Class of 2014 Success Stories: A vision for public service
Classroom concepts help graduate drive positive change
By Pete Fairbairn
As an undergraduate at BGSU, Daniel Gordon realized that his calling in life was in public service. He wasted no time taking action on this epiphany, successfully running for Bowling Green City Council in 2011.
He was sworn into office in January of 2012, one semester before being admitted into the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program. Thus began what Gordon describes as a “very positive feedback loop.”
“I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned at the city level to what I’m learning in the classroom and bring that back to share with other students,” said Gordon. “At the same time, I’ve taken things learned in the classroom to apply to my council work and various community projects.”
It seemed like a perfect fit from the start. His bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy was a great foundation, but he felt the need to increase his understanding of governance, public policy and the political process to pursue his career goals.
Not only was the MPA an ideal platform for Gordon’s future career in public service, but he also saw many distinct advantages in building upon the existing relationships he had established as an undergraduate at BGSU.
“I’ve made a lot of friends, and I can’t count how many mentors I’ve been able to talk to and forge bonds with on campus and in the community,” said Gordon. “I knew that I wanted to stay close with these folks.”
Learning while making a difference
The MPA’s focus on real-world experience has been particularly important to Gordon. “The key part about the MPA for me has been the emphasis on applied work. You don’t get that with just any program.”
Gordon cited Dr. Russell Mills as a great addition to an already-strong political science department. “Dr. Mills is energetic and dedicated. He’s done a lot to promote the program and it’s been a real joy to work with him.”
Mills has placed a strong emphasis on service learning, which made his classes more effective according to Gordon. “It’s so much more valuable and meaningful because I can say that the work I’ve done has gone to improve the community and to help individuals.
“And I think that’s actually a great thing about BGSU overall. We have a strong emphasis on service learning courses and I’ve benefited from three of those now,” said Gordon. “They have been very rewarding, both personally and professionally.”
For his part, Mills describes Gordon as one of the best students in the department.
“What I respect most about Dan is his true dedication to public service,” Mills said. “He really takes his job of representing his ward very seriously, and it’s been nice to see some of the work we do in the classroom get translated into positive change in the community.”
From classroom concept to city park
Gordon pointed to a strong example of the kind of synergies that have come into play for him as a BGSU graduate student and Bowling Green City Council member. An Economic Development Seminar, in which Gordon worked with other students and the BG Economic Development Foundation to survey local businesses and assess workforce needs, involved “really understanding the importance of quality of life in attracting families, workers and businesses.”
He ran with that concept again when his ward — the First Ward, including nearly everything north of Wooster and east of Main — was about to lose an important community asset. The former Ridge Street School had been closed, eliminating the only public play space available in that part of town. In response, Gordon strongly and systematically advocated for the city to purchase the property in order to create a community park.
“I went around asking families what they thought should be done and if we should try to save the school grounds, and the response to the idea of creating a city park was overwhelmingly positive,” recalled Gordon.
He felt strongly that a park would do wonders for the area and that it would improve the quality of life there, attracting more families, prospective employees and students. His fellow council members agreed and approved the project.
One of those council members is Sandy Rowland, who has been very appreciative of Gordon’s contributions to city government.
“Daniel spearheaded the effort to purchase the school property, and that’s a great example of how he has been very productive,” said Rowland. “He’s known as a person who studies issues in great detail and is willing to take the extra time to research and come up with a report, and that has had a real impact on city council.”
The vision continues
Gordon is graduating with his Master of Public Administration degree this week, marking an important milestone in his quest for a career in public service and his desire to help improve the community’s quality of life.
Having been re-elected to city council just last year, Gordon will continue pursuing his vision for public service right here in Bowling Green. That’s good news for the campus and the city, which have a long tradition of mutual respect and cooperation. Gordon points to that collegial relationship as a crucial advantage for all concerned.
“It seems to me that we’re just a big extended family. People are very down to earth, compassionate and willing to establish friendships as well as working relationships,” noted Gordon. “And I don’t think you get that everywhere.”
It’s in that vein that Gordon plans to continue bridging the campus and city.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to serve my constituents and also helping establish more projects for students who are looking for applied work.”