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“Don’t Mess with Texas” at Syracuse’s Maxwell School

Written by Lucas Vallely, current MPA student

One of the first things a prospective student might notice upon entering Christine Omolino’s office is a “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker on her bulletin board. “No, I am not from Texas”, she will say, “a former student gave it to me in one of my first years at Maxwell”.  Incidentally and much less noticeable, she also has “Don’t Mess with Texas” mints, on her shelf. These were a gift from a student the following year who was pleased to see her home state represented in Christine’s office with the bumper sticker.   In fact, I am not Christine’s first Admissions GA from Texas, it seems she had quite a run there a few years back with four Graduate Assistants in a row with ties to Texas [ See Blog Post:  Connecting with Alumni on the Road ]. 

The Maxwell School is fortunate to attract students from all over the world and all over the US.  This year is no exception with students coming from 34 different states – and once again Texas is well represented!  [see blog post – 2020 incoming class profile

So, you might wonder, what is it with Texas and Maxwell?  Why would a Texan choose to attend the Maxwell School, all the way up here in Central New York.  Aren’t there plenty of schools to choose from closer to home?

There are of course a number of reasons to attend the Maxwell School, from its #1 ranking in Best Public Affairs Programs for Graduate Schools by U.S. News & World Report, to its tight-knit and strong alumni network, to the beautiful campus of Syracuse University. Are these the reasons why Texans attend the Maxwell School?

As a Texan pursuing the Master of Public Administration, I was motivated to attend the Maxwell School for these, but also a variety of other reasons. Despite the lack of less famed barbeque and Tex-Mex, and yes, the winter will be a bit colder than in Texas, in my mind, there were incomparable reasons to attend the Maxwell School.   Maxwell School offers 12-month to 18-month degree tracks which allows aspiring professionals to earn their degrees and enter the workforce – as a bonus to the 18-month track, students have the opportunity to complete an internship during the summer. The city of Syracuse is very affordable, commute times to campus are short, and there is a burgeoning population of young professionals that lends itself to a friendly, college atmosphere. Also, 75-85%* of incoming students receive merit-based funding AND the average award is approximately 50% of tuition! The faculty of the Maxwell School are leading experts in their fields, very accessible to students, and from what I have seen so far, deeply committed to our learning. This is an incredible opportunity to learn from the best.  I’ve truly enjoyed the great fortune of working with remarkable professors invested in my success. And fortunately, Syracuse is home to its own famous barbeque joint, the highly touted, Dinosaur Barbeque! And, I have been able to experience a new part of the country.  I’ve recently been introduced to the time-honored tradition of apple picking.  In fact Central New York is home to some of the country’s best apple orchards! And while I cannot fathom it just yet, I will experience just one central NY winter! Christine is fond of repeating a phrase of a former student from Southern California to this point: “You don’t have the marry the CNY winter – you just have to date it for a year”.

In search for more answers, I asked another Texan, Callie Dick, who is seeking a Master of Public Administration about her reasons for attending the Maxwell School:

“I chose the Maxwell School because it was very clear through the application process that the staff was interested in the actual individuals that were applying, not just the amount of applications they received. Cory, Christine, Josh and many others kept in contact with us through the entire process and were so understanding with the lack of normalcy of this application season. I had never been to Syracuse before deciding to attend, but the communication and transparency from all the faculty and staff made it clear that the Maxwell School would be an easy community to become a part of”.

This final reason mentioned by Callie.. the friendly and forthcoming assistance that Christine Omolino, Cory Meyers, and Josh Kennedy offer throughout the admissions process is a common refrain among the Maxwell community, and draws competitive and passionate students interested in public service from around the world.

While Callie and I are from Texas, we share a common thread with all students who attend the Maxwell School. Students from around the world come here – to Central New York – to the Maxwell School – to develop the needed skills to effectively serve the public in all levels of government, private industries, and nonprofit organizations. United by this desire, we are invested in earning degrees that will equip us to serve, wherever that may be.

PS:  The “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker was a gift from Bradley Wilson (MPA 1997), a UT Austin grad.  “Hook-em Horns”.  Post Maxwell, Bradley worked in higher education administration for several years in North Carlina. He then went on to earn a PhD in Public Administration and is currently an associate professor at Midwestern State University back in his home state of Texas.  Tatiana Olea (MPA 1998), who gifted the “Don’t Mess with Texas” mints is a public finance professional in the San Francisco, Bay Area, CA.  She had completed her undergraduate studies at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX.  

**A special thank you to Callie Dick for contributing to this article. Callie is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, TX. 

PPS: “Don’t Mess with Texas” was a strategically successful statewide anti-littering campaign – and a wonderful example of public policy in action. 

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