Schar School 2020 Master’s in Public Administration ’20 alumna Bethany Showell is a nutritionist in the Child Nutrition Programs of the Food and Nutrition Service at the Department of Agriculture.
Working for the federal government, I am fortunate to be able to work from home one or two days a week—during a normal week. Little did I or anyone know that we would be working from home EVERY day of the week. It has certainly been an adjustment trying to figure out how best to utilize technology to carry on with the day.
I think we’re all becoming proficient in WebEx, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams. Office etiquette has given way to Zoom etiquette and email etiquette. You have to learn how to be patient in a different way than “office patience.” But through it all, people are trying their best and also encouraging their colleagues.
As we end our second month in a situation nobody could have foreseen, I am so proud that my colleagues and I have continued to do the work we love, serving a vulnerable population so important to us all—the children in the Child Nutrition Programs.
Our agency motto is “Do Right and Feed Everyone.” I must say that colleagues nationwide, whether here in Virginia at the national office or in offices in our regional offices across the nation, have all pulled together through some unprecedented times making sure the work continues and children are fed. And our colleagues in our other divisions within the agency are working to do the same for their populations. We are also grateful of the efforts of the hard-working school food authorities across the communities that are doing most of the hands-on work; they're the ones making the meals, packaging them, and distributing them to the parents and children.
There’s no playbook for a situation like this—there have been natural disasters, sure, but nothing in the scope of a pandemic. When we found out that we would be sent home and would not return, the first thought wasn’t personal, it was “OK, we have to make sure services continue.” And that’s what happened. COVID-19 response continues to be the focus of not only our agency, but other agencies as well, whether federal, state, or local.
It takes a certain type of person to enter public service. It really is all about the service and how best to serve the population. We do it gladly! I think being in this position while studying as a Master’s in Public Administration student at the Schar School has enabled me to offer the best service I possibly can. I graduated in May and I can honestly say I have the absolute best tools at my disposal because of this degree and my experiences at George Mason University.
So, to all of you out there still in the thick of the program, at the beginning of the program, or considering the program, I say do it and enjoy it. When the real world comes knocking, you’ll be ready.