Value LLC will become central to global policies regarding the conservation, distribution, and availability of water. 

2. What is the mission/ vision of your company?

MIssion: We honor those who improve the world by delivering civic solutions where development, diplomacy, defense, and community converge.

Vision: A global organization that helps communities discover its value from within.

3. How do you see yourself contributing to solving some of the problems around us?

I am fortunate to have worked all over the world. Throughout the years, I realized that to solve problems, I have to resonate at the individual, human level by doing the following: 1) Listen and hear what communities explicitly and implicitly communicate; 2) Maintain my strengths so that I can help partners find theirs; and 3) Respect the processes and values of others, just as I would want them to respect mine. Everything else is commentary.

4. What unique perspectives has being a veteran given you?

This is a very good question. First, I want to make it clear I am a first-generation American who joined the Army out of economic necessity, and not out of patriotism. I was too young and self-centered to know what protecting others meant. Second, I lacked self-esteem throughout my life, but through challenges designed to test the individual, the Army taught me to believe in myself. Third, the military instilled discipline, leadership, and honor – traits that display vulnerability and courage, humility and respect, and a reverence for humanity.

Grassroots View. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in many parts of the country and the world. Nothing replaces meeting communities where they are at, resonating with their energy, and listening to their hopes and dreams. 

Decision-Making. The military trained me to plan carefully, assess attentively, and to make decisions prudently.  Some decisions are difficult. The Army taught me to make ethical decisions, even if those decisions are against the prevailing popular opinion.

Agility. My military leaders taught me that plans are tested often by antagonists and supporters. Being agile, not in a physical sense but in the intellectual realm, is a key element to creating sustainable solutions. Agility equates to stillness during chaos, elegance during turbulence, and strength during catastrophe.

Q&A with Mike Ramirez: Assistant City Manager, City of Carpinteria

mike ramirez

1. You recently became the Assistant City Manager for the City of Carpinteria– Congratulations! What was your journey like to get to this public service position?

I’ve worked in local government for 22+ years, not including 4 years of volunteer service. I started my career in recreation and most recently served as Recreation Supervisor for the City of Moorpark. Although I worked in recreation, I always looked for ways to add to my toolbox, taking on stretch assignments, attending trainings, and investing in myself through books, online resources, and time with mentors. When I decided I wanted to transition to city management, I took bigger steps, including participation in the Ventura County Leadership Academy and enrollment in the Cal Lu MPPA program. With three daughters and long work days, it wasn’t easy, but I was persistent, taking one class a term, slow and steady.

2. For those unfamiliar with the role of City Managers, or how the Assistant City Manager supports the City Manager, could you take a moment to explain what your responsibilities are and how it fits in the scheme of municipal leadership?

There are different forms of municipal government. The type I’ve always been a part of is council-manager. In this form, residents are at the top of the organizational chart. They elect a council who then hire a City Manager to manage day-to-day operations and ensure that council priorities are successfully implemented. My role as the Assistant City Manager (ACM) is to assist in guiding this implementation. Currently, I oversee the Recreation, Parks, and Public Facilities Department, and several other council directives, including the development of a Racial Equity and Social Justice program, civic engagement program, and economic vitality efforts, to name a few. 

3. How have your past professional experiences, including your time in the MPPA program, prepared you for this new career position?

My past professional experiences have prepared me for this position by providing me with experience, knowledge, and guidance. Fortunately, I knew what I wanted to do when I entered the MPPA program. This allowed me to tailor the program to my goals. The ability to research, analyze, and support my conclusions and recommendations is the most helpful skill I developed during my time at Cal Lu. In addition, the relationships I formed and the confidence I gained have been priceless. You won’t know everything but having confidence in your ability to learn and people to support you will set you on a trajectory for success.

4. From your time in this new capacity thus far, what have you found to be the greatest benefits and greatest challenges that public service leaders face today, either generally or specifically in the City of Carpinteria? What do you hope to contribute during your time with the City?

In local government, the rewards and challenges are often one and the same. We face a myriad of issues: affordable housing; public safety; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); homelessness; and budget constraints, just to name a few. As a public service leader, the reward is that you can affect real change in these areas, right in your own community. What I hope to bring to Carpinteria is a leadership style that emphasizes community engagement, supports strategic planning, and strengthens relationships amongst City staff, residents, and community stakeholders. Ultimately, trust is the foundation of progress, and I want to help my organization build trust everywhere I can.  

5. Before closing, do you have any suggestions or inside tips for those in the MPPA community who are also interested in a similar line of work?

Absolutely. Here are my top 5!

  1. Take Drew Powers and P.J. Gagajena’s classes as soon as possible. As active (and highly regarded) City Managers in the field, their knowledge and guidance will be invaluable.  
  2. Most, if not all, professors in the MPPA program will allow you some leeway in selecting papers and/or project topics. If possible, select topics that center on approaches to city management and/or current local government challenges.
  3. Find a mentor, or two.
  4. Watch as many city council meetings as you can and familiarize yourself with the various elements (e.g., City staff reports, public hearings, etc.).
  5. Join at least one city managers professional association and utilize their training,  resources, and networking opportunities (e.g., International City/County Managers Association – ICMA, Municipal Management Association of Southern California – MMASC.).

