Understanding the North Korean Human Rights Abuses and Moving Forward

By: Jim Blazey

On February 17, the United Nations released the most recent report  on human rights abuses occurring in North Korea. The report covered the starvation, violence, mistrust and exhaustion that occur within North Korean labor camps. The prisoners in these facilities range from South Korean soldiers and their descendants to people who have spoken out against the ruling Kim family or the government as a whole.

In addition, severe droughts in the 1990s coupled with the absence of Soviet-subsidized goods caused the North Korean economy to collapse and malnutrition to expand throughout the country.

This led me to consider: how can NGOs or governments possibly provide relief to individuals within these camps when they don’t have any access? How can these organizations provide food to individuals within the country while also creating opportunities for North Koreans to become self-sustaining? If I, the public manager of a nonprofit or government agency, am trying to consider the proper strategy to deliver value to these individuals, how can I make an influence on a country where the government is very suspicious of the outside world?

The seminar in Public Administration (MPA 6800) taught by Marsha Lewis at the Voinovich School helped me develop a strategy when tackling complex issues such as providing humanitarian aid to countries like North Korea. We discussed public value chain, a model that identifies the partners and co-producers in a situation, as well as the necessary inputs to solving a problem.

The example used in class was the Gates Foundation and its attempt to decrease malaria in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. The partners the Gates Foundation sought were humanitarian groups in these countries, the manufacturers of mosquito nets, and volunteers. The inputs were the mosquito nets and malaria vaccines. The combination of the partners and the inputs leads to measurable outputs, such as reduced cases of malaria. After the output is measured, the long-term outcomes would be a healthier and more productive society.

So how does this model apply to North Korea?

In the case of alleviating the malnourishment that plagues North Korea, the right partner is China. If organizations collaborate with China to put pressure on North Korea, more aid can be provided to vulnerable citizens in the country. An example of this pressure is China not vetoing any proceedings of the U.N. Security Council on North Korea in March.

Successful implementation of smaller goals like this can then be used to assess how NGOs or agencies should proceed with long-term goals, such as laying the foundation for sustainable food sources that the country and eliminating the labor camps. This leads me to the last part of the public value chain: evaluating external environmental influences.

The external political influences are plentiful in the case of North Korea. The United States and North Korea have a contentious relationship, which could affect the way a U.S. organization works within the country. American NGOs and agencies are not alone in their concern about the humanitarian crisis in North Korea; China, Japan, South Korea and Russia are all interested as well. Another political influence is the provocative nature of the North Korean government itself. All of these factors must be considered

Issues regarding North Korea are not easy to solve. Public managers have to develop strategies to help their organizations successfully deliver value. Future public managers must be innovative, ambitious and willing to change the world for the better. No matter how daunting the task, the long-term positive outcomes will be well worth the effort in the end.

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What Kind of Manager Will You Be?

By: L Volpe

I was asked the other day about the quote “Silence Is Exhausting” (Robyn Ochs) that closes all of my e-mail communications. As I launched into my explanation — that every person, no matter who they are, deserves to be heard, taken seriously and treated with respect — I found it to be a wonderful representation of what my education and master’s degree from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs means to me.

Through all of my classes I have taken in the MPA program, my professors have stressed the responsibility we are taking on by becoming leaders in the public/nonprofit sector.  The roles that we will be stepping into have the potential to make a difference in a significant number of peoples’ lives.  We are giving a voice to individuals who may not have one.  Keeping in mind that “Silence is Exhausting,” we need to make intelligent and productive decisions that create public value.

I feel that this type of training is going to be an asset for us as we apply for jobs.  Anyone can step into a managerial role, but the MPA program is setting us up to be progressive managers who will push the public/nonprofit sector forward.  Remembering “Silence is Exhausting” is what makes me passionate about the mission of the organizations I am interviewing for and the difference I can make by performing my job to the best of my abilities.

I continue to be surprised by how much I have learned and grown through my experiences at the Voinovich School. The School has pushed me out of my comfort zone in my classes and given me the opportunity to gain practical experience as an intern with a number of organizations in the Athens area.  Taking a step back and seeing the difference that I have the potential to make in the public sector or a nonprofit organization empowers me to be the manager who gives people a voice and helps lessen the burden — the exhaustion — of silence in our communities.

