Student Spotlight - MAry Kristina Wharton
STUDENT PREPARES FOR A FUTURE CAREER IN HOMETOWN GOVERNMENT
By: Kelli Conrad
Mary Kristina Wharton has known she wanted to work in local government since she was in elementary school.
“Ever since we did the tour of City Hall in fifth grade, I always was drawn to it,” Wharton said.
Not only has she always wanted to work in local government in general, Wharton, a native of Durham, N.C., moved back home after her undergraduate education was completed so she could work in her hometown’s local government. She graduated in 2009 from Smith College Northampton, Mass. with a Bachelor of Arts in economics. Following that, she went on to receive her Master’s of Public Administration in public policy at North Carolina State University in 2011. She also received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University in 2011.
Part of her master’s program at North Carolina State required her to complete an internship before receiving her degree. For this, she interned at the City of Durham’s Human Resources Department as a Planning & Systems intern. While working there, she dealt with employees and their benefits from various angles, such as healthcare benefits, wellness plans and initiatives for employees, all of which she enjoyed. She was able to work with them and help them figure out what they wanted, too. Wharton also drafted an employee newsletter while there, in addition to a handbook about childcare benefits.
“It’s a lot of dealing with people which I liked, and I got a chance to do a lot of policy writing and research other municipalities’ policies,” Wharton said.
Wharton was enrolled in classes at this time, also, and one in particular on budgeting, was very helpful to her. She said it was a great learning opportunity in which she was able to learn the theory in class and then go and apply it the next day at her internship. Budgeting gave her an opportunity to see the big picture of how city government worked while she was interning and using those skills. During her internship, Wharton actually worked on a new budget initiative for the Human Resources Department for the City of Durham. It allowed her to be heavily involved in the budgetary process which is a core element in any city government.
Wharton said she enjoyed getting to work with people more in human resources than she would have in dealing with economic development and budgeting. The work further confirmed that she wanted to pursue a career in local government.
Wharton is currently employed as the Administrative and Financial Coordinator at Green Tech Marketing, also in Durham, N.C. There she works with recruiting and budgeting for a small firm where she said she is able to get a lot of hands-on experience that she hopes will help give her the experience she needs for a career in local government. After she has enough experience under her belt, Wharton wants to return to working for the City of Durham with budgeting and finance.