Good luck!

From everyone in the MPPA program, we wish you the best in your new capacity and thank you for your time in answering these questions!

Interview with Majd Almalki

Majd Pic

1. You recently received a promotion to be the Director of Gender Balance Statistics at the Institute of Public Administration of Saudi Arabia– Congratulations! Tell us about the Institute and what it seeks to achieve.

First of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. It is always a pleasure to share with the MPPA community what happened recently in my career. The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) is one of the leading government agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. IPA seeks to increase the efficiency of public employees and to educate them to make them capable of shouldering their responsibilities, use their jurisdiction in a manner that would raise the level of administration, and support the foundation of national economic development.  In addition, the IPA contributes to the administrative organization of government departments, offers consultations on administrative problems referred by government ministries and agencies, undertakes administrative research projects, and enhances cultural ties in the field of public administration.​ Today, IPA is a major strategic partner in achieving the Saudi Vision 2030. It helps the government achieve four main projects, which include the national programs of e-training, administrative leadership development, government innovation, and training programs for Saudi Vision 2030. 

2. Within your agency, what does your role entail and what goals do you hope to achieve in this new position?

My main role in the IPA is as a faculty member in the organizational behavior sector. I, like other colleagues and training staff, provide high quality training programs to government employees. My specialty is the issues of public administration, in general, and organizational behavior, in particular. As for the new position, the journey began when I joined a group of my colleagues at IPA to conduct a study on equal opportunities between women and men in the workplace, where many government agencies participated in the study sample. When we monitored the final study results, we found that there are differences between the women and men at work, especially with regard to assuming leadership positions and meeting differing needs. After that, we decided to present a strategic recommendation to the higher authorities in order to consider establishing a special center that creates gender balance. Fortunately, this proposal was approved, and the center was officially launched on November 9, 2021. I was chosen for the position of Director of Gender Statistics, and a few of my main tasks is the governance and analysis of gender data in the workplace, the creation of data disaggregated by sex in all sectors of the state, and considering the creation of strategic indicators that measure the progress of government agencies in creating gender balance and equal opportunities at work.

3. There are gender issues and inequalities in every country. What are a few issues that are specific to Saudi Arabia, and how does your team tackle those problems throughout the country?

As I mentioned previously, we found gaps in the balanced access to leadership positions between women and men. In addition, many obstacles were monitored, such as the lack of participation of women in decision-making processes, their failure to participate in the formulation of organizational policies or regulations in organizations, and their failure to participate in both the strategic and policy level, internally or externally. There are also some restrictions that limit women’s enjoyment of some powers and authorities at work, and this may be due to the stereotyped image that women suffer from in the workplace. 

We have begun to address these obstacles through the strategic pillars implemented by the Center for Gender Balance, including activating the role of studies and consultations that support gender balance and considering policies and regulatory procedures by coordinating efforts within Saudi Arabia and developing necessary policies in both the public and private sectors. We are also strengthening the role of training and development, providing training programs, and setting development plans to reduce the gender gap in the workplace. Finally, activating qualitative partnerships, building a network of communications with relevant entities that support gender balance, and creating agreements to exchange knowledge and experience in order to achieve common goals and reduce the gender gap.

4. What have you found to be the most difficult problem to tackle, in regard to either your position specifically or your agency generally? 

Spreading awareness that supports the concept of gender balance! It’s really hard work, trying in every way to change the old or general misconceptions about creating equal opportunity for both women and men. So, we desperately need to improve the organizational culture and correct the prevailing societal thinking about the role of women and men at work. We should enhance the importance of involving both women and men together to achieve the main objective and to clarify the benefits of achieving gender balance in increasing the country’s domestic product. 

5. For those in our MPPA community interested in working in the field you are in, could you give us a few tips that helped you during or after your time at CLU to get you to where you are today?

The most important tip I could provide to everyone in our MPPA community is to find passion in every field you work in! The MPPA program emphasizes the importance of considering every problem or gap at the policy level, not just theoretically. I wouldn’t have done what I’m doing today without this program. If I were to give another piece of advice, I would say you should contribute to your community and promote social responsibility, no matter how small or insignificant your contribution is. At CLU, we learn the essential role that the individual plays in improving communities. When I got back home, I began to work on improving and developing all that I saw as shortcomings, even without financial compensation, because I reaped greater profits than money, which is to see what I do being implemented in reality and feel that all my proposals are considered! 

Thank you for your time on this interview! We look forward to hearing the great changes and work you will accomplish in your new role.

Interview with Leo Casiple

leo c

1. Congratulations on winning the Toastmasters’ Club Level International Speech Contest and participating in the Peacewriter Prize Competition! For those who don’t already know you and all your many interests and accomplishments, could you introduce yourself to the MPPA community?

Thank you. I won the Area 6 Contest in November 2021 and will advance to the Southern Division contest in March 2022. The International Speech Contest is 5-7 minutes long: anything less than 4.5 minutes or over 7.5 minutes results in a disqualification. 

I did not place in the top three essays in the 2021 International Peacewriter Prize Competition, Brussels, but many colleagues have mentioned that I could teach an entire college class with the elements I wrote about.

