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Student Profile: Kalie Wertz, MPA '17

May 15, 2017

Kalie Wertz, a 2017 Fels graduate, recently finished her MPA at the Fels Institute of Government. Fels student Meghan Pierce, MPA '18, sat down with Kalie to discuss her career, academic experience, and future plans.

What professional work were you engaged in before you came to Fels?

I completed two years of AmeriCorps between my undergraduate studies and starting Fels. My first year I completed an AmeriCorps State & National term in a rural town in Washington State, focusing on public health initiatives on physical activity. My second year I completed an AmeriCorps VISTA term in Philadelphia, where I worked with food access through farmers’ markets and federal food benefit advocacy.

Why did you choose Fels to pursue your MPA?

I applied to programs all over the country - Boston, Seattle, Denver, New York - but I had grown to really love Philadelphia during my AmeriCorps term and I was not ready to leave yet. But what really stood out about the Fels program was how specialized the program could be tailored to fit my needs and goals - not that I was going to be in another cookie cutter program that was only focused on getting students in and out. I received one-on-one career development, networking opportunities, and the flexibility to take any courses I wanted outside of the Fels course curriculum, which I really valued.

How do you seek to use your Fels degree post-graduation?

I am currently working at a Center City-based nonprofit in community and economic development work. I am working with another Fels alumni, and together we are set on tackling the city’s financial health issues through programs uniquely based in support with financial institutions and members of several city departments.

What is your favorite aspect of the Fels experience?

My favorite aspect is unmistakably the relationships I have made. The individuals in my cohort have come from all walks of life and I have been able to learn so much about the world and myself through them. We have laughed, cried, and bonded in a really unique way that allows me to know that these friendships will last a lifetime.

How has Fels influenced your understanding of public service?

Fels has provided me a well-rounded understanding of public service. Coming from primarily non-profit and AmeriCorps service, I was familiar with nonprofit work, but had limited interaction with government and even components of private sector work. Fels allowed me to network with those from all fields and sectors, broadening my knowledge of how our societies operate and equipping me with a deeper understanding of how we can all best collaborate for the greatest societal change. 

Please describe your internship role:

I have held three PLAS internships while I have been at Fels, but the most prominent is my work with the Urban Affairs Coalition. I started a year ago in their department of Community & Economic Development, aiding with their employer-assisted housing program. I helped navigate applications, solidify resources and grant funding, and create reports on the program. From there, I was hired as a part-time Program Administrator and now am a full-time Program Coordinator.

PLAS funding allowed me to take this internship over the summer and try something completely new and out of my comfort zone. I could have remained at my paid part-time job working at the same food access organization, but this internship allowed me a wider breadth of understanding about poverty and an introduction of how critical financial health is to an individual. If not for PLAS funding, I would have stayed at the same position, not have explored this new interest of mine, and not have become a full-time employee with the Urban Affairs Coalition, working alongside Fels alumni. 

What was most interesting about the work you performed at the Urban Affairs Coalition?

Coming from public health, understanding the role that financial health plays in an individual’s life is critical. I personally had never given it much thought, but I’ve become much more aware of my own financial situation, how I got to this point, and how many wrong turns I could have made along the way. It is incredibly interesting to see different financial situations and help to navigate what financial plans and products might work best for each individual. Having worked primarily in food access and public health, there was a learning curve to learn about economic development and working with financial institutions. I became very familiar with the Community Reinvestment Act, loan underwriting, and credit reports - which are topics I had never given much thought to prior and are now essential to my daily work.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu