From Private Sector to Public Service, USC Price Student Looks to ‘Make a Difference’

“I want to benefit the general public, whether that be in local politics … or nationally,” says Jarred Cornell, a Master of Public Administration (MPA) online student.

How does one make a difference in their community?

For Jarred Cornell, societal impact wasn’t always his main goal. However, after witnessing troubling policy shifts within his native city of Orlando and Florida overall, he recognized the urgent need to advocate for and empower individuals throughout the state.

Of course, while passion is a vital quality for changemakers, there are many other skills one needs to hone and develop to have a meaningful impact. That’s why Cornell decided to pursue a Master of Public Administration (MPA) online from the USC Price School of Public Policy — to advance his knowledge and gain the necessary abilities to become an effective leader.

Cornell completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida in 2020, receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in urban and regional planning, along with a minor in real estate. By the following year, he was working in the home-building industry as a land acquisition analyst at Lennar.

“In this role, I’m the finance guy up front. Basically, when home-building companies look to purchase land to build neighborhoods, [I support] the financial analysis to determine if it is feasible [and whether] the deal would be possible,” he explained.

While Cornell has found success in the industry and enjoys his position at Lennar, he began to contemplate leaving the private sector, particularly in light of certain political developments over the past few years.

“Growing up in Florida as a progressive — being blue in a sea of red — especially over recent years, has been a challenge, and it makes me want to do more. I’ve always known that I wanted to enter public service in some capacity, and eventually, I knew I would make a transition out of the private sector,” he said.

Jarred Cornell Usc Online Mpa Student
For Jarred Cornell, USC had everything he was looking for in an online graduate program: strong principles, flexibility, a committed alumni network, prestige and opportunity. (Photo: Courtesy of Jarred Cornell)

The time for that transition, Cornell explained, is now.

“I’m in that spot I hoped to be, where I’m stable enough to be able to pursue education and take some risk on opportunities that will fulfill my purpose, which is hopefully making an impact locally and beyond,” he said. “I want to get into public service in some certain capacity to make a change, whether that be working for a federal agency, or local organizing, or political campaigns, or something else.”

With the MPA online, Cornell knew he would be able to determine which facet of public service is the right fit for his career goals and would allow him to make an impact in the future.

“USC has had everything I was looking for from the beginning: strong principles, flexibility, a committed alumni network, prestige and opportunity. I’m very happy,” he said, noting that the university is a supportive landing pad with the resources to help students wherever they are in the globe.

Although Cornell was concerned that attending an online program would reduce the strength of his connections, he found himself feeling more included remotely than he did during his in-person undergraduate program.

He attributes this not only to his exceptional cohort, but also to his proactive approach in taking advantage of various opportunities, such as participating in the Trojan Network, a mentorship program offered by the USC Career Center that pairs Trojan alumni with current students.

“I’ve been assigned such a wonderful, helpful, inspiring mentor, and I know I’ve found a lifelong mentor through this,” he said. “It has been great to learn with people whom I identify with, resonate with, that I can learn from. There are some very inspirational people in my cohort alone, let alone all the others I’m beginning to meet virtually as well. The people are what make the place.”

As Cornell currently works in the private sector, he admits he has not yet had the opportunity to apply many of the technical skills he is acquiring through the program (which include policy analysis, financial management and budgeting, data analysis, and regulatory knowledge). He is, however, beginning to apply this newfound knowledge as he becomes more engaged in community initiatives.

“I just joined the Orange County, Florida Democratic Party. I am doing canvassing for some local politicians trying to promote voting,” he said. “The program has taught me a lot about the culture of public service workers and organizations, including what inspires people, which is all so useful as I dive into this kind of work.”

While Cornell still has a few semesters remaining until graduation, he is already looking toward the future and is confident in his desire to make a positive impact on society.

“I want to make a difference. I want to benefit the general public, whether that be in local politics, in Orlando, in Florida or nationally. Maybe that’s supporting a candidate or agency or even running for office myself one day,” he said. “I’ve found this process to be invaluable, and I’ve only just begun, so I can’t wait to see where all these opportunities take me.”

Learn more about the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program online at the USC Price School of Public Policy today.