Master of Public Administration Alumna Is First Mid-America Regional Council Chief Innovation Officer

Amanda Graor, 2016 M.P.A. grad, serves as a resource to regional leaders pursuing innovative approaches in public policy and practice.

Amanda Graor

For many of us, it can be easy to take for granted our most important, yet basic, necessity – the quality of the air we breathe. For Amanda Graor, 2016 Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) graduate, this is something she spent years dedicated to improving at the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC).

With an impressive background in both science and engineering, Graor found she needed to broaden her knowledge to make a greater impact while continuing her forward-thinking work on air-quality issues.

“My background gave me a good understanding of the technical side of my work, but I felt like I could gain a lot by learning more about the administration and policy side of my projects,” Graor said.

After looking into a number of different M.P.A. programs throughout the region, she chose KU’s program at the Edwards Campus because of its distinguished reputation. Recognized with multiple top rankings by U.S. News and World Report, including a long-standing No. 1 ranking in local government management, she decided KU was the right choice.

“I knew several graduates and faculty members of the program and found it to be a huge added value to learn from my classmates’ experiences through the career-track option,” she said. “Working with professionals from all kinds of public and nonprofit agencies helped broaden my understanding of the interconnections between different agencies. I continue to draw on both classroom learnings and the network of my fellow students on a regular basis.”

Her outstanding work in the M.P.A. program and at MARC led her to a unique job promotion in late fall 2018 to Chief Innovation Officer. In this newly created role, Graor helps identify and implement innovative approaches to solve the region’s toughest problems. She leads MARC’s efforts to advance regional goals and collaborative initiatives through innovation in public policy and practice.

“In today’s world, local governments and civic organizations are navigating through rapid changes that have a big impact on how we operate. As new technologies emerge, traditional funding sources erode, and demographics shift, we face new opportunities and new challenges,” said David Warm, executive director of MARC. “Amanda’s coursework in the KU M.P.A. program helped her hone the skills required of this new role. It gave her a broad perspective on public organizations, like MARC, that address diverse functional areas. This enables her to be a resource to regional leaders and staff pursuing innovative approaches to a wide range of issues — from transportation to public safety to community services.”

“Much of the collaborative learning and leadership development taught in the M.P.A. program will help me achieve the goals laid out for me in this new role,” said Graor.

“Much of the collaborative learning and leadership development taught in the M.P.A. program will help me achieve the goals laid out for me in this new role,” said Graor.

“The KU M.P.A. program also gave Amanda a chance to complete an independent study that enlisted dozens of community stakeholders and deepened her understanding of regional needs and dynamics, which will serve her very well as Chief Innovation Officer,” said Warm.  

Graor plans to continue to draw on the network she built in the program and the classroom learnings in new and different ways as she moves forward in her career.

“I’m lucky to work for an organization that values continuing education, and I hope to make the most return on investment for them and for the region in this new position,” said Graor.

Inspired by her story? Learn about the Master of Public Administration.

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