Graduating Student Profile: Joe Fretwell
May 4, 2018
Name: Joe Fretwell
Hometown: Columbia, SC
Where did you earn your degree(s)?
Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) – Furman University, 2016
Master of Public Administration – University of Georgia, 2018
What interests you about your field?
I see government and public policy as avenues that offer real hope for positive change in the lives and outlooks of disadvantaged people. I am particularly interested in poverty alleviation efforts, and the MPA program has offered me the opportunity to dive deeply into the technical aspects of policies meant to expand affordable housing and educational opportunities to low-income families and communities.
What are some highlights of your time at UGA?
My favorite part about living in Athens and attending school at UGA has been working with the Clarke County Mentor Program. For the past two years, I’ve mentored a student at Clarke Middle School. He loves to play Monopoly and almost always beats me when I come to visit him at school. I’ve also enjoyed seeing some concerts at the Georgia Theatre and trying many of the great restaurants in Athens.
What does service mean to you?
Service is about listening. To me, we can often have the most impact on the lives of underserved people and communities by first and foremost listening to their stories. Hearing what people of significantly different circumstances have to say about the world and the issues they face bolsters the real value in public service oriented work.
What inspired you to join the Archway Partnership?
I was first drawn to the Archway Partnership because of its model for serving communities throughout Georgia. Placing worth in the ideas and perspectives of the people living in the places it partners with is a unique but incredibly valuable characteristic of the Archway process. Above all, I’m drawn to the idea of a “partnership.” It’s inspiring that Archway views itself as a true partner to the communities in which it works—as opposed to an organization that thinks it has all of the answers to what are often very complex local challenges.
What kinds of projects did you work on during your time with the Archway Partnership?
I have primarily been working on a performance evaluation of the work Archway has been doing in communities throughout the state since 2005. Much of this work has involved collecting data and building models to help Archway and the communities it works in better understand what economic development, health, and education goals have been met in communities across the state.
What is your most memorable experience/favorite project from your time with Archway?
Working with state data tracking poverty rates, health outcomes, business opportunities, and educational achievement in Archway communities has offered me a great understanding of some of the issues faced in rural Georgia. This work has fueled my interest to stay in the state for a career and work on capacity building among often overlooked communities.
What did you enjoy most about your time with the Archway Partnership?
One of the most impactful parts about working with Archway was the ability to learn from and work directly with Archway staff. Particularly in my work on Archway’s evaluation efforts, I learned from experienced staff about evaluation techniques and the purposes of evaluation findings in the work that Archway does with its communities. This allowed me to develop both professionally and academically, as I used some of the tools in coursework, but also received an in-depth look at the importance of internal evaluations for future programmatic planning.
Has your time with Archway affected your career plans? If yes, how so?
Above anything else, my work with Archway has convinced me to stay in Georgia after graduation. Through research and evaluation work, I have seen that Georgia is a state with lingering issues associated with poverty, but also one that has the ability to overcome various issues with real public buy-in and involvement in policymaking. Archway has taught me the importance of capacity building in often forgotten communities and populations, and I plan to stay in Georgia to continue to work on connecting people to the resources they need to thrive.
Do you believe it is important for students to participate in service programs?
Service programs are crucial for helping students fully connect with material covered in classes. While in school, I’ve been impacted most by my experiences outside of the classroom, all of which have made the material covered in class more meaningful. Universities exist to help students develop skills and grow academically, but they also serve the important purpose of preparing students to be engaged citizens. While working with Archway and attending UGA, I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to be a good neighbor to diverse communities and people across the state. This is largely due to the service-oriented programs I have participated in.
What advice would you give to a student who is considering joining the Archway Partnership?
Take time to talk with your supervisors and other Archway staff about their interests in public service and career backgrounds. When I started working with Archway last fall, I still did not fully know what type of job I hoped to find following my graduation. However, learning from Archway staff about experiences that impacted their career trajectories taught me a great deal about where I hoped to end up following school. The Archway staff has diverse backgrounds, but all are motivated to making the state of Georgia a better place to live for all of its residents. It is tremendously helpful in thinking about career opportunities to speak with people who have been in your shoes and now are involved in important and wide-ranging work throughout the state.
What are your plans after graduation?
I have recently accepted a job with the State of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs. I will be working in DCA’s Affordable Housing Policy and Finance division as a Policy Analyst and will have the opportunity to engage with a variety of stakeholders and groups focused on expanding low-income and affordable housing supplies across the state.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I hope to be deeply involved in public policy development that seeks to improve the long-term outlooks of individuals struggling with poverty and discrimination. In particular, I would like to be in a role that allows for research and advocacy surrounding public policy, but also one that encourages people of diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic levels to engage with government and the policymaking process.