I was born in Southern Philippines where the dialect is Cebuano – a mixture of Spanish and Malay – not Tagalog (the national language). The Spaniards colonized the islands for over 375 years, and as a result, the Philippines became the only Christian country in Asia. 

My parents came from a very humble background, yet they ultimately became professionals. My father was a lawyer for the government and my mother a public health nurse. We immigrated to the US in the 1980s during the height of martial law. Even though I was always an honor student, unaddressed trauma led to trouble; I never finished high school. I enlisted in the US Army with a GED and a Green Card, where I flourished in the competitive and disciplined environment.

On two occasions, I failed the 21-day Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course– I made it on the third attempt.  Of the 4,000 that apply annually, approximately 3% earn the Green Beret. Incidentally, the Green Beret is the only military headgear that was established by Presidential Decree by John F. Kennedy.

While in the Army, I volunteered to study the Arabic language for 18 months at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. I maintained a near-native proficiency until I left the Army. After 21 years, I was medically transitioned due to injuries. The ensuing years were physically and psychologically difficult . I could not walk without walkers, crutches, or canes. I could only think in five second increments into the future. The lack of sleep fueled my anxiety. 

Thankfully, with the help of surgeons, I can walk again. With one GI Bill, I earned two graduate degrees: an MBA in Global Management from ASU Thunderbird School of Global Management and an MPPA from California Lutheran University. Additionally, I earned a scholarship at the Academy of Competitive Intelligence in Boston where I learned to recognize threats to business.

I’m married to Cecile who was a rock while I was away on deployments and was a boulder to lean on during my recovery. She is a career nurse with certifications in Med-Surg and Critical Care Nursing. My three boys are all grown, and two are still in college. All of them play music: drums, piano, guitar, and trombone. A few years ago, we rescued Mia, the kindest, best, and most lovable Bichon Frise. She’s the daughter I never had.

2. As you mentioned to me in the past, Toastmasters is a program that helps others develop their public speaking abilities. What motivated you to get involved with the program, and are you able to touch on the topic of your winning speech and why you chose it?

I have always been an introvert and extremely shy. I prefer to be in a library surrounded by books and magazines. However, in the Army, an outward-facing persona is non-negotiable. When I shifted to Special Operations, I had to present to senior US military leaders, Ambassadors, State Department executives, and foreign allies. I quickly found that public speaking and presentation skills were key to relationship-building and long-term global success.

I am grateful for Toastmasters because it is affordable and structured for success. I improve quickly because of the supportive environment. No one is criticized in Toastmasters. We use the Oreo Method/Taco Method. Critiques begin with things that went well, followed by suggestions to improve, and always end with positive comments.

The title of my speech is “The Enduring Quality of Grit.” It’s 6.5 minutes long and is based on my life story. The speech starts out with life as an abused child, bullied teenager, and being held down while others tattooed a green dot on my forehead. I felt worthless. I hated looking at myself for many years. The tattoo is still there today.

The topic then switches to Army life and transformation from oppressed to Green Beret. Halfway through, I take the audience through living with excruciating pain due to injuries: it was a period full of despair. When I could not walk, I felt that bullies would come after me again. The accumulation of anger and sadness tore my family apart. At the end, I speak about the ability to walk again, self-forgiveness, and my family coming back together with more love and respect for one another.

To pay it forward, I buy my wife flowers every single week. I live the best version of myself every single day. Most importantly, I give my healing away to keep it.

3. I have read your Peacewriter Prize essay, and it is both innovative and practical– something all policy solutions strive to be. What is the main point (or two) that you would like your readers to take away from your essay?

Thank you!

First: We must teach acceptance, not just tolerance. Finger-pointing does not solve problems. Open, honest, and frank communications is not only a good start, but also an energy-efficient, sustainable model for communities.

Second: The conventional military approach to peacemaking is an impatient model. The unconventional approach is more enduring, works through the legitimacy of the populace, and empowers communities to become self-sufficient.

4. Being a veteran, you possess a unique perspective and understanding on peace and strategies to establish it. How do you believe that perspective influenced or inspired the strategies you recommended in your essay?

As a child, I witnessed the negative effects of martial law in a one-industry, agrarian ecosystem in Southern Philippines. As a Green Beret, I returned to the same island after the 9/11 attacks to help assess the Philippine national counterterrorism policies, regional objectives, and local implementation of security programs. It was a unique professional opportunity that also clarified long-held beliefs since childhood.

The ideas are a blend of eclectic knowledge from the CLU MPPA, Global MBA, Competitive Business Intelligence, Area and Cultural Studies, Nonprofit leadership, work experience communities weakened by crises, and grassroots insight as a resident of many countries. Also, I am awed at the success of enduring international corporate brands– how they keep customers and clients engaged through feast or famine.

In the military, we built relationships through physical exercise. I have always been concerned for the welfare of the marginalized – the disabled politician, the child who does not yet possess adult strength, or the influential elderly leader who has become frail. They are still key nodes in the community, but cannot participate in conventional team-building exercises (i.e., catching someone who is falling backwards or running with their teammates). Their presence is more influential to the local culture than athletic prowess. Will they always feel marginalized or left out?

I found the answers in Pat Hanlon’s and Clotaire Ropaille’s books, and in Tuckman’s stages of team building. I figured out a way to build strong teams in a classroom setting, in office cubicles, without exercise or injury, that is inclusive of all members of the community. 

