Standing in the bright February sunshine, Chip Monaco was living out the dream of 3-year-olds everywhere. He was surrounded by trucks. Big trucks. Big trucks that pick up trash.
It’s not the Brandman alumnus and adjunct faculty member’s job to drive those Waste Management trucks. But he does play a critical role in making sure they show up on a weekly basis in cities throughout Orange County. He handles the government contracts that make that possible.
“Experience along with the tools I learned in my Brandman courses align me for success in my current role,” said Monaco, who graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) in 2010 and was among the first students in the program. “My job requires me to interact with government staffs, elected officials and government processes.”
Understanding government processes and those of nonprofits are critical components of Brandman’s MPA program and are what separate it from the MBA program.
“The bottom line for an MBA is profit and loss. The ‘profit’ in government and nonprofits is service and delivery. They’re different cultures and understanding the pressures on those cultures is what makes people with government experience also valuable in private enterprise,” said Monaco.
Waste Management, while neither a nonprofit nor a government entity, relies on government and business contracts, he said. “My job is to navigate the challenging processes that governments put in place and compete for new business while growing a bottom line.”
Monaco passes along what he learned from personal experience, which includes working as a chief of staff for county supervisors as well as in county public works, waste and executive offices, to students in the MPA program now.
“My goal is to expose students to the pressure points experienced as a staffer in government. The media, bloggers, internal politics, lobbyists, elected officials – all of those weigh in on your ability to take action,” said Monaco. By helping students understand the pressure points, they’ll be able to make better policy recommendations and make government work better and faster for the public that it ultimately serves.
“People deserve a quick answer,” he said. “The Brandman MPA gives the learner what is needed to address real, important, public problems and it dives into what is means to be a successful, innovative and effective government organization.”
Teaching at Brandman helps fulfill another goal. “I actually was a late bloomer for college. I did a lot of crazy stuff after I graduated from high school,” he said. He enrolled at Chapman University when he was 26, thinking he would teach and coach at the high school level. But a political science class earned him an internship with the county and he never left, even after earning his bachelor’s degree.
“In some ways, my heart is still with teaching, so teaching at Brandman helps fill that void,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to retire and then teach as my retirement job. It’s a passion and more than a job. It’s really about imparting my knowledge to those who are interested. It’s how I hope to give back and keep myself sharp at the same time.”
Retirement isn’t around the corner, so full-time teaching will wait. In the meantime, Brandman students get the benefit of an experienced adjunct faculty member.
While people get into government jobs for a variety of reasons, he said, understanding the valuable lessons they can learn from an MPA program can lead to both a better understanding of government and career success.