Carla Seiwert’s interest in environmental science began early. “When you grow up in a Minneapolis suburb, you grow up outdoors. There are lakes everywhere,” she said.
She pursued an undergrad degree in environmental science at a small Jesuit university in Omaha, Nebraska, and “fell into” a political science minor. Her senior year, she accepted a J-9 internship with the U.S. Strategic Command (USSSTRATCOM) at nearby Offutt Air Force Base and did research on combatting weapons of mass destruction, interviewing professionals at the Pentagon and think tanks, and presenting their findings to USSSTRATCOM commander Gen. Robert Kehler.
“This experience made me realize I really enjoy the structure of the federal government,” she said. “But when I graduated, I didn’t know what to do.” She signed up to be an environmental volunteer for the Peace Corps and landed in Korem, Ethiopia, a town of 1,600 residents and, coincidentally, the only lake in the region.
After her tour, Seiwert set her sights on a dream career with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Her search led her to Atlanta and the EPA, where she now works as a permit specialist who ensures that any municipality or paper mill discharging wastewater into rivers, streams or lakes throughout the Southeast meets state and EPA environmental standards.
Two years into the job, Seiwert started looking at where she wanted to go with the EPA and the type of degree she’d need to advance.
“I knew I’d have to get a graduate degree to compete for management-level positions. I saw that Georgia State had a night program and offered an MPA that fit into the managerial side of the EPA, and that got me moving,” she said.
Seiwert feels the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies’ MPA program has taught her all the skill sets she needs to move into management. She named John Thomas’s leadership class and policy analysis with lecturer Nathan Branscome, who works for the state, as two courses that have made a difference.
“Policy analysis gave me the formal process to analyze policy issues I deal with,” she said, “and the leadership class with Dr. Thomas gave me the tools to analyze why groups either work or do not work. By better understanding why things are the way they are, I can change the way I address them.”