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The exciting and evolving career path of an IU Northwest MPA alumnus

Tony Ellis received his MPA from Indiana University Northwest in 2014. Today he's enjoying a career in Washington, D.C. as a nutrition policy associate for The Center for Science and the Public Interest.

It's a position he never knew existed, but that's what a degree in public affairs has the power to do. It can take you places you had never thought of. It can prepare you for whatever might come next in your career, wherever that may be.

Ellis earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and worked for the Speaker of the House in Illinois. After the legislative session ended, he decided to return to school.

His decision to pursue an MPA, health services administration concentration, at IU Northwest, stemmed from a national conversation about "Obamacare."

"That was on the tip of everyone's tongue at that time," Ellis said. "I thought, 'this is going to be the next move of mass employment for many Americans, so it would behoove me to go ahead and receive the skills and training that is necessary for me to be successful in this career field.'"

Ellis knows what he's talking about. Not only is healthcare still a hot-button issue, but jobs for healthcare leaders are expected to grow more plentiful as scores of public service executives begin retiring in record numbers over the next 20 years.

Preparation for whatever comes next

Ellis’ journey is an example of how an MPA can take students in a multitude of directions.

In his role as a nutrition policy associate, Ellis works on campaigns dedicated to improving the quality of snack food available at various public places, including retail checkouts, highway rest stops, city- and county-owned institutions and restaurants. The campaigns are ultimately aimed at reducing the incidence of Type-II diabetes and obesity.

Reflecting on how his degree from IU Northwest prepared him for his next steps, Ellis said the MPA degree opened more doors than he originally thought possible.

“The job I’m doing is slightly different than the focus I had at IU Northwest,” Ellis said. “My focus there was more from a health services perspective and this is more public health, but it is in the same realm. It all reflects improving the public health of Americans on a preventive measure.”

Ellis said the exposure to research methodologies and statistical programs that he received at IU Northwest was an asset, as well as being surrounded by students interested in pursuing similar careers and faculty members who were accessible and supportive.

One such opportunity was a project analyzing the economic and political feasibility of building a Level I trauma center in Northwest Indiana. He and fellow students presented the findings to the chief executive officers of two area hospitals, a state representative and the community at large. The experience led to an internship and later a permanent position in public affairs and marketing at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn while he finished his master’s degree.

The key to finding your career niche is remaining flexible and open-minded, says Ellis, who intends to pursue a doctorate in public health.

“Students who take advantage of the opportunities that are available can apply their skills in a number of areas,” Ellis said. “You may have a general idea of where you want your career to go but you need to remain flexible and go wherever your career takes you.”