Ultimately, I am inspired by the opportunity to build communities that are economically viable and socially responsible.

5. You mentioned that distrust is a major factor that keeps peace from being attainable in Mindanao, and I would venture to apply that same concept for the rest of the world. For those who are interested in becoming public administrators, what would you recommend they do to increase trust in their spheres of influence?

This is a very good question. I want to demystify trust with an analogy about branding with snacks.

My favorite snacks are easy to find, quickly identifiable, always look/taste the same, and have a logo/slogan/jingle that resonates with me. When I take a bite, the flavors are predictable and similar from one package to the next, year after year. If the flavor, logo, price, or slogan changes without warning, I lose trust, and I quickly choose a substitute. I’m okay with change if the company tells me in advance.

The same is true of administrators. To convey trust, one must be predictable in appearance, in action, and in speech. To keep the populace interested, we must schedule regular interactions (e.g., weekly meetings, monthly newsletters, certificates of appreciation, or annual celebrations) to set a tone of normalcy. And, if changes have to be made – with an aura of calm and confidence – administrators must occupy center stage to forewarn the community that the “flavor” of the community is about to shift. 

People like to be surprised with “good” news; they do not appreciate being blindsided with “bad” news. Transparency lessens the subjective shock of a slight shift in policy.

When we empower through transparency, a few things happen: 1) tension is managed amongst all stakeholders; 2) the strategic triangle stays taut which keeps the three nodes uniquely recognizable; and 3) complex and complicated issues never become chaotic.

Thank you for your time in answering these questions! Congratulations again, and on behalf of the rest of the MPPA community, we wish you the best on your upcoming speech competition and projects.

Interview With the 2021 Theses Writers

Theses Writers: Hope Ramos and Maya Hoholick

Interviewer: Patricia Palao Da Costa

32551965620_254c9933f7_b (2)

  1. I read through the major parts of your thesis, and I learned a substantial amount of information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014. For readers who aren’t familiar with this water policy, how would you explain it to them?


SGMA is California’s first official groundwater regulation policy that calls for the formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in areas of high and medium priority basins throughout the state. These GSAs must also develop and implement groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). GSPs seek to halt the overdrawing of groundwater in basins, and for these basins to maintain balanced groundwater levels for recharging.


The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is a state act that sets a framework for groundwater preservation for the next 20 years. Local entities must form their own Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). Those GSAs must then form Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), which informs the State of California of their groundwater protection goals, pumping restrictions, and actionable projects. 

  1. Although both 2021 theses were written on the SGMA, both took very different approaches. What was the focus of your study, and what inspired you to choose this topic? 


For my thesis, I wanted to focus on the perspective of the farmers in Northern California. I come from a family of farmers, and during the 2011-2017 drought, they had to purchase a new well to draw out groundwater because their old well had dried up. SGMA was implemented in the thick of this drought, and many other farmers went through the same circumstances as my family, so I wanted to see how farmers felt about groundwater being regulated for the first time in California’s history. 


The focus of my study was the Fox Canyon Groundwater Trading Pilot, which is a water market established through the active citizenry of local Ventura County farmers. I was inspired to choose the topic due to my past professional scientific experience centered around environmental and water resources. It was important for me to dive deep into the intersection between public policy, environmental resources, and Ventura County stakeholders to create positive change for Ventura County residents after graduation.

  1. Before you began your research, what were your hypotheses or assumptions of what you would discover? For those who haven’t read your research (yet), what were your actual findings? 


My hypothesis from the very beginning was that farmers would be against SGMA or at least hold some sort of negative feelings towards the legislation. I came to this hypothesis based on how my family talks about government and politicians, and then I generalized that most farmers would have similar attitudes based on being in the same geographical location. My actual findings were pretty similar to my hypothesis: farmers did tend to have a more negative outlook on government interference with their agriculture and groundwater. But an anomaly that I found in my findings was that there were a good number of farmers who had some sort of hope or optimistic feelings about the future of SGMA. Overall, the majority of feelings were negative.


Before I began my research, I set out to make a quantitative measure of which basin (the Las Posas, Pleasant Valley, and Oxnard Basin) would best support a water market. Overtime, the thesis evolved into a case study of the pilot and a workable template for California counties who aim to establish their own market. I formulated my thesis to recommend local entities best resource management practices, effective stakeholder engagement, and proactive strategies.

  1. In your work, you mentioned several stakeholders involved with the SGMA. Taking the factors of influencing policy into account, who do you believe has the greatest influence in the construction of water policies like SGMA? Are there others that you believe deserve greater influence?


The primary stakeholder that had the greatest influence and power would have to be the water agencies, as they are the ones who were creating the GSAs that will be regulating the groundwater of their specific area. Of course, I think that farmers should have a greater say in the creation of these groundwater agencies, to make sure that they are adhering to the needs of those who use that resource most frequently. There have been conversations and delegations between water agencies and farmers, but I think there could be more dialogue and compromise between the two. 


The 1976 court case City of Los Angeles v. San Fernando inspired the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Court cases, like these, adjudicate basins and sometimes result in policy creation. In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown took action in the midst of a six-year long drought. California stakeholders relied heavily on groundwater due to lack of  precipitation. The state initiated the California Water Action Plan after determining the large amount of water used and the actual water resources left in the basins. 

