Over the past two years, Hannah Will moved between states, switched jobs, got married and had a baby.
Somehow, she managed to find time for a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree, too, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Will, a recent graduate of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, credits the school’s MPA Online program for letting her study remotely while life was a whirlwind. The education has already paid off: Will landed a job at social media giant Meta, where she oversees marketing and performance management for the company’s government affairs team.
“I am so happy that nothing went on hold while I was in the program,” Will said. “I was learning. I was progressing. I could get married. I could be pregnant. It didn’t feel like things that I had put in motion before the degree had to wait unnecessarily, and that was really nice.”
Will previously managed digital marketing campaigns for big brands like Discover, Staples, TripAdvisor, Anytime Fitness, and FASTSIGNS. The work put her in the middle of issues surrounding online privacy and social media’s role in society. She helped clients navigate new privacy laws like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, as well as software changes by tech giant Apple, which made it more difficult for advertisers to track users across the internet.
“In digital marketing, there is a real tension between leveraging people’s data so brands and small businesses can reach them and protecting those same individuals’ privacy. How we govern our interactions online, both with brands and with one another, is complicated,” Will said. “I wanted to pursue further education so I could help address these wicked problems.”
Will chose the USC Price School because its MPA program was highly ranked and academically rigorous. The online classes were also synchronous – rather than pre-recorded – so she could interact with professors and classmates. Since classes were online, many of those classmates were working professionals in city government, giving Will further insight into public administration.
One of the most profound lessons she learned was the role politics plays in policy. Entering the program, Will viewed politics as an obstacle to overcome, or a nuisance to policy.
“But what we learned in a couple of different classes is that politics is the arena in which policy discussions are held. It’s totally necessary,” Will said. “If you have two right answers, where do you hash it out? The political field is where that happens.”
A year into the program, Will got hired to be on Meta’s policy programs team. The job combines her marketing skills with her new policy knowledge, and she supports policy work across the globe.
Will finished classes in December and had her first child days later, capping a two-year period of major life milestones. She got married, became pregnant, and moved from Colorado to California for the Meta job, all while in the MPA program. She juggled all of this while achieving a 4.0 GPA.
“She’s an exceptional student,” said Dora Kingsley Vertenten, professor and faculty director of MPA Online for the USC Price School.
“Hannah often took the leadership role of communicating when someone in the course was having questions on the assignment or the content of the curriculum,” she added. “Often, Hannah was speaking for her classmates and relaying that information back to others.”
Will credits Kingsley Vertenten for always asking her students to be clear and concise in their work, a lesson Will applies to her policy messaging at Meta.
“The MPA program was what I needed to get into this policy-focused role,” Will said. “I was so happy to land the job because I had been nervous about making a career pivot from marketing into policy. My leap was enabled by the degree.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed by Hannah Will in this story are her own and not those of Meta.