Balancing on the Run

By: Emily Burns

I’ve never paid much attention to my astrological sign or the corresponding horoscopes. But, as I reflect on my first semester as a graduate student in the Voinovich School and look ahead to spring semester, I can’t help but feel thankful that I’m a Libra. The mystical scales that serve as the symbol of Libra are thought to evoke a sense of balance, harmony and peace.

I’ve often heard it said that school of any type is a balancing act, and I think that holds especially true for graduate studies. I find myself juggling quite a few responsibilities at the moment: working as a graduate assistant for the university, applying for summer internships, training. for the Athens Marathon, and last but certainly not least, attending actual classes

Sometimes I have trouble falling asleep at night with so many questions about my future near and far unanswered, but herein lies one of the main reasons I love to run:  It’s exhausting.

The main reasons I’ve put my adult life on hold for another two years is to learn, to go to class, to do homework and readings and write papers in the hope of understanding how to manage people, resources and expectations in the public sector. Still, there is nothing better than coming home after a long run, eating my body weight in peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches and succumbing to the kind of whole-body tired you can achieve only by running farther than you did the day before.  Waking up with sore legs is just an added bonus.

Finishing my first marathon is still one of the proudest moments of my life, and I imagine walking across the graduation stage with my classmates from the Voinovich School will be up there as well. Whenever the going gets rough and the scales seem imbalanced, there is immeasurable comfort in knowing that I can always go for a run and leave some of my problems with the pavement.

To the MPA Class of 2015 – My Brand New Cohorts

By: L Volpe

I am excited to be welcoming the newest class of MPA students to the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs!  I can tell you from personal experience that you are all in for a challenging and wonderful ride over the next two years.  Hindsight is 20/20, so I am going to share some of my biggest lessons and hope that you can benefit from my newfound perfect vision from my first year in the MPA program.

Take advantage of the opportunities presented to you.  The Voinovich School will be sending communications asking for interested parties to participate in projects. Take advantage of any project that may interest you.  I did not realize how important these opportunities were until I applied for an internship over winter break.  The environmental scan I performed with Ohio Campus Compact was a wonderful learning opportunity, and I grew so much professionally and personally during the process.  You will be pleasantly surprised how much taking on extracurricular projects will enhance your time inside and outside of classes.

Get involved on campus.  If you want to make the most of your experience at Ohio University, find something you are passionate about and become a contributing member of our Bobcat family!  Last year, most of my projects were based up here at the Voinovich School.  This was not a bad thing by any means, but I began to feel alienated from the rest of the campus. My second year is completely different.  I am the graduate assistant for the Women’s Center, and also was elected the vice president of Committees and Legislative Affairs for Graduate Student Senate, both of which are located in the Baker University Center. Being on campus has allowed me to meet and work with a wider selection of graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty. Additionally, I am able to apply the lessons I have been learning here at The Ridges to my new leadership roles.  There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the theory you are learning in class come into practice in the field.

Finally, embrace your cohort.  The success of my first year had a lot to do with my classmates.  We are a dynamic group of people who are not afraid to voice our opinions and challenge one another’s point of view.  We did not always get along, but in order to grow you have to understand the thought processes and viewpoints of others.  The most important thing is to always remember to respect one another by embracing each person’s unique qualities.  Find a way to relate to one another. Your experience will be greatly enriched if you do.

I wish you the best of luck with your first semester in this program.  I know that you will all be successful and look forward to meeting everyone throughout the year!

Expecting the Unexpected for Year Two

As I bombard my professors’ e-mail accounts with constant approval-seeking that my goals during the two years at the Voinovich School makes any sense, I realize that my second year in the program will be wildly different from my first. While the first year was comprised entirely of MPA courses and practicum experience, the second year will nearly completely feature neither.

As mentioned in my previous post, I will be studying abroad in Scotland this summer for one month, taking GEOG 5560: City and the Environment and HIST 593: Edinburgh since 1750. In addition, I will be interning with the Cockburn Association, an urban planning civic society based in Edinburgh. The plan is to earn two classes worth of credit toward my Environmental Sustainability Graduate Certificate during this time. The first class mentioned above and the internship will fulfill those roles, while the history class will serve to educate students in the program about the city in which we will be living during the duration of the program.

