Southeast Student Helping Launch City of Cape Citizen Academy

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Energizing Cape Girardeau residents about what it means to be an engaged citizen is the top priority of Southeast Missouri State University graduate student Amanda Rogers this summer.

“Essentially, I am trying to find a way to engage citizens on matters that concern them and to get more involvement on advisory boards and City Council,” she said.

Rogers, a second-year graduate student at Southeast, is interning with Cape Girardeau’s City Management and Public Information offices to create a Citizen Academy for the people of Cape Girardeau. The academy is a new initiative being launched next month to teach citizens about how their local government works for them. The academy – an eight-week series of classes — will run mid-August through mid-October. Those interested in participating may apply here.

Rogers says she has been working with Cape Girardeau City Manager Scott Meyer, who first envisioned the Citizen Academy. The city hopes participants will learn about city government services and operations, including how taxpayers’ investments are working, talk with city leaders, staff and other residents, become more informed on current projects, gain a better understanding of the city’s resources and its capacity to meet the community’s needs and help in growing sustainability initiatives.

“I have been asking him questions and making sure that my vision is following what he would like to see in this program,” she said. “I have had a few meetings with him to discuss the project and so far, we are excited to see where this project goes.”

Networking has been key to leveraging the new Citizen Academy, Rogers says.  She’s participated in phone interviews with Paducah (Kentucky) Assistant City Manager Michelle Smolen, who’s offered some insights into the project.

“It was nice to hear that I was headed in the right direction for the Citizen Academy,” she said.

City of Cape Girardeau Public Information Manager Nicolette Brennan, left, and Amanda Rogers strategize on coordination of the Citizen Academy.

She’s also attended meetings with other City of Cape Girardeau department heads and gleaned information at City Council meetings and study sessions.

“I am also gaining experience that is not in my degree program but is really helpful for the future,” she said, referencing her work with the City of Cape Girardeau’s Public Information Office.

“I’m learning how to run an organization’s social media accounts and major organizations’ websites, she said, adding she is learning how to reach citizens through different messaging platforms when there is information to be shared.

“By working with City employees, I feel I am gaining government professionalism, as well as professionalism in any workplace,” she said. “I am hoping to gain some experience in city government and figure out if this career path is something I would like to pursue as a career.”

Rogers, of Cincinnati, Ohio, is in her second year of graduate studies at Southeast where she is pursuing a Master of Public Administration. At Southeast, she has served as a graduate assistant in the Greek Life office.

“I chose public administration because I have always loved politics and I knew that starting in government would help me gain the experience in order to eventually run for office,” she said.

She says the public administration degree program offers her the flexibility to take a multitude of career paths in the future.

“I am learning about being a government employee as well as how to manage and work in a non-profit organization,” she said. “I get excited when I think of the policies that need to be changed or fixed to help more people and how I can change them with my education and experience. … Something must be done to re-connect our country.”

Rogers earned an undergraduate degree at Marietta (Ohio) College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a certificate in Leadership Studies. She plans to graduate from Southeast in May 2019.

She then hopes to find a job in city or state government or pursue a doctoral degree in public policy and management. Work in city management could serve as a first step before eventually running for a state legislative position or working in the legislative branch at the federal level in Washington, D.C., Rogers said.