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Alumni Spotlight – Molly Checksfield on Pursuing Her Life’s Passion

(l-r)  JT Creedon, Joshua Dorries, Me and Molly Checksfield, Celebrating at the Nationals Watch Party, World Series, Game 2.

Earlier this fall, I met up with Molly, Josh and JT (all Maxwell class of 2016 alums ) for the World Series Game Two Watch Party at National’s Stadium in Washington, DC.  Molly was telling me about starting her DREAM JOB – directing research on aging-related dimentia disorders.  Just three years post-Maxwell – and here she was already realizing her professional career aspirations – where she could continue to make even greater impact on policy that means so much to her!   What wonderful news to celebrate. I asked her to send me a write up so I could share it with you here.  Thanks, Molly!! 

Molly’s Story:
My name is Molly Checksfield and I am a 2016 Maxwell MPA graduate. I currently work as a Program Officer at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. where I am pursuing my life’s passion, and directing a study to provide the National Institute on Aging with a ten-year research agenda in behavioral and social sciences as it relates to Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

Financing Maxwell: Being a Graduate Assistant (see more below)
While attending Maxwell, I worked as a graduate assistant with the Aging Studies Institute (ASI) and received a certificate in Health Care Management and Policy which helped align my dedication to supporting seniors in our society with my work as a graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration. When searching for MPA programs, I knew that I wanted to attend a school that had a concentration in health, specifically aging, and when I found out about ASI, coupled with the Health Care Management and Policy Certificate, Maxwell became without a doubt my number one choice.

The Benefits of Maxwell’s One Year Cohort-based Program
When I arrived at Maxwell, I was shocked at how quickly our cohort started feeling like a family. As with every cohort, our first class was Public Budgeting. Finishing that first class and seeing everyone’s faces after realizing that we had made it out on the other side was a great feeling and one that solidified the fact that we were a team facing the ups and downs of grad school together.

Favorite Memory
Although it’s hard to pinpoint just one favorite Maxwell memory, in addition to getting engaged to a fellow Maxwell alum in 2018, one of my favorite memories of my time in Syracuse was taking over the local karaoke bar Singers after our first week in Colloquium. What was expected to be a small group of Maxwellians turned into a full-on takeover of the karaoke stage which was repeated multiple times throughout the year.

Molly’s Advice
I strongly encourage prospective students to attend an Admitted Students Day at Maxwell and talk to faculty, staff, and students about what makes Maxwell unique. Don’t let the one-year format of Maxwell’s MPA program fool you – you’ll end the year filled with valuable knowledge and insight, memories with lifelong friends, and the ability to converse with brilliant people all over the world.

[Molly’s Linked In profile: ] 

Financing Maxwell – Graduate Assistantship (GA) Opportunities
As Molly mentioned, she was awarded a Graduate Assistantship to assist with her cost of attendance in the MPA program.  Our merit based awards process takes place in mid-March – and all admitted students are considered for merit-based financial aid. We have about a dozen Fellowships, numerous Graduate Assistantships (full- and half-time GA appointments), tuition scholarships and cash scholarships.  We consider all admitted students for funding.  GA positions are just one of the many ways we help fund our admitted students.

Approximately one third of our incoming MPA and MA IR students will receive merit-based funding in the form of a Graduate Assistantship appointment.

Full GA:  A full-time GA provides a tuition scholarship covering 24 credits of tuition, and a stipend (payroll) that is tied to a student’s assigned assistantship duties.  Full GAs work 20 hours per week in the fall and spring terms.  The stipend for a full GA in 2019-20 was $15,380.  In 2019-20 dollars, a full time GA provided over $52,000 toward the costs of attendance. (That is 80% of total tuition!)

Half GA:  A half-time GA is just as it sounds. It provides 12 credits of tuition and a stipend of roughly $7,600 for a very manageable 10 hours of work per week over the academic year. The full value of a half-time GA in 2019-20 dollars was $26,000, (40% of total tuition).

GA Placements:  Graduate Assistants enrolled in the MPA and MA IR programs will work in administrative or research-related positions in the various offices, research centers and institutes within the Maxwell School.  Most are assigned to directly to a PAIA faculty or with Maxwell faculty who teach courses specific to our programs.  Some are assigned to specific programs or offices that operate within the school and/or research centers.  Position placements are determined after a student commits to attending Maxwell and take into account the students background, abilities and desires, as well as the various needs within the School.

Maxwell operates ELEVEN Research Centers, Institutes and Initiatives, across a variety of policy areas.  Given Molly’s interests in Aging, and Health Policy, she was assigned to work in the Aging Studies Institute under the direction of Professor Doug Wolf.

PS:  Let’s not leave out JT and Josh… 

JT Creedon’s day job is on the legislative staff of the Senior Senator from Nevada (who serves on the Finance Committee). He focuses on her Finance, Tax and Trade work.  JT’s Graduate Assistant position with Professor Len Burman and coursework in Tax Policy and Politics comes in handy on a daily basis!  In the evening he helps manage the pub, The Big Stick (pictured above) where we met up just outside the main gate of the Washington National’s stadium. 

Joshua Dorries recently left Grant Thornton to take a position with MorganFranklin Consulting as a senior consultant in Strategy and Transformation. In 2018, Josh and Molly got engaged (they have been dating since their days at Maxwell).

JT is planning to be ordained so he can perform the ceremony when Molly and Josh marry in 2020!  

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