Kalie Wertz, MPA '17

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Kalie Wertz

Fels Public Leadership and Service Fellowships (PLAS) provide students with funding to pursue work at non-profit and government organizations that would otherwise be unpaid. Kalie Wertz, MPA ’17, interned at the Urban Affairs Coalition through the support of PLAS. Thanks to this experience and the Fels network, she is now a program coordinator at the organization. Fels student Meghan Pierce sat down with Kalie to discuss her Fels experience.

What professional/academic work were you engaged in before you came to Fels?
I completed two years of AmeriCorps between my undergraduate studies and starting at Fels. My first year was an AmeriCorps State & National term in a rural town in Washington State, focusing on public health initiatives. I then completed an AmeriCorps VISTA term in Philadelphia, where I worked to promote food access through farmers’ markets and federal food benefit advocacy.

Why did you choose Fels to pursue your MPA?
I applied to programs all over the country — Boston, Seattle, Denver, New York — but I had grown to really love Philadelphia during my AmeriCorps term and was not ready to leave yet. What really stood out about the Fels program was how it could be tailored to fit my needs and goals — it didn’t feel like a cookie cutter program that was only focused on getting students in and out. I received one-on-one career development, networking opportunities, and the flexibility to take different courses outside of the Fels course curriculum, which I really valued.

How will you use your Fels degree post-graduation?
I am currently a program coordinator at the Urban Affairs Coalition, a Center City-based nonprofit in community and economic development work. I first started working at the Urban Affairs Coalition as an intern, supported by PLAS funding. I am currently working with another Fels alumni, and together we are set on tackling the city’s financial health issues through programs uniquely based in support with financial institutions and members of several city departments.

What is your favorite aspect of the Fels experience?
My favorite aspect is definitely the relationships I have made. The individuals in my cohort have come from all walks of life. I have been able to learn so much about the world and myself through them. We have laughed, cried, and bonded in a unique way, and I know these friendships will last a lifetime.

How has Fels influenced your understanding of public service?
Fels has provided me with a well-rounded understanding of public service. Coming from primarily non-profit and AmeriCorps service roles, I had limited interaction with government and the components of private sector work. Fels allowed me to network with people from diverse fields and sectors, broadening my knowledge of how our societies operate and equipping me with a deeper understanding of how we can best collaborate to bring about the greatest social change.

Fels PLAS financially supported your internships while you were a student. Could you describe your internship roles?
I held three PLAS-funded internships while at Fels, but the most prominent is my work with the Urban Affairs Coalition. I started a year ago in their department of Community & Economic Development, assisting with their employer-assisted housing program. I helped navigate applications, solidify resources and grant funding, and created reports on the program. From there, I was hired as a part-time program administrator and now a full-time program coordinator. This experience would not have been possible without assistance from PLAS.

What was the most challenging aspect of your internship?
Having worked primarily in food access and public health, there was a learning curve regarding economic development and working with financial institutions. I became very familiar with the Community Reinvestment Act, loan underwriting, and credit reports — which are topics I had never given much thought to prior and are now essential to my daily work.

What was most interesting about the work you performed?
Coming from public health, understanding the role that financial health plays in an individual’s life is critical. I personally had never given it much thought, but I’ve become much more aware of my own financial situation, how I got to this point, and how many wrong turns I could have made along the way. It is incredibly interesting to see different financial situations and help to navigate what financial plans and products might work best for each individual.

How did PLAS funding assist you in obtaining this internship?
PLAS funding allowed me to accept this internship and to try something completely new and out of my comfort zone. I could have remained at my paid part-time job working at the same food access organization, but this internship allowed me a wider breadth of understanding about poverty and an introduction of how critical financial health is to an individual. If not for PLAS funding, I would have stayed in the same position, and would not be a full-time employee with the Urban Affairs Coalition, working alongside Fels alumni. 

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