Class of 2021: Maddi Georgoff advances dedication to community engagement
Master of Public Administration degree and assistantship helped affirm career path as an evaluator
By Julie Carle
Madison (Maddi) Georgoff is grateful to Bowling Green State University for first, helping her discover a passion for community engagement and second, for affirming her career path as an evaluator.
Georgoff, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology in 2015 and was active in community engagement work through what is now the Center for Public Impact, returned to campus in 2019 to pursue a Master of Public Administration in the Graduate College.
The May 2021 MPA graduate looked back on her BGSU experiences and reflected on their impact.
A natural for civic action
Georgoff’s interest in community engagement started from growing up in a family where caring for others and generosity was the norm. By the time she arrived on campus in Fall 2011, her path was predetermined. She became ultra-involved as a Civic Action Leader; founded bGAB, the social-issue-based alternative break program; and received the 2015 Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellows Award for public involvement and motivation to create lasting change.
Through the many undergraduate experiences, she gained a purpose and learned to channel her empathy and caring into community engagement. Her first jobs out of college were with Partners in Education at Toledo Public Schools and then the Girl Scouts.
“I loved working there, but there wasn’t really a next step for me. I was thinking about my future and applying for jobs, but I wasn’t considered for because I didn’t have a graduate degree,” Georgoff said.
She turned to her alma mater and one of her mentors, Dr. V. Rosser, director of the Center for Public Impact, who suggested the MPA program might be a good fit and connected her with Dr. Shannon Orr, MPA coordinator.
“In my phone conversation with Dr. Orr, I fell in love with the way she was explaining the program and have loved it ever since,” Georgoff said.
MPA: a hands-on education
For Georgoff, the program provided a hands-on, applied education that is focused on preparing professionals to make change within the world.
“Sometimes, people think it’s just a program for people who want to go into government jobs, but there are so many different ways you can use this degree,” she said.
She thought the format would be heavily lecture-based, but it turned out that many classes incorporated real-world projects working with nonprofit or public sector organizations. She worked on teams that developed social media policies for a city in Michigan that they implemented; researched information for many different Toledo organizations; and developed grant-writing resources for the Swanton, Ohio-based HOOVES, a nonprofit that “rescues horses and rescues veterans.”
“Being able to go out there and use the skills we are learning in the classroom and transfer those into real-life experiences is really going to help us afterwards in our career and on our resumes,” she said. “They were really great experiences for us to work together, to learn about the ins and outs of public work and public service and how to interact with leadership within government.”
Georgoff also learned in one of the MPA classes that program evaluation can be a career.
“I honestly didn’t know that evaluation was a career, and now that is what I want to do. I was surprised to find out that it was actually what I’d been doing when I was working for nonprofits. And now I’ve learned that I can do this all the time. It’s amazing!” she said.
One of her favorite projects was her first big evaluation project working with the Northwest Ohio Home Ownership Development agency on youth home ownership education.
“We had a good group for that project. We shared goals and had to switch to remote because of the pandemic, but we wrote a great report and presented the new program to the board. The community partner was phenomenal,” she said.
Despite the obstacles of working in a pandemic, the team was able to come together, work for the public good and create a great outcome for the client.
“Dr. Orr pointed out that one of the benefits of working on projects during the pandemic was that we were able to ‘flex some adaptability muscles’ because there were so many things we had to overcome. It was a good challenge for us and a good bonding experience too,” Georgoff said.
Program evaluation assistantship
Prior to the second year of the master’s program, Georgoff asked if there were any opportunities that would provide more evaluation experience. Dr. Nichole Fifer, assistant director of the Center for Regional Development (CRD), mentioned a newly funded grant to reduce infant mortality in northwest Ohio. The grant was funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and involved a BGSU team of researchers and community partners from the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio and ProMedica.
Georgoff was intrigued. She applied and was hired as the graduate assistant.
“I was really interested in this for practical experience and evaluation experience, but the more I got into it, I found more of a passion and an interest in public health,” she said.
She thoroughly enjoyed talking to the moms and helping to set up interviews for the evaluation process. Talking to them put the work into perspective and validated the reasons program evaluation is important to improve services. Georgoff was able to see how people could work together to address important social issues.
“Issues like infant mortality are addressing these big needs in our community. That’s something I’m passionate about as well,” she said. “That work was really impactful in the way I see my future career trajectory because I really enjoyed the process behind it and want to continue this kind of work. I enjoy qualitative research and I could see myself gravitating toward work with social determinants of health.”
Fifer praised Georgoff’s contributions to the team. “Maddi did a ton of work; she was our organizational guru, keeping everything on time and helping us collect data.”
Georgoff was sad to transition out of the assistantship at the end of the semester. “Even though I have had to transition responsibilities for other programs I’ve been involved with, this one was really hard because I was really invested in the project and the people.”
All of her efforts throughout the two-year MPA program were recognized during the MPA hooding ceremony. She was co-recipient of the MPA Community Service Award. According to Orr, the award is given in recognition of dedication and commitment to foster improved relations between the MPA program and northwest Ohio while providing valuable service to the community.
“Maddi is so great. She was recognized for her commitment to working with the community during her time in the program including writing grants for local nonprofits trying to respond to COVID-19, volunteering with the mobile food pantry, leading voter registration and more,” Orr said.
Georgoff didn't waste any time after graduation to accept an evaluation job to utilize the skills and experiences she gained in the MPA program. She accepted a position with CRD as the community placemaking program coordinator. She also is busy planning for a December 2021 wedding to her Falcon Flame, Andrew Menich ’17.
Updated: 05/27/2021 10:00AM