I believe a decentralized system works better for water resources management, with a centralized power ensuring local plans and projects are initiated. In the case of SGMA, the state’s new regulation initiated local action for groundwater sustainability. Many farmers agree that these urgent and strict regulations are necessary for preserving the groundwater basins, even if there is a shift in historic groundwater management. 

Local agencies and actors have the best knowledge of their resources and stakeholders, and therefore can set effective plans to incentivize conservation. Local agencies must apply these SGMA regulations to their specific basins. The plans are based on their stakeholders’ needs, economy, climate, and geography. The state’s regulatory action was effective in spurring local agencies to assess and activate plans to preserve their resources.

  1. From all you read, researched, and wrote about the SGMA, what is the main point that you want everyone to take away from reading your thesis?


I think one of the main takeaways from reading my thesis is that SGMA is just one step forward in creating a better system for groundwater distribution and recharge in California. California struggles greatly with maintaining a healthy level of water, so seeing the implementation of SGMA will be an interesting step to see if it will work in the long run. Another main takeaway is the focus on cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders. SGMA is a policy that implements a new concept for everyone using groundwater, so it should be created and heavily endorsed by those who it will affect the most. Not everyone is going to like it, shown from my results, but the state should be open to constructive criticism and make changes if SGMA gains more negative emotions further along in its implementation. 


Water resources are scarce in California, especially in Southern California. It’s crucial that local governments set plans to conserve water resources, but also develop additional water sources. With climate change, the periods of drought extend while the periods of heavy rainfall events from atmospheric rivers extend, pushing our fresh water straight to the ocean. Water policy developed on the local level is more effective; that way, local policy matches the needs of water-reliant stakeholders, agricultural businesses, economy, geology, groundwater dependent ecosystems, and habitats. It is crucial that local governments establish plans to secure future water resources and adequately support future residents and businesses. 

  1. As you could attest, writing a thesis takes a significant amount of dedication, knowledge, and time. What are a few insights to anyone interested or curious about the thesis process, the resources available to them, and any other wisdom you wish to impart to our MPPA community?


Writing a thesis is hard and takes a lot of time, so if you are thinking about writing one, then I suggest narrowing your topic down right now and collaborating with Dr. Khan, Dr. Carson, or any professor so that you have a good foundation. When you are thinking about a topic, make sure that you are picking one that you are passionate about because you will be focusing on that for the next year or however long it takes you. In terms of resources, Cal Lutheran provides everything right at your fingertips, and all you have to do is reach out and ask for help from professors and respective faculty. All of the professors and faculty that I reached out to were more than happy to help, and it made the thesis process a lot less scary when you have people helping you with this huge task. Good luck to everyone who is thinking about doing a thesis, it really is a rewarding feeling being able to hold the physical copy of your thesis and being able to say that you did it. And good luck to everyone in the MPPA program; I loved my time in the program and learned so many incredible things that will help me in the next step in my journey.


I encourage everyone in the MPPA community to write a thesis. I advise that students enroll in Research Methods early on in their graduate career and begin brainstorming topics of interest. Every class in my degree aided my thesis with the implementation of different teachings, topics, and assignments.

Additionally, I had immense guidance from CLU professors. Dr. Sabith Khan introduced me to Dr. Matthew Fienup when I asked for thesis advice. Dr. Matthew Fienup helped create the Fox Canyon Groundwater Trading Pilot and guided me through the thesis research, interviews, formulation, and editing. I suggest every student engage with their professors on feasible topics for potential research– even just throwing around ideas may provide some good direction. 

Writing is one of the most important skills to possess as a policy professional. Embarking on a thesis increased my confidence as a writer and professional. My thesis has also allowed me to speak at conferences nationally and internationally. Moreover, it has acted as a great writing sample for job interviews!


To receive a copy of Hope and/or Maya’s theses, email or

Interview with Councilwoman Lorrie Brown

lorrie brown

  1. From the biographical page about your life and career, I noticed that you have held several public service positions throughout Ventura County. What initially interested you to serve in local government? 

I ran for city council in 2018 and won by a landslide. As a mother, educator and public servant I represent working families. As a woman – a black woman, I represent a new and diverse perspective in leadership. I am the first black person ever to be elected to council (male or female) since the city’s inception 150 years ago.

Public service is definitely a calling to serve. Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to do this, I just never thought I would have the opportunity to do it in the city I grew up in!

Serving as an elected official in the city I grew up in was a culmination of a decade of community work and career experience. My campaign tagline read, “The Qualified Choice.” I was well prepared for the complexities of office and my education was key. 

I was a part of the MPPA programs first ADEP cohort in 2006. Dr. Herbert Gooch, Dean of the MPPA program reached out to me and personally requested that I apply to the pilot ADEP program. He was confident that even whilst in my final undergraduate semester I could begin working on my graduate studies at the same time, so I did. I studied under professors who either became elected officials or were appointed public servants such as Jeff Gorell, Jeff Burgh, and Sandy Smith. I completed this program in two years and graduated in 2009.

