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Story by Ben Hall
Photograph by Michael J. Clarke
Professor Sandy Matava, MPA ’81, believes in the power of public service.
A past commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services, she spent more than two decades in state government. And as director of the Sawyer Business School’s Moakley Center for Public Management, she has made it her mission to develop the next generation of public servants—work that won her national recognition earlier this year when she received the National Public Service Award from the American Society for Public Administration.
Over the past 20-plus years, the Moakley Center, under Matava’s leadership, has established partnerships with local and regional agencies and nonprofit organizations and, through its certificate program, offered training for public service professionals throughout Massachusetts and beyond.
One of those partners is the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), which represents the state’s 351 cities and towns and the municipal officials who run them. Geoff Beckwith, the organization’s executive director, is a big fan of what the Moakley Center offers MMA members.
“[The certificate program] is a difference-maker that demonstrates Suffolk’s dedication to being a true partner with those in public service, in both the governmental and nonprofit communities,” he says.
The Moakley Center currently is partnering with six community organizations in the Commonwealth that work to improve local government, community health, human services, child welfare, education, and other areas—with an emphasis on developing management and leadership skills.
The certificate program’s benefits for public service professionals are twofold: They get the tools they need to accelerate their careers, and they also get a feeling for what graduate school can be like. To date, more than 2,000 public service and nonprofit managers have graduated from the program, with many going on to pursue a master’s in public administration (MPA) from Suffolk’s Sawyer Business School.
Eric Mitchell, MPMSP ’12, followed that path. Through the Moakley Center’s partnership with the Massachusetts Providers’ Council—one of the original supporters of the certificate program, dating back to 2000—he earned a human services management certificate in 2008 while working at ABCD, a Boston-based community development nonprofit. A few years later, he was accepted into Sawyer’s MPA program, able to apply credits he’d earned in the certificate program.
Now president and CEO of Pathways for Children, a leading provider of education and care programs on Massachusetts’ North Shore, Mitchell credits both his original certificate and his master’s degree with giving him the confidence to run an organization.
“I don’t walk into a room feeling out of place,” he says. “I walk in feeling like I’ve been prepared and can go ahead and do the work.”
As the certificate program enters its third decade, the center is planning to roll out a new offering in early 2022, Management and Leadership for Faith-Based Organizations in Greater Boston.
“Congressman Joe Moakley believed that public service is difficult work and that it requires a knowledgeable and committed workforce to help communities,” Matava says. “Partnering with organizations in the community and then connecting them with our motivated students and talented Moakley Center faculty allows us to have the impact that he challenged us to achieve.”