Regarding the Fall, it’ll be interesting enough adjusting to the switch to semesters from quarters. On top of that, I’ll be taking four classes, instead of the usual two-class-one-internship approach through which I’ve been operating these past two quarters. I’ll most likely be volunteering with Rural Action in addition to the class load as well. The biggest challenge of it all, however, will be that each class will be outside of the MPA curriculum and within the various departments of environmental studies, economics, journalism, and political science. None of my classmates I’ve gotten to know over the year will be in any of my classes and the content will be foreign to me. The environmental studies and economics classes will count toward my graduate certificate while the journalism class, Graphics and Audiences, is something I’m taking because I think it could complement my communications background and give me some insight into marketing (in case I decide to go that route). I’m enrolled in the political science class, Environmental Politics/Policy because that’s the sort of policy I’m interested in (along with food policy, which I believe goes hand in hand with it).

Although it seems like I’m disregarding my MPA degree during my second year in the program, I’m actually helping to fulfill it with required elective courses…and then some. By the time Spring semester rolls around, I’ll only have one required MPA class and one required certificate course to take, freeing up some wiggle room for more exploration. Learning should not be held down by parameters established to earn a degree, but instead should evolve beyond such parameters to earn an education. This is what I’ve been excited to earn all throughout the program. And I’m thankful that the Voinovich School offers such an opportunity.

Springing Into Action

I can’t believe it’s already the third week of spring quarter. I feel like most of my blogs have begun with my astonishment at how quickly the program has passed, but it’s hard to ignore something as omnipresent as time. I feel like I’m constantly reminded of how compressed the MPA experience is – not that it’s any fault of the MPA program. On the contrary, it’s amazing to think back to the classes and
applied learning experiences I’ve had in only two quarters at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. I already feel much more prepared to have a career than I did after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree. Even just gaining a better understanding and appreciation of how much the public and private sectors are intertwined is important information that I would have been disadvantaged not
knowing at the start of a career.

All the opportunities I’ve had so far with the Regional Nonprofit Alliance, Raccoon Creek Partnership, and now with Rural Action have been invaluable in providing an applied understanding about the relationship that each sector has with the other and the roles they play in providing goods and services to the country’s communities and to the country as a whole. When job hunting, those experiences will mean just as much or more as the classes I’ve taken.

This all-around education is what makes OU’s MPA program so unique. This quarter I’m taking Organizational Theory and Politics and Financial Management and will be aiding Rural Action in its marketing efforts and with the publication of its e-newsletter, the Rural Rambler. It appears that this summer I’ll even be able to earn credit toward the MPA degree in Ghana with the African Culture
through the Arts program. The willingness of the Voinovich School’s faculty to accommodate the interests of its students is also what makes this experience so unique. But for now, I look forward to another quarter and to the exciting challenges it will surely bring.

The Real World: Post-Grad

After re-reading my blog post from last week, I realized that I sound like I have one foot out the door this quarter—which is kind of true, but I wanted to provide some clarification on my thoughts and feelings this week.


Getting your Master’s degree is tough—there’s no denying it. I’ve worked incredibly hard over the past year and a half at the Voinovich School, trying to put my best work forward and seize all of the opportunities that have been made available through the school. School work was always my first priority, and has been for the past 19 years.

I’m now moving into a stage of life where I hope to use everything I’ve gained through my schooling and apply it to the real world. This is so bizarre to me, since I know of nothing but school (aside from practicum, GA and internship experience—which is great, but was all done in a very safe environment). The real world is going to be different. There’s no safety net after June.

This is why I’m feeling antsy—I feel not only incredibly prepared for a “big girl” job because of the experience I’ve gained throughout the past couple of years, but also ready. I’ve spent 19 years focusing on school, so I’m ready to focus on life.

So, this quarter, be prepared for some possibly frustrated and antsy posts because I’m about to move onto another part of my life which is exciting and unnerving. I have a lot to accomplish outside of school work (i.e. job hunting, traveling to and from DC, finding apartments, closing out my work with the school, etc) that I haven’t had to deal with much before. If I don’t seem as focused this quarter, this is why!


In other news, I’m settling into classes well—Policy should be interesting because we are studying a project at the school that I was involved in loosely, and Fundraising will be a useful skill to me later in nonprofit work, so I’m looking forward to learning more about that. I’m still working on the semi- annual report for REAP, as well as a couple other small projects, so nothing new and exciting on that front.

Happy Week 2 everyone!