The Greater Charlotte Apartment Association has named UNC Charlotte alumna Kim S. Graham as its new executive director.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Kim as our new executive director,” said Jennings Snider, president of the association’s board of directors and Chief Financial Officer with SYNCO Properties. “Kim is an outstanding fit for us, given her strong background in housing, public policy, community engagement, and nonprofits. Her management and interpersonal skills are peerless.”

Graham earned a Master of Public Administration degree from UNC Charlotte and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Johnson C. Smith University. The Gerald G. Fox MPA Program is housed in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. She most recently served as senior vice president of outreach and fund development with The Housing Partnership, a Charlotte-based housing nonprofit corporation. She will assume her new position on December 1, replacing Ken Szymanski, who will retire at the end of 2018 concluding a 32-year tenure as GCAA’s executive director.

“I’m honored to have been selected by the board to lead this dynamic organization. I look forward to building on the foundation created by Ken, the professional staff, engaged board and members at the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association,” Graham said.

During her time with The Housing Partnership, Graham doubled the organization’s grant revenue while implementing place-based programs to protect seniors from tax lien foreclosure and expanded access to resources for neighborhood improvement projects. Graham’s experience also includes stints with United Way of Central Carolinas as its public policy manager and with the NC Parent Teachers Association as a regional program manager. Prior to that, Graham worked in the private sector for national and mid-market public accounting firms.

Graham has served on numerous boards including the NC Business and Education Technology Alliance, Johnson C. Smith University Trustees, Right Moves for Youth, City of Charlotte Neighborhood Matching Grants Program, Arts & Science Council Basic Operating Grants Panel and the Second Calvary Center for Community Development.

“This is an exciting day for the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association. Kim has the consensus-building tools, insight and resolve to ensure that we grow and stay relevant. Her skills and demeanor are such a good fit for the GCAA,” said Szymanski.   

Other Notable Recognitions

Shannon Reidlinger, MPA '18 received the Robert L. Kline Award for the Best Masters Student Paper. Her paper was entitled, "Leveraging the Graduate Degree: Employment Outcomes for Female Students of NASPAA Institutions."

Hannah Shore, MPA '16 is in the process of being cleared for a position with the Veterans Administration.

Under the direction of Dr. Jim Douglas and Doug Bean, thirteen MPA students presented their group Capstone project to staff at the Centralina Council of Governments on December 8.  The report is entitled, 'The Centralina Council of Governments Community Economic Development Resource Report and Guide." 

MPA student Catherine Carter won first place in the UNC Charlotte Graduate Research Symposium this spring in the Public Health, Social Science, and Business category.  Catherine's project was completed under Professor Maureen Brown in the Research Applications Capstone Class last fall.  An abstract of her project is here.  

Vanna Kealy and Marc Botero, both graduates from the MPA Program, have committed to serve in the Peace Corps as Literacy Instructors and Facilitators in Vanuatu. Vanna graduated in December of 2015 and Marc graduated in December of 2016.  They promise to keep careful notes on their experiences and will prepare an exhibit for a future Alumni-Student Conference!

Ashley Lantz '12 is a native of Hoffman NC and graduated from Wingate University with a major in Spanish and minor in Psychology.  She entered the MPA program initially as a Nonprofit Management Certificate student but realized that she wanted the full value and benefits of the MPA degree.  Ashley has a rich background working in nonprofit and government programs, starting with Union County Community Action in their Head Start program, then a program coordinator with United Family Services which later became Safe Alliance.  She made the jump into upper management when named Executive Director for Turning Point.  After 3.5 years, she was named Director of Social Services for Union County in February 2018.  She works under another MPA alumna, Michelle Lancaster ’97, who is the Executive Director of Union County Human Services. Ashley is enjoying the challenge of her new position, absorbing the differences between nonprofit management and government management, particularly the multiple layers of state and federal regulations and the ripple effects of the rapid population growth rate in Union County.  However, her focus as a leader on creating a culture where staff feel engaged and empowered regardless of their level has not wavered. She notes that the variety of classes offered by the MPA program has been very beneficial in her career success, whether that be human resources, budgeting, grant writing or nonprofit management.  The breadth of these classes, as well as the focus at both the micro and macro level, provided a “leg up” not offered by other degrees with a narrower focus. Ashley’s advice to current MPA students is to take advantage of professional networking opportunities.  While the education itself is important, you need to get to know people and be recognized for your potential while in the program; this makes the transition to that new or next job much easier. 

