Blog The COVID-19 Pandemic and MPA Education: Student Perspectives on Public Service Values and Public Service Motivation

Finding and Questioning the True Essence of Public Service During the Pandemic

food man people woman
by Silvana Bastante:

The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth a multitude of emotions, but overwhelmingly: grief. Grief for our enjoyed perception of normalcy. Grief for those whose challenges and struggles multiplied in a matter of weeks. Grief for the exacerbation of socio-economic issues that were already bursting at the seams, and perhaps the illusion that they were getting better.

As a public administration and policy student, the most painful and sobering part of this pandemic has been to watch the opportunity to innovate and embed humanity and justice in new policies be lost in the fight to maintain current systems in fear of not risking the unknown, but at the expense of the continued suffering of others. The reality is that we have been using band-aids on issues that have long required an ambulance to the emergency room. Although this has been a difficult year, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has (I hope) opened our eyes to what our perception of normalcy wrongfully allowed for far too long. 

The pandemic has exaggerated the existing inequities including – homelessness, poverty, public health inequities, food insecurity, unfair immigration laws, racial tensions—the list goes on. Why has the government not fought harder for these communities? Why does the government continue to patch-up issues with shelters and vouchers instead of looking hard at committing to aggressively tackling the core of these problems? This pandemic has shown us the extent and gravity of social and economic inequalities and at the same time shown us the resources we have as a nation to alleviate them. As a student of public administration I have been faced with my own discomfort and my role in the perpetuation of said normalcy, maybe, unknowingly, we have been and felt paralyzed because change requires so much sacrifice and uprooting of everything as we know it, but it is our responsibility. More than ever, I have a newfound commitment to the field of public administration and to people. 

Public service is the realization that change lies in the organization and empowerment of people, and we are simply there to facilitate that change, in informed, sensible, and compassionate ways. Public service understands the need to decolonize the field as we know it because all communities deserve to be fervently and courageously fought for.  The solutions may be unpalatable to our old way of thinking, but if there is anything we should have learned as public servants is that going back to the old way would be unconscionable.  

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About the author:

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 2015, Silvana’s public service background began at the Guatemalan Maya Center in South Florida as the Assistant Director of the early literacy-based, Parent-Child Home Program. Now in her last year of the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Silvana is focused on the future for community resilience and development through a policy lens. Silvana is the Vice President for Nonprofit Outreach of the ASPA Central Florida Chapter and the Graduate Assistant to the Director and Assistant Director at the UCF Downtown Center for Public and Nonprofit Management (CPNM), and recently received the 2020 Equity and Inclusion Student Fellowship for the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM). With a strong foundation in public service and applied studies in Public Administration, Silvana’s primary career interests include education, immigration, and economic development initiatives that aim to build up vulnerable communities. Whether her pursuits are through the private, public, or nonprofit sector, her efforts in advancing public service will always uphold community-building at their core.