Back to School with Rhyan Van Horn

Posted on October 17, 2012

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ELGL Advisory Board Member and TriMet Senior Accountant of Treasury and Cash Management Rhyan Van Horn has headed back to school as a first year in the executive MPA program at the University of Washington and since she already has a bunch of homework assignments we decided to give her one more. Rhyan will be chronicling her graduate school experience which she hopes will end with a degree and a UDub victory over Oregon in football.

What is your course load this semester?

I’m in the executive MPA program at UW, and it’s structured around months, not semesters. For my class in October I had to read two books and a 3” binder full of case studies and articles on public sector issues and management/leadership techniques. I have written one three page memo, and I’m currently working on three short “journals” where I discuss what I’ve learned and apply it to projects or issues at work. I also need to write another three page memo in the next couple of weeks. The coursework is manageable and the assignments usually tie back into issues I’m dealing with at work. I do have to structure my time outside of work to ensure I get through the reading though.

 What were your thoughts/emotions walking back into the classroom?

I’m really excited right now. At first, I think most of my classmates (myself included) were a little apprehensive about the amount of time it would take and our ability to get through the course work. But after spending a week together at UW, I think we’ve all walked away with confidence that we’ll complete the program and be better positioned for success in future endeavors.

 Which of your classes do you think ELGL would enjoy the most?

My first class focused on strategic leadership, I think most in ELGL would have really enjoyed that material. There is really something for everyone throughout the program, with general themes of policy making, leadership, management and finance.

In the early stages, have you found that your work experience at TriMet has helped you apply some of the academic concepts?

Absolutely. In my current position, I often have to explain issues to management and recommend the best option. There was a lot of emphasis on this in my first class and I was able to apply what I was learning immediately.

If ELGL was going to visit you on campus, where you meet us for coffee or lunch?

Coffee at Café Allegro,

Lunch at Big Time Brewery

Were you afraid Oregon might score 100 points on UDub in the recent football game? (Related link: No. 2 Ducks roll past No. 23 Huskies)

On record: Just wait for basketball season.

What non-school book is on your night stand?

Ha! There isn’t room for one.

Tell us about your classmates.

How many are in your class?


What are their professional backgrounds?

Speaking generally, we have planners, managers, cops, firefighters, military, non-profits, academics, politicians, and of course, accountants.

Any fellow Oregonians?

There are a couple of Oregonians. Alaska, California and Japan are also represented.

Who is your dream speaker for ELGL?

Which University of Washington faculty member make the best ELGL speaker? It would be incredible to have someone from the Gates Foundation speak. I’d also really like to hear from Mercy Corps. As for UW faculty, I’ll limit my selection to those who’ve taught classes I’ve already attended. Diana Gale would be a perfect speaker for ELGL. Our group could learn a lot from her experience in the public sector.

See related article: Governing Magazine names Diana Gale, director of Seattle Public Utilities, a Public Official of the Year on November 17, 1998.

What are your thoughts on ELGL becoming a nonprofit and charging $20 dues?

ELGL provides a valuable service to its members and I’m pleased to see that value realized with (very reasonable!) dues.  ELGL membership can benefit from observing and participating in this transformation to a non-profit. It’s a very exciting time for ELGL.

 Finally, and most importantly, what book are you reading for school?

Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Life Decisions

Questions for Rhyan?

Leave them in the comments section of the blog.

Thank you, Rhyan, for taking time to share the beginning of your graduate school journey. ELGL hopes that readers will enjoy Rhyan’s chronicle and will consider pursuing an advanced degree if you have not already.

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