Matt Rhoten '15 is from Kingsport, TN and graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in political science.  A lifetime learner, Matt earned an MS in Economics and Community Development after he finished his MPA!  Matt has always had an interested in public budgeting and finance, and rose rapidly in Gaston County government, starting as an intern in 2014 and ascending to the Budget Director position by 2016. As Budget Director, Matt sees himself as a problem solver for the county, working with departments to understand their needs in the context of resource constraints.  He particularly enjoys working with the commissioners, the county manager, and across departments to accomplish large-scale projects in creative ways.  As a manager, he wants his staff to learn and grow in their careers by learning from experience and sharing perspectives and knowledge with each other.  Although he is the boss, he always benefits from the ideas of his staff. Matt has found the MPA program invaluable to his career success.  The program made him stretch by understanding how to analyze data and issues from the thought process of a manager.  The use of cases and examples from real life prepared him for the working world, and the program provided him with the opportunity to apply the theories and concepts from class material to his experiences at work.  In short, the MPA program provided a wonderful foundation for his career. Matt’s advice to current students is to embrace whatever role you have and see how it connects to the larger mission of the organization.  Seek opportunities to take on tasks that are out of your comfort zone, and attend meetings and events that may not be required but will provide exposure and important insights if you listen.  Above all be patient; good work will be noticed and will lead to advancement.

Anna Eaton Washington '13 hails from Allendale, SC and graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte with a Criminology degree.  She worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Piedmont in Statesville, NC for the past 11 years, the past five of which she served as Executive Director.  She transitioned this past spring to a nonprofit Executive Director position in Davidson, much closer to home so she can have more time with her one-year-old baby girl! As an Executive Director, Anna sees her primary role as building a respectful and equal organizational culture where everyone is in a position that taps their strengths and there is an expectation of individual responsibility for achieving measurable performance outcomes.  You need to have such a culture in place before you focus on building revenue and expansion.  One of her proudest achievements is using her “one person development team” to secure two federal grants totaling $2.7 million that allowed them to expand to multiple locations. She credits the MPA program with teaching her to think critically, write in a clear and convincing manner, and learn management skills.  Above all, the program pushed her beyond her self-perceived capabilities and instilled confidence needed to step into a professional position.  She noted that she continues to consult MPA faculty on a regular basis.  She is proud to have been named one of the Iredell Health System’s “Future Five under 35.” Anna’s advice to current students is to “network heavily” as these relationships will prove helpful at different stages of your career.  Always remember that no job is beneath you and to focus on all your coursework as you never know when it will be relevant in future positions.

Recent Faculty News:

Dr. Tom Barth was awarded the Donato Pugluese Award at the Southeastern Conference on Public Administration (SECoPA) in Birmingham for service to the conference and encouragement of his colleagues.

Dr. Joanne Carman and Judy Millesen had a manuscript accepted for publication in the Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs (JPNA) entitled "Building capacity in Nonprofit Boards: Learning from Board Self-Assessments"

For his international work in advancing public sector performance, UNC Charlotte researcher James Douglas has received the Senator Peter B. Boorsma Award. The Southeastern Conference for Public Administration presented him the award in October in Raleigh at its annual conference.  The Boorsma Award honors a practitioner or academician who facilitates over many years the international exchange of knowledge and administrative practices that foster better performance in the public sector.  “I have worked in countries that are very different from the United States and from each other,” Douglas said. “Working in such places helps bridge the gap in understanding across countries and cultures.  I think the committee also appreciated that I have done both teaching and research abroad.”  Douglas is a professor in the Department of Political Science & Public Administration in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Estonia at Tallinn University of Technology in 2014 and an advisory board member for the Center of Governance and Public Management at the Lahore University of Management Sciences from 2013 to 2015.  He has published in academic journals including Policy Studies Journal, Public Organization Review, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Public Administration Review, American Journal of Political Science and others. His specialties include public budgeting and finance, judicial administration and public administration. He has consulted with and taught public officials in Japan, China, Pakistan, and Estonia, focusing on public policy best practices.  “I believe my work has had its biggest impact in Pakistan, where the public officials I trained are working under extremely difficult conditions,” he said. “Their positive attitudes and eagerness to make their country better was an inspiration to me.”  Douglas was director of the UNC Charlotte Master of Public Administration program from 2006 to 2012. Prior to joining UNC Charlotte’s faculty, he was a faculty member at the University of South Carolina and the University of Oklahoma. He earned his doctoral degree in public administration from the University of Georgia.  “We are very proud of this recognition of Jim’s outstanding scholarship on the international stage,” said Thomas Barth, director of UNC Charlotte’s MPA program. “It reflects the talent and dedication Jim brings to his scholarship, teaching and engagement.”  Douglas describes his selection as a distinct honor. “Receiving the award affirms in my mind that the work I have been doing abroad is meaningful and is hopefully making a difference in the world,” he said.

Words: Erin Cortez, CLAS student intern | Image: Lynn Roberson