The initial foray into higher education for Julius Moss II didn’t quite go as planned.
“The first year out of high school, I went to Morehouse College, a small, private liberal arts school in Atlanta,” he said. “I was there for a year before transferring back home [to Dallas]. I ended up going to UTA for undergrad. I tried it out for a couple of years and just kind of floundered — it didn’t work out.”
Take two was an entirely different story.
After taking a few years away from school, Moss made a big comeback, earning an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees. His most recent graduation day, in May 2017, was for a Master of Public Administration degree he earned online from UTA, 11 years after he earned a Bachelor of Arts in history on campus.
Moss also followed in his late father’s footsteps by making higher education his career. He manages the 13th Year Promise Scholarship Program at Seattle Colleges. The mission of the program is to increase college attendance in underrepresented groups in the local community. [October 2017 Update: Moss now works as a Quality Practice and Professional Development Assistant Manager with the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning.]
“My ultimate goal, as cliched as it may sound, is to start a nonprofit organization,” Moss said. “I’m not necessarily sure what the target area will be, but it will more than likely have something to do with policy advocacy.”
The online MPA gave Moss the insight he needs to pursue that ultimate goal and thrive even more in his current position.
“I was really looking for more of a practical experience in a graduate degree,” he said. “The MPA program answered all of the questions I had related to my previous work in my undergrad and my first graduate degree.”
Moss reconnected with higher education when he enrolled in an associate degree program at Mountain View College, part of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), in 2003. He graduated with an Associate of Arts in liberal studies in 2004.
Not long after he earned a bachelor’s degree the following year, Moss was hired by DCCCD. He worked with the Rising Star Program, which is similar to the 13th Year Promise Scholarship Program, as an academic advisor and as a student services specialist during his tenure.
“I got some experience advising for a couple of years when a coworker, who was originally from San Angelo, earned his undergrad and his master’s from Angelo State University in the online student development leadership program. That was my original plan for a master’s degree. I needed it for the level of work I was doing and the ownership I was taking on.”
Moss graduated with his Master of Education degree from Angelo State in 2013. His wife, Kenya, who is in the entertainment industry, accepted a position in the Pacific Northwest the following year. As the couple settled in Seattle, Moss was ready for a new challenge.
“I’ve always had an interest in public administration,” he said. “It’s one of those areas where you know what it is but you don’t know what it is until you do some in-depth research and reading and take a glance at what the possibilities could be. I wanted something to keep me active and keep me grounded. I did some research and, lo and behold, I felt the UTA program was a perfect fit.”
Moss grew up in Waco and Dallas. His father’s first job out of college was director of the TRIO program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds at Paul Quinn College. His father also worked for the Texas lieutenant governor on the legislative budget board in Austin.
“I get teased a lot by my mother [Yvonne],” Moss said. “She says, ‘Yeah, the next thing you’re going to be working for is the state.’ We’ll see how it goes. Coming from my mother’s side of the family, I would ultimately become a fourth-generation educator, so it was expected of me to continue. That was the dream, so to speak.”
Moss has worked with similar TRIO programs for the majority of his career, including as a volunteer counselor for the Upward Bound Program’s annual summer camp while he was an undergraduate student at UTA. He has a relentless passion for his work.
“As I developed an affinity for policy advocacy, the majority of what I try to do with my free time is encourage underserved youth to consider higher education,” Moss said. “It spans not just here locally. I still get frequent calls from friends and family from back home who work with high school students who are about to graduate and have questions about college, so I assist in a number of ways, from making a phone call to someone at an institution to helping families complete financial aid applications. That’s what I do with my ‘free time.’ I like to work when I’m not working.”
Washington to Arlington
Moss already had experience with UTA and with online education at Angelo State when he enrolled in UTA’s online MPA program in 2014.
“My comfort level with the UTA program was probably above average,” he said. “Being a working professional, if it wasn’t for online, I wouldn’t have been able to negotiate either one of those master’s degrees.”
That’s especially true considering Moss also helped with his wife’s career, which includes presenting live stage productions and working on national tours.
“I got my chance to get my executive producer credit, which means I paid for everything,” he said. “It was one of those situations. That was a pretty cool experience. I look forward to trying to do it again. As far as the work/life balance, if I had to attend classes in person, I just don’t think I would have been able to complete the program in the amount of time I did.”
Moss said the faculty, including MPA Program Director Dr. David Coursey, Dr. Alejandro Rodriguez and Dr. Karabi Bezboruah, made the online program even more manageable.
“The thing I really liked the most was the access I had to the instructors,” he said. “I work in the field of higher education, and I had never before seen in my life where 90 percent of my instructors literally had that 24-hour turnaround they talk about. Nine times out of 10, it was actually less than 24 hours. I’ve been in live classroom settings where the instructors haven’t been that accessible.”
The Perfect Fit
Moss said that once he had time to get started in the program, he was able to balance school and his busy schedule.
“There were specific times you had to interact with your instructor, like if there was a livestream chat or a chat room,” he said. “I had to be very strategic in the amount of time I devoted to the program. If I had to estimate, on average, it was somewhere between 10 and 15 hours a week. It didn’t get in the way of a lot of things. I actually liked the time management piece for this program way better than my previous program.”
PAPP 5329: Financial Management in the Public and Non-Profit Sectors and PAPP 5332: Capital Budgeting were Moss’s two favorite courses in the MPA program.
“Financial Management laid the groundwork for discovering how municipal budgets or state budgets and, ultimately, federal budgets work,” Moss said. “Capital Budgeting gave us an idea of how the decisions were made and how those funds were allocated between those different divisions of government, and how federal, state and local funds operate and how those decisions are made.”
Moss said the nonprofit organizational management courses were also particularly helpful.
“They made what I do at work 10 times easier because I could understand how those funds are leveraged and the do’s and don’ts,” he said.
In the end, the pieces of the academic journey for Moss all fell into place.
“The transition from history into the field of government, as far as instruction is concerned, is closely aligned,” he said. “The way one faculty member mentioned it to me is: History tells you what happened, but government tells you why it happened. It gives you a background in policy work which, ironically, is what I’m doing now as I transition into basically using my MPA program. My work is very heavily involved in nonprofit agencies and ultimately policy work.”
Bringing It Home
Moss made the long trip back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for his second UTA graduation day.
“That was the quickest trip I’ve ever made back home,” he said. “We squeezed a lot into 48 hours. We landed on Wednesday night, graduation was Friday morning, and we flew out late Friday night.”
Moss said he would absolutely recommend the online MPA program with one important caveat.
“Stake out what your goals are prior to going into the program,” he said. “There are a lot of public administration misconceptions, in my opinion, the majority of which were dispelled pretty quickly as I was taking courses. Communication is key. Without that open line of communication with my instructors, I don’t really think I could have been as successful.”
Learn more about the UTA online Master of Public Administration program.
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