2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Amy Rogge Mack, MPA/MSES'93

Alumnus Smalley puts his hand on his heart.

You are who you are due in part to what you learned at SPEA. Getting involved can be as little or a much as you like.

Photo credit: Ann Schertz, Article by Jim Hanchett

Our conversation starts with a look back at her first job, which began with a meeting at SPEA.

  • What are a couple of standout memories from your SPEA years?

    Meeting Steve Goldsmith. I was introduced to then Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith, who was serving as an adjunct faculty member in addition to being mayor, in the spring of 1993 by Professor Mike Maxfield. Steve was hiring for a position in his office and Professor Maxfield thought I might be a good fit. I was graduating in May and was really focused on finding a job. We met and clicked instantly. I worked with Steve in a variety of positions from 1993 through 2009 including chief of staff for the Corporation for National and Community Service and to this day consider him one of the most important mentors in my life. I am honored to also call him my friend.

  • So the education you received here helped you professionally. Does it continue to provide benefits?

    Absolutely. SPEA obviously builds each of us to be subject matter experts in our field. But more important than the subject matter, SPEA teaches critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Over the last 23 years I have served in a variety of roles, very few of them related to the environment. When I think back on what I learned, and what I have utilized most since my days in the classroom, it’s the foundational skills around management, the budget process, project, and team work. It’s not the actual work shown in the environmental chemistry problem but how Ron Hites taught us to think through the process and drive to a solution. Because of SPEA I know how to focus on a challenge, sort through analysis, and come up with solutions.

  • You’ve been involved in many programs that serve the community— what has been (or is) the greatest joy for you professionally?

    Serving in my current role as the executive director of Year Up Puget Sound. I recently transitioned to this position and knew from day one I had made the right decision. The students that complete our program are crossing over the opportunity divide. Our students are growing and maturing in our learning and development program and honing those skills during an internship. They graduate and join the ranks of Microsoft, Expedia, Expeditors, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and many other companies in our area, earning living wage jobs with solid benefits and job security. In Year Up sites across the country, students are experiencing similar results, and it doesn’t stop with the impact of the direct service programs we offer. Our program is changing lives. Each day I am mentally stretched, tapping the skills I learned through SPEA and the experiences of my prior positions. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the journey of these amazing young people and humbled by their resilience and grit.

  • What would you say to alumni who might want to get involved again with IU and SPEA but are hesitant?

    What are you waiting for??? You are who you are due in part to what you learned at SPEA. Getting involved can be as little or a much as you like. Speak to a group of students or guest lecture in a class. Act as a mentor or provide career advice. Offer an internship to a SPEA student. Invest in the future of the school. It doesn’t have to be a heavy lift. Find what fits in your life and try it. If you are like me, you will find the joys of being involved invigorating and want to do more. Try it now.