image of alumni sara denault sitting on couch with tan sweater

Sara DeNault is an MPP alum working for Philadelphia's City Controller. Continue reading to learn more about her time in Temple's MPP program and how it propelled her into her current career.  

Please describe your organization and its mission.  

I work for Philadelphia's City Controller, Rebecca Rhynhart. The City Controller is the fiscal watchdog of the City of Philadelphia, tasked with promoting the effective and efficient operation of Philadelphia government by identifying cost savings, recommending best practices and modernization, and exposing fraud and mismanagement. 

Please describe your position and what your day-to-day work looks like.  

I am the Senior Associate of the Finance, Policy and Data (FPD) unit, which is led by Dr. Nick Hand. Nick and I comprise the entirety of the FPD unit, though we were fortunate enough to hire some interns this past summer. Our unit performs policy and data analysis. We work closely on a variety of projects focused on the City's finances, as well as social and economic issues facing our city.  

I don't have a "typical" day, which keeps things exciting and interesting. On most days I do data analysis in R, perform some policy research, and find myself yelling at Excel. There are several responsibilities our office is tasked with by law, such as writing the QCMR Cash Report on a quarterly basis and producing revenue forecasts to compare with those included in the City's Five-Year Plan. Much of our time is spent constructing reports that address issues of public interest regarding government efficiency, of which there are many! Over the past three years, I've analyzed gun crime trends, reports of asbestos in the School District, the City's anti-violence budget, PPP loan distribution, redlining, and historical trends in City spending, just to name a few. 

How did your time in the MPP program help prepare you for your career? 

The MPP program gave me the policy and data analysis skills I use on a daily basis. I graduated with a thorough understanding of the City's budget and fiscal processes, experience with researching and analyzing local policy issues, a better grasp of statistics, and the ability to use R for data analysis and visualization. I also made some important connections through the program which were integral to helping me launch my career as an analyst. 

What was your favorite MPP class? Why? 

My favorite class was probably Bureaucracy and Public Management taught by Dr. Patricia Amberg-Blyskal. As an English major, I loved all of the intensive reading and critical analysis we had to do on a subject that is typically perceived as one lacking humanity and culture. The mechanics of bureaucracy are really quite interesting, and the course made me fall in love with being a public servant. 

What advice do you have for current MPP students? 

Make connections! Your teachers are amazing resources not only for your education, but your career. Learn as much as you can about their careers and experiences in the public policy world. I also suggest that students branch out as much as they can with their elective courses. One of the coolest classes I took was a course on policing with Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe in the Criminology department. Explore and enjoy!