During the program I improved my writing skills, further developed my critical thinking skills and began a paid internship with a local municipality, in Community Development. I used this opportunity to demonstrate my ability to improve procedure, process and participation in city government programs, based upon what I learned. After graduation I was asked to remain with the department.

CLU not only gave me an education but helped me create a pathway into one of the most exciting careers I could have imagined. This began my career in public service and this sentiment extended to elected office. Five years later I ran for political office.

I knew I had what it took and I also knew I had to convince others to believe in me even more than I believed in myself. I ran for office three times and the VC Reporter published that the third time was the charm.

I had a solid background in economic development and working experience with public budgets and elected officials. I knew I could be that balanced voice in the midst of competing priorities. I expressed that I would model accountable leadership, work towards consensus and agreement and find sustainable solutions to help move the city forward. This is what I have done and will continue to do.

We, as women, sometimes believe we do not quite measure up or qualify for positions we are overqualified for. Women all over the country at every level have proven to be effective leaders and I am no different – you are no different.

I continue to learn by challenging myself, constantly stretching my normal ways of thinking and getting out of my comfort zone. This is one step of many in becoming a leader.

As a councilmember I was happy to encourage potential students to consider CLU their institution of choice in furthering their education, when they hosted a recruitment event at Ventura City Hall.

I was honored to be a panelist for CLU’s virtual Women in Leadership event in 2020 through the Centers of Non-profit Leadership 

As a single-parent I put myself through college while raising my boys. I did not know anyone who had blazed the path that I wanted to go on so I carved my own path by learning from great African American public figures, such as Barbara Jordan, Colin Powell, Donna Brazille, Willie Brown, Bell Hooks, Cornel West and many others. I decided that I would embark on the journey to political office because I was able to envision myself doing so through the stories of others. During my undergraduate studies, even as a single parent I also had the opportunity to participate in campus life as a CLU Ambassador and Managing Editor of the campus newspaper, The Echo.

CLU taught me that my voice, whether welcomed or not, was valuable. Through their diversity course requirements I witnessed the best and worst of shifting paradigms and narratives. Some instructors were quite vocal about their apathetic view of the requirement and allowed students to openly heckle any attempt at challenging their ideas of status quo – unfettered. This to me (as one of very few other black students) was a form of classroom terror. They were arguing that black American contributions didn’t matter, asking why they should have to learn about them and insisted their parents were against it because that’s not what they are paying tuition for them to learn. 

“Because we are here!” I thought, “…and because we are you!…your blood runs through our veins” I screamed silently, and “Because there is no America without the work of black slaves.” “Because we are not a silent slave class anymore to be seen and not heard.” “Because we are citizens of these United States, because we fought in every war on both sides, because we nursed your children, because we cleaned your houses, because we are humans that seek acceptance just as outlined in Maslow’s Theory, because black history is American history that was simply left out and we don’t deserve to be left out and ignored any longer!” I was shocked and appalled that I had to sit and accept such attacks without any protection or explanation. I was unable to articulate my frustrations so clearly through my rage. So from that point forward, I used my written voice to add power, balance the narrative and challenge the status quo. Every paper I wrote was testament to my perspective that I created specifically to shift the perspectives and direction of thought for my professors and the students. I believed that no other black student should have to be subject to what I was subject to.

When people ask me why I ran I tell them that ever since I was a young girl I was challenged with a deep seated sense of injustice when I learned that my successful business-minded cousin was set-up and put in jail by his local Sheriff’s department in the South. They sent the message that a black man dare not try to do better than anyone else, lest they be knocked down. I learned indirectly by that tragedy, that wanting more, being a business owner and potentially making more money than others put a target on your back.  I was devastated. I decided that I wanted to be the person that provided real legal representation for men like that. I dreamed of being an attorney while he remained locked up my entire life. Later, I realized that I did not need to be an attorney to effect policy or to legislate. There are many roles each of us can play in pushing a shift in our justice system – but we must do it together.

Long before 2020, injustices have paralyzed this country…whether those injustices are racial, social, judicial, economic…

The viral killing of George Floyd was the virtual straw that broke the collective back of America and ignited a movement for Black Lives that I never believed was possible.  As a black woman and mother of three beautiful black men, I feel as if I am in a fight for their lives. That they might live and not be shot in the back, that they may find love and not be choked until they cannot breath, that they might be afforded the right to work hard and not be unemployed and homeless. We continue to fight today. I don’t want to see the face of my son crying out from YouTube one day saying “Mother! They are going to kill me!” That is what George Floyd represented to me, the face of every black man, son, father, uncle and brother. I will not sit idly by. I will fight. The question is will you? Will you sit idly by? Will you fight?

During their pre-adolescent years, I did “The Talk” with my boys and coached them how to handle any interactions they had with law enforcement or rogue neighborhood residents and prayed they remained safe. Even doing all of that, I knew that once they became adults, they would face increased challenges compounded by lack of permanent full-time work opportunities, lack of affordable housing, lack of financial stability, lack of practical workplace protections and security, lack of mentorship, lack of responsive healthcare, …and the list goes on. I became the most resolute advocate for my children.

As advocates, women, as people of color, we must continue to fight to be heard, to insist equity in representation, to be taken seriously, to be allowed to speak frankly, matter-of-factly and unapologetically about issues of great importance without being accused of being labeled too serious, aggressive or angry,  to be allowed to have an opinion all our own without having that opinion appropriated by someone else and deemed valid only by association, to be forced to question if you belong because you look and speak differently… 

On council, my presence alone has ushered in a culture of change, a live example of progress, while establishing that a black woman can not only lead but lead successfully. I was elected by a constituency who saw me for who I was, not the color of my skin. I was able to identify the common thread that unified me with my community. This is what we must dig deep and try to do more frequently. My story is one of victory, not defeat, because the fact that I was elected is a testament to Ventura’s willingness to do something different.

I petition students, as they embark on their careers and seek to find purpose in their work to consider that true equity lies in Equity Bridges. We must be a part of the solution to build these bridges, in education, which means making all basic utilities accessible to all. Today the internet has become a basic utility and should be available, at no charge to students and parents of students, in leadership, by sitting on boards, and decision-making tables, in political office, as a candidate running for office and or  in campaign management, in access to entry level jobs and careers with living wages, in housing and the safety of our children so we have some say in how we live, and in shifting paradigms, by understanding implicit bias, roots of racism and the truth about the politics of power.

To do this each individual must understand how to leverage the knowledge they have, develop long term strategies for personal progress with the intent to partnering and collaborating with others.

I am glad to see that CLU has expanded its Diversity initiative to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, but we need to do more, because faith without works is dead. A resolution with no teeth means nothing. An idea without a strategy to implement is just a dream.

  1. From your point of view, what aspects of public service are most challenging and most rewarding?

Being a councilmember in the City of Ventura is both challenging and rewarding. It is challenging because the work never ends and you must be constantly on top of what is coming next. The Ventura council is considered a “part-time” elected position, which means you must keep your day job. There is no salary and we get no staff. So we keep our own calendars and arrange our own meetings and must navigate complex policy issues on our own.

In addition, this was compounded by the fact that there was a real lack of strategic economic development initiatives in the city. Social policy cannot exist without a means to fund it. This is a point I would regularly drive home on the dias. It was quite challenging at times to beat back against old narratives, indirectly educate my colleagues on the effects Proposition 13 and the end of Redevelopment had directly on city services and our budget. I have been present to help find options we have available to us today to create solutions. I leaned on my experience in Economic Development, I continued to support business, was in favor of much-needed infrastructure projects, reviewed policy that required updating and made sure I had time to listen to the people that elected me.

As former co-chair of Finance, Audit & Budget committee, I was the catalyst that assisted staff in locating a savings of over $400,000 during the pandemic when the city lost over $11 million under our projected budget, when everything shut down and helped frame the recommendations as presented to council during our complex budget discussions. As current chair of the General Plan Committee I work closely with Community Development and our GPAC consultants to ensure that as we plan for the city the next 20-30 years we get it right and that everyone’s voice in the community contributes to the conversation. I continue to build relationships with property owners, consultants and concerned community advocates to be sure that the policy we create is balanced. 

It is rewarding because I have been able to utilize everything I have learned up until this point to the benefit of the City of Ventura.

  1. With the growing political divides and inefficiency seen in the federal and local governments, many have lost hope in politicians and our political system. How do you engage with and respond to disillusioned community members with similar political doubts or concerns?

In my perspective, the political divides were always there but hidden, just not so blatant. Coupled with a tumultuous federal administration, the pandemic demanded a captive audience that was ignited to take their frustrations to the streets. The year of 2020 carried a storm on all fronts. On council, we were required to legislate every issue, listen to all concerns and create new solutions that no one seemed to totally agree on.

There have been inefficiencies in my local government for an extend amount of time and the best any politician can do in the face of polarizing politics is to remain responsive, remain true to the values they stood on when elected and remain present for every difficult discussion, and that is what I have done. In addition, I have brought voice to communities who have not had the opportunity to really engage in local government in the past. I lived up to this commitment when I insisted that the GPAC make special provisions to reach out to the Latino community which makes up almost 35% of our population and is growing, yet represented less than 5% of the appointed members on the GPAC.  This was unacceptable. In addition, I was confident that my vote was the right one. to appoint a very qualified and educated woman from the Latino community to fill a vacant council seat earlier this year.

When I was elected in 2018 I was a part of the first female majority on council. This was historic all by itself but I was also a part of the first group of councilmembers elected by districts. Today I am in good company, with two Latinas serving on the dais with me. This was made possible because two years prior to my election, I joined CAUSE in challenging the city’s at-large election process in 2016 which effectively led the city to move to vote for the city charter to allow for district elections. District elections are what opened wide the door that only had a narrow opening. I protested through civil discourse at a council meeting to help push the city towards more fair and equitable representation. Up until that point almost all councilmembers elected were from the Westside of the city, were usually male, white, retired and over 70. The two white females on council at that time were also retired, white and over a certain age but also only two of twelve other females since the city’s inception. There were stark political divides between me and many of my colleagues but I worked hard to “work across the aisle.”

As the first black person ever elected, I wanted this to mean something.  Not just that I shook things up but that I worked with other councilmembers to find solutions. I worked with the Police Chief, the Mayor and my colleagues to introduce a resolution that addressed racism and police brutality in 2020. This resolution requested action not just ceremony. It was a resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health issue and Denouncing Police Brutality. I also wrote a Black History Month proclamation February of 2021. In December of 2019, council approved a new initiative which we are calling the “Progress Initiative,” to be brought to the council Fall of this year. Among other things, it has provisions in it to get more of the community involved in city leadership. It has been quite rewarding to have colleagues willing to stand with me and vote for change, especially during the year of 2020.

  1. In what ways do you believe your unique personal and professional background helped create your campaign and garner support from local citizens? What was your experience like running for local government?

I did an extensive amount of volunteer community work, in addition to my education and public service in local government and was a candidate for political office three times before I won.  

I graduated from the Ventura County Leadership Academy Class X back in the early 2000’s, I later graduated from Gamaliel National Leadership Institute’s organizational leadership training, took CAUSE’s Values Based Leadership Training, completed the year-long political leadership training with Emerge California and even transformed my thinking through Landmark corporate leadership training, but before all of that I volunteered as Community Coordinator for the county NAACP chapter. All these organizations enhanced the development of my unique perspective as I matriculated through my undergraduate and later graduate studies. I have an Associates degree in Bilingual Cross-Cultural Studies with an Emphasis in Latin culture and language, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism and a Masters degree in Public Policy and Administration.

I grew up in Ventura and as a native I had a birds eye view of the state of the city, I saw how anti-growth initiatives affected the city over the last 25 years, saw retail centers deteriorate and become the blighted buildings they are now, witnessed the  lack of economic development initiatives on the eastside, the underutilization of redevelopment and watched helplessly as no affordable housing was built in the city.

It is not just your professional experience that makes what you bring to the table valuable. I have lived and experienced many of the challenges and frustrations that many residents express to us; I know first-hand the degree of difficulty faced in the city when searching for housing, maintaining rent while facing underemployment and healthcare challenges. My experiences have put me in the unique position to be able to contribute to policy conversations from an informed position with understanding and empathy. 

Being a mother and matriculating through CLU as a graduate student taught me commitment and grit. This has served me well professionally. Running for office was a five-year commitment to a long-term goal. It was a political experiment in progressive movement, it was an exercise of grass-roots power and a glass-ceiling shattering story about a girl who wanted to navigate her way into political life.

It did not come without sacrifices, heartache and long days and nights with no sleep. It did come with a satisfaction that I had run the race and did all I could do, and in the end the Lord carried me the rest of the way through. I did not always believe that I deserved to be there but now that I am here, I know better. Not only do I deserve to be here, I know now that I am an asset.

  1. Do you feel that your CLU degree in public policy helped prepare you for those roles? If a fellow MPPA student were interested in running, what advice would you give them?

CLU definitely sharpened my focus and fortified my resolve. The Public Policy program enhanced my critical thinking, improved my writing skills, convinced me that urban planning was not a dirty word, reinforced the idea that I could create my own path, demonstrated that it was possible to be a Christian and relevant professionally, fostered the idea that everyone finishes and graduates and taught me that doing the work, showing up and being present is the recipe for progress and ultimate success. Because I am a critical thinker, the two classes that had the most impact were a social science class and an ethics class. I learned not to be afraid of my ideas even if they were different from the instructor who was teaching me. I learned to forge forward even if I was going it alone. I learned how to effectively design sustainable solutions where none have ever existed. These things have been invaluable in my role and to my knowledge I am the first MPPA student from CLU’s ADEP program, to ever be elected to office!

My advice to MPPA students is:

You are on the front lines of policy research and solutions, study those concepts that are relevant to your future, double-down on the values important to you and at the same time, keep an open mind and listen. Right now, really research those theories being challenged that stand to directly affect you, while you have the time to do it, such as the Critical Race Theory. 

Today, I encourage students to learn more about the Critical Race Theory, to understand how systems of racism oppress and elevate at the same time depending on who you are, where you are from and what you look like. Economic Development, Urban Planning, Redlining, access to education, blighted communities, gentrification: they are all social constructs that support a way of living and philosophies on who deserves what. How do you want to live, how do you want your children to live, what do you deserve? Should someone else be able to define for you what access you get? Do you deserve to live in the community you grew up in? Should affordable studios, lofts and small apartments be available to those with entry level jobs? Should young families be forced to move to another state? Is it okay to make a playground out of poor communities? Should those who don’t have a political voice get poisoned water and breathe polluted air?

These are questions we must be able to answer to effect change or to have a drive and purpose. 

It is important to remain true to your purpose. Find your focus, even if it feels you are only muddling through at times. It does all come together in the end. Take the time during matriculation to identify your authentic self, your story and your reason for staying your chosen course. This will serve as your compass that points you to that ultimate goal when you get lost and discouraged, because you will. It also informs your purpose which in turn can give anything you do authenticity, and authenticity can carry a business, provide strength during uncertain times and take you to the finish line. Just remember, when you get to the finish line, it is really just the beginning – not the end.

I paid my dues, but what I want students to know is that, it is not required to do all the things I did to be qualified. There will always be those who are much less qualified sitting right next to you.  I remember an instructor telling me once that I should never feel intimidated or unworthy to sit at a decision-making table because my perspective was unique from theirs and therefore was needed and valuable to the conversation. That was life changing and I have carried that with me throughout the years. Believe it and walk confidently into your future.